Suspected Pirates Approach Bulker as EU Again Warns of Increased Dangers

Security forces are warning of an increased danger as more incidents are reported (file photo)

Published Mar 20, 2024 2:19 PM by The Maritime Executive

An unidentified Liberian-flagged bulker reported it was approached by suspected pirates but was able to fend off an attack today in the Gulf of Aden hundreds of miles east of Somalia. The approach comes as EUNAVFOR and the Maritime Security Center for the Horn of Africa continue to warn of a “notable surge” in reported events warning that it could potentially escalate into piracy attacks off Somalia.

Today’s approach was consistent with the tactics that the warnings have outlined. The vessel was underway approximately 160 miles southeast of Salalah, Oman when it spotted a small boat approaching. The UK Maritime Trade Organizations reports that the bulker saw seven people in the small boat and a ladder.

The EUNAVFOR warning outlined that the pirates are working from mother ships, mostly seized dhows, that they use to blend in with local activity and as a platform for the attacks. Typically, the small boats approach to access and test the security of the targeted vessel. EUNAVFOR warned that if they believe the targeted vessel cannot repel the attack, the pirates will close the distance and attempt the boarding.

UKMTO reports the small boat followed those actions today. The unidentified bulker said it was followed for 20 minutes, but it had security guards aboard. The report said the guards fired warning shots at the approaching small boat. The small boat withdrew and subsequently left the area.

The warning issued on March 18 accesses that as many as seven captured dhows may be working in the region while several other dhows have now been released. They believe a total of 18 were hijacked in the recent weeks. They estimate that four pirate action groups could be sailing off the Somalia coast currently.


Indian Navy coerced the pirates into surrendering and rescued the crew of the Ruen (Indian Navy)


Media reports last week questioned the security measures in place aboard the Bangladeshi bulker Abdullah when it was captured on March 12. The vessel did not have guards aboard and appears not to have been employing razor wire or other deterrents. The shipping company however said it believed that it was beyond the danger zone in a region previously reported to be low risk.

More than a week after the Abdullah was seized, a spokesperson of the ship’s owners, SR Shipping, told the Bangladeshi media that it had finally been contacted by a third-party representative of the pirates. They said while contact had been established the pirates did not make a specific ransom demand and the shipping company is waiting for further contact. The spokesperson said the company was hopeful with contact that a negotiated release could be completed quickly.

Over the weekend, an elite force from the Indian Navy along with several vessels coerced the pirates aboard another seized bulker to surrender. The crew of the bulker was freed unharmed and India is now working on repatriation of the crew. It was the second successful intervention by the Indian Navy responding to pirate attacks in 2024. Reuters is reporting today that a commander from the Indian Navy said they plan to prosecute the captured pirates.