The first successful attack in almost five last years has been made by Somali pirates, who managed to seize a tanker.
Somali pirates have made the first successful attack in almost five last years, capturing the Aris 13 tanker, which was heading off from Djibouti to the Somalia‘s capital of Mogadishu under the flag of the Comoros Islands, local media reported, citing the authorities of the self-proclaimed state of Puntland, which formed on the site of actually broken up Somalia.
According to reports, pirates landed aboard the vessel from two high-speed boats. The crew, which consisted of citizens of Sri Lanka, was captured by the attackers and sent to the coast of Puntland.
The incident with the Aris 13 tanker reminded the problem of piracy in the Gulf of Aden and the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, which was most acute in the beginning of the 2010s and forced many countries to send their naval forces to the area, through which the most important trade ways pass.
“Five or six years ago, the topic of piracy off the coast of Somalia (or rather, the former Somalia) seriously worried all the key world powers,” an employee of an embassy of one of the European countries in Djibouti, whose duties include coordination of international efforts in the fight against pirates, told the Kommersant newspaper.
According to the newspaper’s source, “despite the temporary calm, the topic of piracy has not gone anywhere, as the reasons that caused this problem have not been eliminated.”
“Pirates are hiding and waiting for their time,” the diplomat said. “And they hope that this time will come next year, when the EU stops the Atalanta naval operation, in the framework of which the fight against piracy off the coast of Somali was waged.”
Experts believe that after this, the effectiveness of the international forces, opposing Somali pirates, can significantly decrease. According to other prognoses, there will be a redistribution of responsibility, and the key role in anti-piracy operations will be played by those states, whose vital trade routes pass through this region. China is one of such states, as 50 percent of the country’s oil imports are carried through the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, located between Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. China and Japan have already established their only military bases abroad in Djibouti in order to protect their trade routes.
Despite the plans to complete the Atalanta operation, it is unlikely that European countries will fold their anti-piracy activities in this region. According to Kommersant, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are deployed on an Italian base in Djibouti. They are used as naval scouts and collect information on movements of ‘suspicious ships’ (pirate’s speedboats). In addition, there are the US naval and air forces in the Gulf of Aden, which previously participated in the Ocean Shield anti-piracy operation that ended in late 2016.
Despite such serious forces, concentrated in the region to confront pirates, the success of the world community is not guaranteed. “Pirates are perfectly prepared and equipped,” the newspaper’s source in Djibouti said. “They have the newest boats, modern weapons, and, in addition, depot ships, which are deployed far away in the sea and reduce a way of pirate’s ships to potential victims. This entire infrastructure remained untouched, no one tried to destroy it. Moreover, according to our information, officials of the unrecognized [state of] Puntland patronize pirates, and, perhaps, they are at the waterhead of their business.”
The activities of pirates are approved not only by their ‘business partners’ from the number of officials, but also by a significant part of Puntland’s population. Commenting on the seizure of the Aris 13 tanker, an elder of one of the tribes in the port city of Alula, Salad Nur, told the AP news agency that young fishermen were forced to intercept the foreign ship, as the same foreigners left them without work, catching all fish in the territorial waters.
As Kommersant noted, such arguments can be often heard from Puntland’s ministers, when they try to justify pirates’ actions by the “disastrous state of busted fishermen,” for whom robbery at sea allegedly is the only opportunity to feed their families.