Somalia’s maritime forces have exchanged gunfire with the pirates, who hijacked the Comoros-flagged bunkering tanker Aris 13, in the country’s Puntland area, John Steed of Oceans Beyond Piracy (OBP) informed via social media.
Steed added that the 1990-built vessel, which was hijacked while it was sailing near the Horn of Africa, has moved along the coast of Somalia.
EU Naval Force earlier said that the Somali pirates are demanding a ransom for the ship’s release, however, the amount of the ransom was not unveiled. The ship’s owner, an undisclosed UAE-based company, has talked to the crew who are safe but under armed guard by the pirates.
As informed by the EU Naval Force, the master of the 1,800 dwt tanker said that the ship and crew were being held captive by a number of suspected armed pirates in an anchorage off the north coast of Puntland, close to Alula.
The incident, which marked the pirates’ first commercial vessel hijack since 2012, occurred on March 13 while the vessel was en route to Mogadishu from Djibouti. The ship was seized some 18 km off the northern tip of Somalia.
Prior to disappearing, the vessel, believed to be carrying eight seafarers, reported that it was being followed by two skiffs.
In the wake of the incident, International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Secretary-General Kitack Lim has urged the shipping industry to apply diligently IMO guidance and best management practices to avert possible piracy attacks.
“While we have seen a very welcome decline in piracy off Somalia since the last reported hijack by Somali pirates in 2012, the reality is that piracy off the coast of Somalia has not been eradicated and the underlying conditions have not changed. Merchant shipping should continue to take protective measures against possible piracy attacks in the Gulf of Aden and the western Indian Ocean through diligent application of IMO guidance and Best Management Practices,” Lim said.
He also called upon the Federal Government of Somalia and its regional authorities in Puntland to take prompt action to ensure the safe and speedy release of the eight Sri Lankan seafarers.