Tankers attacked off Oman, Eritrea

Oil tankers continue to be the target of choice for pirates in Middle Eastern waters, with mass attacks now taking place in the Red Sea.

A chemical oil tanker thwarted a hijack attempt by pirates near the Omani port of Salalah on Aug 22, just a day after a tanker and crew were taken from inside the port in front of the coast guard.

The International Maritime Bureau said pirates in a skiff chased and fired upon the tanker, making several attempts to board the vessel before finally aborting their attack following evasive action taken by the tanker.

On Aug. 21, pirates succeeded in seizing the empty MV Fairchem Bogey chemical oil tanker from its anchorage at the port in the mouth of the Gulf of Aden, Mumbai-based Anglo Eastern Ship Management said.

“We can now confirm that the Fairchem Bogey is now in Somali waters,” the tanker manager said. “The Master has been in contact with us, reconfirming safety of the crew. We are still waiting to make first contact with the hijackers.”

Anglo-Eastern said Oman’s Coast Guard approached the vessel after it was seized from its anchorage in the port, but drew back when the pirates threatened to harm the crew.

The Bogey had armed guards aboard on Aug. 18 as it sailed through the Gulf of Aden on its way to unload at the Saudi port of Al Jubail. But the ship was unprotected when taken on Aug 21 after dropping off the security team.

Meanwhile, the IMB said pirates in the Red Sea have adopted the practice of attacking ships in large groups, following an attack that occurred 22 nautical miles northeast of Assab, Eritrea, in the Red Sea.

Seven high-speed boats approached a bulk carrier under way. Two of the boats, with 3-5 armed pirates in each boat, approached the ship at high speed.

The attack was very similar to one mounted on Aug. 7, also off Eritrea. During that incident, 12 skiffs with 5-8 armed pirates each approached a bulk carrier under way.

“Even underestimating the number of pirates in [the] attack to just 21, it would still seem to confirm that pirate gangs have adopted a new tactic of mass attacks in the waters surrounding Eritrea,” said David Rider of Neptune Maritime Security.

Contact Eric Watkins at hippalus@yahoo.com.

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