Pirates That Approached Tanker Handed Over for Prosecution in Seychelles

Somali pirates
Somali pirates being handed over in Seychelles after approaching a product tanker and exchanging gunfire (Atalanta)

Published May 15, 2024 12:30 PM by The Maritime Executive


Operation Atalanta, the EU effort to provide maritime security off the coast of Somalia and deter piracy, handed over the suspects from the latest attack on a merchant ship for prosecution in the Seychelles. Since its inception in 2008, EUNAVFOR Atalanta reports it has transferred 177 suspected pirates to the competent authorities, of which 145 have been convicted.

The six alleged pirates who attacked the Marshall Islands-flagged product tanker Chrystal Arctic were handed over after the Spanish frigate Canaris reached the Seychelles late on Monday, May 13. The Spanish vessel operates as part of the Atalanta force and was on its regular patrols when reports of the incident were received. The tanker was 100 nautical miles north of Somalia when a small boat approached on May 10. Gunfire was exchanged between the security guards on the tanker and the pirates. 

The Spanish frigate was able to locate the pirate skiff and took the six individuals into custody. They provided medical treatment and investigated the circumstances of the incident with the tanker. 

Atalanta also revealed that there had been another suspicious approach two days earlier. The Danish-registered product tanker Maersk Tangier (49,835 dwt) while 356 miles east of Socotra reported it was approached. The vessel’s AIS signal shows it is sailing from Oman to South Africa. During April, four other merchant vessels reported suspicious approaches in the region.


Canaris apprehended the suspected pirates and later took them to the Seychelles (Atalanta)


After the frigate reached the Seychelles, Atalanta command reported a commission composed of the Minister of Internal Affairs, a representative of the National Information Sharing Coordination Centre, and members of the Seychellois Police Department together with three representatives of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), went on board the frigate. The European delegation to Mauritius also assisted in the coordination with the Seychelles authorities.

“During the meeting, they were briefed on the circumstances of the case, which led to the alleged pirates being handed over to the appropriate Seychelles authorities, and now being in custody and awaiting trial,” the statement reports.

Operation ATALANTA has legal agreements with different nations in its area of operations, including one with the Seychelles, which allows for the trial of suspected pirates arrested by warships in the operation. 

The handover of this pirate group came as Atalanta continues to warn that several groups are believed to be active in the region and especially around Socotra. They continue to caution of the danger in the region warning ships to increase precautions.

Atalanta said in its recent update that up to 18 dhows have been hijacked. While several of them have been released, they caution that up to six to seven may still be in the hands of their captors as Atalanta has not received information from those boats. On May 13, another fishing boat was reported hijacked in the waters off Somalia. Atalanta cautions that these boats can be used as mother ships for attacks on merchant vessels with the attacks usually coming within 12 days of a dhow being hijacked.