Pirates in speedboats hijacked a Greek bulk carrier with 19 crew members off eastern Somalia, a piracy watchdog official said Monday.
Sunday’s hijacking pushes the number of attacks this year in Somali waters close to 60, with pirates raiding ships off eastern Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden flanking the country’s northern coast despite U.S.-led patrols.
Four pirates in three speedboats hijacked the Greek ship, which was flying a Bahamas flag and traveling to Europe, said Noel Choong, who heads the International Maritime Bureau’s piracy reporting center in Kuala Lumpur.
He could not say whether the crew members were harmed and declined to say where they were from or what the ship was carrying.
Hours earlier, three pirates in a speed boat fired machine guns at an Iranian crude oil carrier in the same area, Choong said. The tanker escaped after a 30-minute chase, and no casualties were reported, he said.
Last week, another Greek bulk carrier with 25 crew members was hijacked off Somalia’s east coast. A Hong Kong vessel carrying 25 crew was hijacked the same day in the Gulf of Aden, one of the world’s busiest waterways.
« The pirates have now started to attack ships off the eastern coast again …
It’s not good, » Choong said. « The eastern coast of Somalia is an open sea.
It’s so wide. It may be more difficult to control, to patrol. »
There have been 59 attacks in Somali waters since January, and 13 ships with more than 300 crew remain in pirates’ hands, Choong said.
The surge in attacks has prompted the U.S. Naval Central Command to establish a security corridor patrolled by an international coalition of warships.
Some 20,000 ships pass annually through the Gulf of Aden, which connects the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean.
Somalia has not had a functioning government since 1991. Pirates there are often trained fighters, many of them dressed in military fatigues and typically armed with automatic weapons, anti-tank rocket launchers and grenades.