SHIPOWNERS have been warned that security measures employed in the high-risk area off the Somali coast may not repel future attacks and that pirates are prepared to put up a "real fight" for ships as indicated in two recent attacks, which have signalled a return of pirate activity to the region.
A fishing vessel is reported to have come under attack from two skiffs recently. Although no further details were available, experts say this is the second reported attack from a pirate group operating from a mothership that is still at large.
The first attack targeted the Hong Kong-flagged very large crude carrier (VLCC) Island Splendour, which was approached last week by suspected pirates in the Somali Basin some 230 miles off Hobyo, according to Lloyds List Intelligence.
Two skiffs with five and three people on board approached the 296,619 dwt VLCC, managed by UK-based Big Horizon, as armed guards on the tanker fired warning shots and the men on the skiffs fired back.
C-Level Maritime Risks founder Michael Frodl said that although the private maritime security company managed to repel the attack, the pirates returned fire before backing down. "This incident is a warning that what worked last year and most of this year to keep pirates away may not be working so well this year. We think that Somali pirates are growing less impressed with guards and some are going to put up a real fight for a ship," he said.
Oceanus Live principal Glen Forbes said the attack on the VLCC marked a change in pirate tactics and could signal that gangs are trying out more determined attacks to assess guards responses.
Dryad Maritime Intelligence director of intelligence Ian Millen said the attempted attack was the first report of a merchant vessel coming under small-arms fire since the end of the southwest monsoon season.
Mr Millen said the two skiffs operating 250 miles from the eastern shore of Somalia were likely to have worked with some kind of mother vessel. Dryads latest report predicted that, despite pressure from coalition forces and the pirates depleted resources, pirate groups were very likely to attack in these sea lanes.
It would take just one successful hijack and holding to ransom of a large merchant vessel to revive Somalias criminal infrastructure. Mr Millen said the attack on two vessels in the space of four days showed that the Somali pirate business model was unbroken.