Pirates who hijacked the Panamanian tanker vessel Monday have warned of repeat attacks and hijacking of commercial vessels in the Somali waters of the Indian Ocean raising concerns of a return of piracy.
Speaking to the media aboard the vessel Tuesday, one of the pirates who declined to be named confirmed the vessel and the crew were under their custody and warned of active return.
“We are fishermen who decided to take up arms and defend ourselves. The resources of our ocean are being depleted by these ships. We will clear them,” the pirate said.
He said they wondered why the hijacking was grabbing world attention yet ‘our cries and all that of Somali fishermen have fallen on deaf ears’.
Another pirate said, “In the coming days we are going to seize even more foreign ships’.
A local elder also told Goobjoog News from Caluula he was in support of the pirates because of what he termed as exploitation and denial of fishing opportunities for locals by foreign vessels.
“These young men are desperate after resource of the ocean was depleted by foreign ships, they have been sailing through the ocean in search for a foreign ship to hijack for day before they found this ship and boarded it,” Hared Ahmed Mohamud said.
The maritime foundation Oceans Beyond Piracy (OBP) confirmed the hijacking Monday noting the hijacked vessel MT ARI 13 was en route to Mogadishu from Djibouti before it was seized approximately 18 km off the northern tip of Somalia.
OBP also identified the tanker which it said was transporting gas and fuel as owned by a Panama based company but flying a Comoros flag. The vessel, OBP said is managed by Aurora Ship Management from United Arab Emirates company.
This incident marks the first hijacking of a merchant vessel since the height of Somali piracy in 2012, said OBP in a statement. It was then taken to the coastal town of Caluula in Somalia’s Puntland state.
“The group claiming responsibility for the vessel’s capture belongs to the Majerteen/Siwaaqroon subclan, led by the pirate Jacfar Saciid Cabdulaahi,” OBP said
OBP however said while the incident marks the first major hijacking since 2012, it does not yet indicate a large-scale return of Somali piracy.
Vessel tracking company Clearwater reported last week (March 7) that a vessel was approached and followed in the Gulf of Aden by two skiffs with between 16 to 20 armed men onboard for 40 minutes before aborting their pursuit.
The hijacking could confirm fears raised by the campaign group Secure Fisheries in 2015 which warned of a possible resurgence owing to increased illegal fishing in Somali waters.
“Foreign vessels take three times more fish than Somalis do – 132,000 metric tons each year compared to 40,000 by locals,” Secure Fisheries said in a report.
However the situation in Somalia that originally permitted piracy to flourish has not changed, OBP added in the Monday statement.
In addition to the eight Sri Lankans on the MT ARIS 13, Somali pirates are still holding eight seafarers from the fishing vessel, the Siraj, who were captured on 26 March, 2015, OBP said.