EU Naval Forces react on possible hijacking of a ship off Somalia
EU NAVFOR Somalia Operation Atalanta has completed incident response procedures in response to a possible act of piracy off the Coast of Somalia with the support of a Japanese aircraft of the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) and in close coordination with local authorities in Somalia.
On August 18th, EU NAVFOR OHQ Joint Operations Centre detected suspicious movements when Panama flagged MT “AEGIAN II”, a chemical/oil tanker with armed security guards on board in transit from Shajah (UAE) and bound for Mogadishu (Somalia) altered her course without any apparent reason. Expeditious investigations conducted by a EU NAVFOR maritime patrol aircraft including radio contact, concluded that the vessel was having technical problems and the crew was safe.
On August 20th, open sources reported that a vessel could have been hijacked in the same area. EU NAVFOR Somalia connected this information to the situation of the MT “AEGEN II”, previously monitored, and ESPS Santa Maria was detached to investigate and execute incident response procedures with the support of a CMF aircraft.
ESPS Santa Maria approached the Panama-flagged MT “AEGEAN II” and confirmed the initial assessment that the reported suspicious movements were due to damages in the hull caused by rough sea. Contacted by EU NAVFOR OP ATALANTA Force Commander, RDAM Villanueva, Bossaso port authority reported that MT “AEGEAN II” had not been hijacked and that Garadfoo police had been sent on board to inspect the vessel when she was drifting off Bereeda waiting for technical assistance.
While ESPS Santa Maria was collecting information, the Master revealed that there had been certain incidents on board the vessel. At this point, the event cannot be classified as a maritime security event, but a more detailed investigation is in progress.
MT “AEGEAN II” weighed anchor and is currently underway proceeding to an intermediate destination being closely monitored by ESPS Santa Maria.
This incident underlines, once again, the importance of EU NAVFOR Somalia’s presence at the Horn of Africa in the fulfilment of Operation ATALANTA’s mandate and that cooperation with local authorities, as well as other stakeholders in the region is essential to ensure freedom of navigation in the region.
In the light of this event, it is important to emphasize, once more, the importance of registering to MSCHOA’s Voluntary Registration Scheme. This will allow EU NAVFOR Somalia to monitor vessels in the area and use its assets in a more efficient way.
EU NAVFOR Somalia continues to urge the Maritime Industry to remain vigilant when transiting the high-risk area and to comply with the recommended Best Management Practises (BMP 5).