Bimco’s security head has said the US Pentagon theory that a recent attack on a tanker off the Gulf of Aden is Somali piracy — rather than terrorist targeting of Israeli ships — has yet to be confirmed.
Jakob P Larsen told TradeWinds that Pentagon comments that the attempted boarding of the 20,000-dwt Central Park (built 2015) was Somali piracy did not represent a “definitive statement”.
Pentagon press secretary Brigadier General Pat Ryder told reporters this week that the “initial indications” are that the five armed people being held on a US Navy warship for their role in the boarding of the Zodiac Maritime tanker are Somali.
Larsen said it could not be ruled out that the attempted hijacking “could be part of Iran/Houthi’s strategy to disrupt Israel-associated shipping operations”.
However, Larsen said there have also been recent indications of a possible re-emergence of Somali piracy, which has virtually disappeared over the last decade.
He pointed out that on 22 November, according to reports, disgruntled Somali fishermen boarded the Iranian fishing vessel Al Miraj and demanded a $400,000 ransom.
“For those familiar with Somali piracy over the past 15 to 20 years, this incident may seem reminiscent of the mid-2000s when similar actions initiated a decade-long wave of increasingly bold hijackings and kidnappings by Somali pirates,” he said.
However, with a strong anti-piracy navy force in the region, it has become more difficult for pirates to operate off Somalia.
“Consequently, the Al Miraj incident could be viewed as a localised fishing dispute for the time being, but it remains an issue to monitor,” Larsen said.
Shipowner association Bimco is advising members to adhere to the interim transit guidance for the southern Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, as developed by Bimco and other associations, and accessible on associations’ websites.
He urged shipowners to follow the industry maritime security guidance BMP5 and undertake a thorough risk assessment.
“One critical component of this assessment is to determine any potential connections to Israel or Israeli citizens,” he said. “For ships with such links, considering a temporary rerouting away from the affected area could be a sensible precautionary measure.”