A Panamanian-flagged chemical tanker has possibly been hijacked off the coast of Somalia. If the reports are confirmed, it would be the first successful hijacking in the region in three years.
Security analysts Dryad Global is reporting that the 8143 DWT Aegean II, managed by Hanan Shipping of Dubai, was potentially attacked on August 16 approximately 180 miles southwest of Socotra in the Arabian sea in the area known as the Horn of Africa. The vessel was sailing from the UAE and was heading to Mogadishu, Somalia, possibly with mechanical problems.
Dryad’s analysis shows that the vessel was moving at a slow 6 knots and later nearly stopped at just 1 knot before regaining speed. The vessel turned abruptly north and increased speed to 11 knots. According to Dryad it is currently believes to be near Bereeda, Somalia on the eastern tip of the Horn of Africa.
They are however highlighting that the full details of the situation are unclear and that it has also been suggested that the Aegean II might “have been seized as an act of maritime crime, not piracy, in what could have been an act with a commercial narrative.” They note in their analysis that while the threat of piracy in the region remains it is greatly reduce versus 2011, when piracy peaked in the area.
The Aegean II reported that it was carrying armed guards, but Dryad is uncertain if they were aboard at this time. They also point out that the vessel might have had a number of vulnerabilities and that it is unclear if there were any defenses employed on the ship.
They suspect it was an attack of opportunity, that when the vessel slowed the attackers spotted the vessel and launched their assault. Six individuals were believed to be in the attacking group. Dryad concludes that if it is confirmed as an act of piracy, “This incident appears to be an isolated and opportunistic incident which seized on a vessel in a vulnerable situation.”
Vessels are nonetheless warned that they should continue to adopt hardening measures and maintain their adherence to the best practice protocols for deterring piracy. Cautious routing is also advised near the Somali coast because of the continuing dangers in the region.
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