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The pirates have captured two fishing boats: not sure!

Fishing vessel in the Indian Ocean assisted by a European crew (Archives B2 / Credit: EUNAVFOR Atalanta November 2016)

(B2) The news that a South Korean fishing vessel, flying the flag of Mongolia, was captured by Somali pirates this Saturday (May 27) is not accurate, a European military source confirmed to B2. “ This ship is safe and sound. We have received confirmation that the news reporting the hijacking of a South Korean fishing boat is false ».

False alarm

South Korea sounded the alert on Saturday after losing contact with this large ship, weighing 234 tonnes, when it said it was being pursued by a suspicious boat, near the Somali coast. She ordered her ship Cheonghae to head towards the suspicious area. And three planes (a German, Japanese and Indian P3 Orion) were put on alert. This device made it possible fairly quickly to reestablish contact with the South Korean captain. The crew included 3 South Koreans and 18 Indonesians.

No news from an Iranian ship

As for the Iranian fishing boat, captured by the pirates, the situation is less obvious. This ship, which has 20 crew members on board, was reportedly seized by Somali pirates off the coast of Qandala last Tuesday (May 23) and then taken to this port in Puntland (the autonomous region in northern Somalia, according to John Steed, East Africa Manager for Oceans Behond Piracy (OBP), as reported by AFP and Reuters. However, until now this capture has not been confirmed by the EUNAVFOR Atalanta operation. “ We are working with the Somali authorities and our anti-piracy partners to obtain as much information as possible regarding this 'possible' incident. As long as it is not confirmed, this incident is not classified as an act of piracy »

The delicate question of Iranian ships…

Comment: European anti-piracy authorities have always taken announcements of captures of Iranian fishing vessels with caution. On the one hand, Iran is the only country not part of the international anti-piracy coordination (which brings together Europeans and Americans, Russians and Chinese or Koreans). Which doesn't make relationships easier. On the other hand, Iranian ships continued to shuttle to Somalia, even in the most sensitive moments of piracy. Finally, everyone wondered about certain “captures” that were more than doubtful. Certain ships (Yemenite in particular but also Iranian) were thus suspected not of having been hostages of the pirates but of consenting and chartered by them to serve as mother ships (and even interested in the captures).

... and fisheries in Somali waters

These incidents, involving large foreign fishing vessels, are also to be linked to the protection of the Somali fishing zone. Somali waters seem very popular with fishing vessels from all walks of life, which do not hesitate to go to these very fish-rich areas (1), without really worrying about the fees to be paid to Somalia (2) or the fate of the local populations who see with fear these ships “looting” what they consider to be their resources.

Quite artisanal piracy

In any case, we are currently witnessing a slight increase in acts of piracy off the coast of Somalia. “ This is out of all proportion to what we observed in the 2010s. We are facing more of an artisanal phenomenon, of opportunism of action A senior European officer told B2. " But we must remain vigilant in the face of these movements. Somali piracy is not completely eradicated. The resumption of actions on an industrial scale, led by very well-organized criminal networks, still remains possible. »

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

(1) Waters naturally rich in fauna of all kinds and, even more so, after years of “fallow” due to piracy.

(2) The Somali Exclusive Economic Zone is still open to discussion

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).