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Off Somalia: Pirate action groups are only dormant

(B2)" While we have succeeded in fighting piracy, we have not eliminated it insists a report that has just been submitted to the United Nations Security Council

The PAM freighter Petra escorted by the Italian frigate Federico Martinengo (credit: Eunavfor Atalanta / B2 Archives)

Five significant acts of piracy

During the last twelve months - October 2017 to September 2018 - there have been no fewer than five major acts of piracy committed off the Somali coast (see box). " The fact that these attempts are continuing shows that the root causes of piracy remain and that piracy networks remain very active. underlines the report of the UN experts. " On several occasions, hackers have come very close to achieving their ends. »

Pirate action groups ready for action

Four pirate action groups stand ready to resume attacks as soon as they get the chance. " These groups continue to exploit every opportunity, given the relative ease with which their agents can obtain weapons and small boats. »

2017, a resumption of acts of piracy

2017 remains a year of limited recovery in maritime piracy. 54 acts of piracy occurred in the Western Indian Ocean in 2017, 100% more than in 2016. The number of people at sea affected by such acts or armed robbery at sea increased from 545 in 2016 to 1 in 102, according to the latest report fromOceans Beyond Piracy (1)

A widening risk zone

Thus, in 2017, several attempted attacks were carried out in the monsoon season, which is generally calm. In 2018, the high-risk zone expanded. " This shows that the pirates are able to plan attacks throughout the Indian Ocean, as far from the coast as necessary, and that they are determined to do so to ensure the success of their projects.. »

Determined Pirates

Recent attempts were particular in that the attackers were not deterred by a first failure, but did it again soon after, staying in the vicinity, a sign of their motivation and determination to achieve their objectives ».

Other resources

Piracy networks seemed to find the funds they needed by engaging in less risky activities, such as smuggling people, drugs, weapons or coal, points out a joint threat assessment report carried out at the beginning of September by operation EUNAVFOR Atalanta and the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) of the maritime coalition led by the Americans.

The conflict in Yemen and the attacks in the Red Sea...

We can also note in the maritime transit corridor of the Red Sea four attempted attacks which are not due to Somali pirates, but whose responsibility is attributed to Houthi rebels, who allegedly launched long-range rockets at vessels flying Saudi flag sailing off Yemen (read: A ship attacked off Yemen. Piracy or act related to the Yemeni conflict?).

...another threat to maritime traffic

« This poses an even greater threat to the stability of the region. Fishing vessels and yachts too close to Somali or Yemeni shores risk being caught up in attacks by Somali pirates or Houthi rebels on merchant shipping underlines the report as the assessment made by the Europeans. Other attacks, including that of an Amisom ship, have been attributed to Al-Shabaab (read: Amisom vessel attacked near Baraawe port).

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

(1) “The state of maritime piracy 2017: assessing the economic and human cost”, Oceans Beyond Piracy.

Among the latest attacks

On October 16, 2018, against MV KSL Sydney: Pirate attack off Mogadishu (V2)

Saturday March 31, 2018, in the early hours of the morning, against the Kriti Spirit, a ship belonging to a Greek company: An attack on another tanker in the Gulf of Aden in late March

On the night of February 23, 2018, against the tanker MT Leopard Sun: Latvian chemical tanker attacked by pirates off Somalia

On November 17 and 18, 2017 against the MV Ever Dynamic, a container ship operated by Evergreen, then against the fishing vessel Galerna III, a tuna boat from the company Albacora de Bermeo flying the Seychelles flag: Six pirates arrested in the Somali basin, between Seychelles and Somalia (V6)

On November 15, against two container ships in the Gulf of Aden:  An attempted attack by pirates fails in the Gulf of Aden


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).