Somali Pirates Nab Fishing Boat in Likely Illegal Fishing Dispute
In what appears to be a dispute over illegal fishing along the coast of Somalia, a local faction has taken control of a commercial fishing vessel. An unconfirmed report airing on Somali TV and social media is saying that the pirates are demanding a $400,000 ransom.
The Somali Broadcasting Corporation is identifying the vessel as the ALMERAJ 1 which was operating off the northern waters of Somalia in the Indian Ocean. AIS signals from the vessel show it crossing up and down the coast over the past two weeks sailing in the area of the Horn of Africa operating at speeds of up to about 5 knots. The TV station aired an interview with the purported co-owner of the vessel saying the pirates had made the financial demand and were threatening to make additional assaults on vessels in the area.
AL-MERAJ 1 was hijacked near #Eyl city by Somali pirates, confirmed by co-owner Bashiir Said Osman in an SBC Somali TV interview. #Pirates demand a $400,000 ransom, threatening additional hijackings if unpaid. Despite contacting #Puntland authorities, there's been no response.… pic.twitter.com/ozlOAS9Pxp— SBC Somali TV (@sbcsomalitv) November 23, 2023
British security consultants Ambrey identified the vessel as a dhow which they report was likely performing illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing. They are saying the vessel was operating from Iran although there is some speculation that the vessel was operating stateless without any identified registry.
Authorities highlight that vessels owned in Somalia are considered to be stateless by international organizations because there is no authority to register and regulate the vessels. Many of the stateless vessels are through to be involved in drug smuggling and other illegal activities.
Fishing boat's track over the past 14 days (courtesy of Shipinfo.net)
Additional details on the incident remain sketchy with the local authorities in the region possibly avoiding a potential dispute between two factions in Somalia. The international effort for maritime security EUNAVFOR (European Union Naval Force) - Operation ATALANTA said it is aware of the reports. They are currently investigating to establish the facts.
Illegal fishing is known to be rampant in the area. The Joint Multinational Military Base in Berbera posted an image on X showing a multitude of vessels along the Somali coast conducting what they identified as illegal fishing. They highlighted the joint efforts with the Somali authorities to combat illegal fishing in the area.
All those black dots in the coastal areas near #Somalia are stateless vessels engaged in #illegal_fishing. Thanks to @somalilandcoas1 and international #partners/#allies who are working hard to prevent #crimes_at_sea in the #Somaliland_Coastline #Ready_together. #Zero_Piracy. pic.twitter.com/H0GqGc4Njp— Camp Malao JMB (@AfricaHornJoint) November 23, 2023