The attempted boardings were both thwarted, but security officials said that they represent a reminder that antipiracy measures are still required when transiting the high-risk area off Somalia.
According to EUNAVFOR, the fishing vessels Adria and Txori Argi were both approached by suspected pirates in the Indian Ocean on Sunday at a position about 280 nm off the coast of Somalia. Both fishing vessels had private maritime security teams on board, and by exercising unspecified antipiracy best practices, the two attempted attacks were defeated.
EUNAVFOR Operation Atalanta confirmed the attacks and said that it is likely that they were facilitated by a hijacked "mothership," which was reportedly seized by armed men on Friday off the central Somali coast. EUNAVFOR searched the area with aerial assets and dispatches the warship ESPS Navarra from Mombasa. On Tuesday, Navarra successfully intercepted and boarded the dhow mothership.
In a statement, EUNAVFOR warned that the maritime industry must still adhere to antipiracy best practices in order to maximize the safety of the ship and crew while transiting the high-risk area. The designated area will be reduced in size in May 2019, but Operation Atalanta commander Rear Adm. Antonio Martorell (Spanish Navy) warned that the change to the chart is not a signal for merchant vessel operators to lower their guard. "Both EU NAVFOR and CMF, stress that piracy off the Horn of Africa is by no means eradicated; it is only suppressed," he said at a meeting April 23.
Ten years ago, Somali piracy was a continuous, urgent threat in the western Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden. Pirates based on Somalia's coast routinely conducted hijackings and kidnap-for-ransom operations until 2012, when a combination of private maritime security contractors, vessel hardening measures and NATO naval patrols effectively suppressed the threat. No successful attacks on merchant vessels were reported between 2013 and March 2017, when pirate groups began ramping up activity once more.