The Operation Commander of the EU Naval Force (Somalia), Major General Rob Magowan CBE, has reiterated the need for continued vigilance at sea after a chemical tanker, CPO Korea, was reported as being attacked by six armed men 330 nautical miles off the east coast of Somalia on 22 October. The attack was confirmed after a thorough investigation into the incident.
During the attack a number of shots were exchanged between the six armed men, who were in a fast-moving skiff, and the armed security team on board CPO Korea. The suspected pirates eventually broke away after CPO Korea’s crew successfully implemented self-protection measures by increasing speed, altering course and rigging fire hoses to thwart the attack. CPO Korea was able to continue her transit in the Indian Ocean, with no casualties reported.
This is the first reported attack on a merchant vessel off the coast of Somalia in two and a half years. It comes after 26 hostages from fishing vessel, Naham 3, were released on 22 October after being held by Somali pirates for four and a half years.
Pirate attacks in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean surged in 2008 and by January 2011 over 700 hostages and 30 vessels were being held by Somali pirates. Due to 24/7 counter-piracy naval patrols, together with self-protection measures implemented by the shipping industry, piracy attacks have been suppressed in recent years.
Speaking about the attack on CPO Korea, Major General Magowan stated “This attack shows that pirates still have the intent to attack ships for ransom and cause misery to seafarers and their families. It is imperative that the international community remains vigilant. The EU Naval Force is working with counter-piracy partners to coordinate efforts to ensure pirates do not once again terrorise the waters off the Somali coast.”
The vessel owner also commented: “We, Offen Tankers would like to express our appreciation and thanks to the crew and security team for safeguarding the crew, vessel and the environment by defending this pirate attack in a very professional manner. Despite the decreasing number of attacks in the region the imminent risk of Somalian piracy still exists and needs to be addressed accordingly by owners and charterers alike.”