The specter of maritime piracy off Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden is resurfacing with a new tanker hijacking, the first in the past eight years. The crew members were freed, but the ship remained in the hands of the pirates.
On Monday, Somali pirates intercepted a UAE tanker from Djibouti to the Somali capital, Mogadishu, with eight Sri Lankan crew on board.
This is the first act of piracy in Somali waters since 2012. After several hours of negotiations between the Somali police, the Puntland naval detachment and the pirates, the crew members were released. The Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry confirmed this and said the release was made without payment of ransom.
The European Union’s naval force, which is helping fight piracy in the region, said on Wednesday the pirates demanded a ransom to free the ship. The EU force had previously contacted the ship’s captain, who said his ship and crew were being held captive, anchored off the coast of northeast Somalia, with the ship’s tracking system disabled.
Before the crew was released, gunshots were exchanged between the pirates and the police, leaving four injured. Negotiations continue between the two parties to obtain the release of the vessel.
Piracy off the Somali coast, usually for ransom, has declined dramatically in recent years, in part thanks to international military patrols and support to local fishing communities. At the height of the crisis in 2011, there were 237 attacks and the annual cost of piracy was estimated at $ 8 billion.
Source: Agence Ecofin