The E.U. Naval Force, which is currently operating off the coast of Somalia, has received positive confirmation from the master of the Comoros-flagged tanker, Aris 13, that his ship and crew are currently being held captive by a number of suspected armed pirates in an anchorage off the north coast of Puntland, Somalia, close to Alula.
The incident is the first successful hijacking of a commercial ship by Somali pirates since 2012. The vessel is believed to have eight crew members on board, and at least eight pirates are involved.
The attack came shortly after the master issued a mayday alert to say that two skiffs were closing in on his ship in the Gulf of Aden.
Upon receipt of the mayday alert, an E.U. Naval Force maritime patrol aircraft was launched from its base in Djibouti to overfly the tanker and make radio contact with the ship’s master. Despite hailing the ship several times, no contact was made, and the situation on board remained unclear until late Tuesday, when the E.U. Naval Force operational headquarters in London was able to make telephone contact.
The master confirmed that armed men were on board his ship and they were demanding a ransom for the ship’s release.
At its peak in 2010-11, Somali piracy had an economic impact of around $7 billion, with more than 1,000 hostages taken captive. Pirates were attacking tens of ships each month and receiving multi-million-dollar ransoms.