NATO has issued an alert saying that a merchant vessel was attacked today and is suspected hijacked. At 1438 UTC today the vessel was in position 13 32 N 058 36 E. Vessels are advised to exercise extreme caution when navigating within 100 nautical miles of the position given in the report and maintain maximum CPA with any ship acting suspiciously.
Today's report comes after a relatively long period with no reported hijackings.
The hijacking comes on the same day that a maritime security company whose services include the provision of armed guards warns of "a critical shift in pirate focus."
GoAGT (Gulf of Aden Group Transits) today said that over the past week it has received first-hand information from sources indicating that several Pirate Action Groups (PAGs) have begun to focus operations in a new regional area. These sightings suggest that pirates are targeting the Cape to Arabian Gulf shipping lane.
"There is a potential for PAGs to move east and endanger shipping along the Cape to Malacca route," says GoAGT. "Shipping along these routes is vulnerable as many vessels are not hardened against piracy, and do not carry armed
guards. This is due to these routes being outside of the traditional High Risk Area (HRA)."
GoAGT says the activity east of the Seychelles is "likely motivated by the search for unprepared shipping. The operational range for PAGs has greatly increased due to the use of mothership vessels, which allow for extended operations at sea. It is also possible that PAGs can extend operations south of the Maldives."
"On February 6," says GoAGT, "a merchant vessel was approached by two skiffs in the central Indian Ocean Region at position 05°03'N 066°07'E. On February 8, a second merchant vessel was attacked at position 04°18'S 059°59'E by a skiff with five POB. The distance between these attacks suggests that several PAGs are now operating in this area."
"With the extensive concentration of anti-piracy measures in the Northern Indian Ocean, it is increasingly likely PAGs will attempt to target new areas to take advantage of unprotected shipping lanes," warns GoAGT.
NATO is also warning of pirate activity east of the Seychelles. Following is the text of today's NATO piracy update, issued before the report of the latest hijacking:
Today one merchant ship was approached (011/12) approximately 240nm east of the Seychelles Islands (0418S 05959E) around 0730Z. Five armed people were on board a white skiff with blue stripes. The vessel is SAFE
Piracy activities have been recently reported in the Indian Ocean in vicinity of the Seychelles Islands. Approaches occurred on 28 January north of the Seychelles Islands in position 0455N 05814E and on 6 February East of the Seychelles Islands in the position of 0503S 06607E. Masters are advised to proceed through these areas with extreme caution, and be advised that the PAG (Pirate Attack Group) responsible for the recent approaches (NSC4) in the Indian Ocean is still believe to be in the area.
On 2 February, suspicious activities have been reported northeast of the Maldives in position 0753N 07618E.
Although there has been little pirate activity recently in the Gulf of Aden (GOA) Bab al Mandeb (BAM) and Arabian Sea (AS) these are still considered areas of piracy threat to merchant shipping. Masters are reminded that a large number of fishing vessels operate in the Southern Red Sea (SRS). The fishing vessels may approach a merchant ship in order to maximise fishing opportunities and to warn vessels from getting too close to the fishing nets.
Masters are advised that the threat of piracy against merchant shipping is always present in the High Risk Area (HRA), and are advised to ensure ALL necessary Self Protection Measures are implemented as recommended in Best Management Practices. Prudent and timely application of BMP can make the important difference of being approached, attacked or being pirated.
If any incident occurs, Masters are to report immediately to UKMTO via telephone and provide the details of the incident. This will ensure the information is quickly provided to other ships in the area for their awareness and vigilance. If Merchant Masters are safely able to take photographs or video during an attack and provide these to the NATO Shipping Centre and UKMTO, along with the details of the event, it will be greatly appreciated. This information will be used by Counter Piracy forces' to combat piracy activities.
February 8, 2012