On May 17th, armed pirates attacked a British-flagged chemical tanker in the Gulf of Aden.
The attackers were repulsed, the ship’s manager Stolt Tankers said.
The pirates approached the Stolt Apal in two speedboats some 75 nautical miles off Yemen, it said, in the Gulf of Aden, one of the most important trade routes for oil heading from the Middle East to Europe.
“After multiple warning shots were fired by the armed guard team aboard Stolt Apal, the skiffs opened fire on the ship. The armed guard team returned fire, disabling one skiff and ending the pursuit,” a company spokesman told Reuters in emailed comments.
“A coalition warship (also) responded and Stolt Apal has resumed her voyage,” the spokesman said.
He did not specify which coalition was meant, but maritime security sources said the vessel had been sailing through a transit corridor patrolled by international naval forces due to the high risk of attack.
The spokesman said the ship’s bridge had sustained minor damage from bullets but that there were no injuries.
The cargo was also undamaged.
Merchant ships have been attacked in recent years in the Gulf of Aden and the Bab al-Mandab waterway by armed gangs as well as militant groups such as Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
The Saudi-led coalition carrying out its military intervention in Yemen has accused the Houthis of attempting to attack vessels off the coast of Yemen, with unmanned boats loaded with explosives. However, there’s no evidence, nor reason why the Houthis would attack civilian vessels.
The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) naval authority said in a warning notice on its website that it advised vessels in the area “to exercise extreme caution”.
The Stolt Apal had sailed from the Saudi Arabian city of Jubail and was reported to be travelling to Yanbu, on the other side of the Arabian peninsula, south of the Suez Canal.
A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “We are aware of these reports and understand the situation is now resolved. The vessel is unharmed and is continuing on its journey.”
Maritime security firm Dryad Global said it was the ninth reported incident in the Gulf of Aden this year.
The waters off the coast of Somalia have become increasingly dangerous. With no functioning government between 1991 and 2012, Somalia became impoverished due to decades of conflict. Piracy has become very lucrative bringing in millions of dollars to criminals and gangs in the area.
It should be reminded that Somali pirates had their first successful attack in 5 years around late 2017, and in spite of being relatively unsuccessful, they’re not showing any sign of giving up.
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