New Threat to Global Navigation: Armed Men Seize Cargo Ship off the Coast of Somalia

The UK Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) and the maritime security company Ambrey received a report yesterday, Tuesday, about armed men taking control of a cargo ship approximately 600 nautical miles east of the Somali capital, Mogadishu. The hijacked vessel, flying the flag of Bangladesh, was sailing from Mozambique to the United Arab Emirates.

In a statement, UKMTO stated, “Unauthorized individuals are currently in control of the vessel,” adding that the individuals boarded the ship using two boats, one small and the other large.

“It has been reported that the crew has sought refuge in the ship’s secure citadel, but this seems unlikely according to our assessment. There are conflicting reports about the whereabouts of the crew,” they added, while observers note that this attack could reignite fears of a resurgence in Somali piracy in the Indian Ocean.

Piracy activities have resurfaced off the African coast concurrently with the escalation of terrorist attacks by Houthi militias against merchant vessels off the Yemeni coast. Although the identity of those who seized the vessel has not been determined, many reports indicate they are from Somalia.

Somali pirates caused chaos in major international waterways from around 2008 to 2018. However, piracy incidents off the Somali coast have declined in recent years, after peaking in 2011 when Somali pirates conducted 212 attacks.

The United Nations Security Council adopted seven resolutions targeting Somali piracy between December 2010 and March 2022, allowing foreign naval and aerial forces to patrol Somali waters, authorizing the European operation Atalanta, led by the United States, to use force and all necessary means to suppress piracy and armed robbery.

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