Reporting suggests that the Panama-flagged Chemical vessel AEGEAN II IMO: 9016911 (Greek owner Aegean Oil) has been hijacked. If true, this would be the first successful hijack in Somali waters since 2017. The vessel is believed to have been attacked on the evening (local time) of the 16th August 2020, by six pirates, after having developed mechanical issues.
Preliminary assessments suggest that the vessel in question is the Panama-flagged oil and chemical tanker AEGEAN II (IMO 9016911). The vessel, which was in transit from the UAE to Mogadishu, is believed to have been attacked during its transit off the coast of the Horn of Africa, approximately 180 nm SW of Socotra.
Having cruised at approximately 6 kts, the vessel slowed significantly to 1 kt, before beginning to regain her speed. However, she then abruptly turned due North and accelerated to a speed of 11 kts. The vessel then transited North to its current location, off Bereeda on the Eastern tip of the Horn of Africa, at the location 11.90622°, 51.06596°.
The vessel then resumed operational status, however a window of opportunity of slowed transit speed had been created which was subsequently exploited by a piratical group. The vessel can be seen to hold a number of key vulnerabilities that would make her susceptible to opportunistic attack. It is unknown what level of hardening was employed on the vessel at the time.
So far, this incident appears to be an isolated and opportunistic incident which seized on a vessel in a vulnerable situation, which had transited close to Somali TTWs. There remains a threat of piracy off the coast of Somalia which is credible and can manifest as it did in this instance, however contextually the threat is vastly reduced on regional highs in 2011.
Further intelligence sources also suggest that this vessel may have been seized as an act of maritime crime (not piracy), in what could have been an act with a commercial narrative. At this stage with developing information, whilst there are clear suggestions of piracy the historic data trend would suggest that this is not the case, and it is prudent that other courses of action, such as maritime crime, are also considered.
Vessels should continue to adopt vessel hardening measures and maintain their adherence to BMP-5 best practice in relation to deterring piracy. Furthermore, vessels should be mindful of their vulnerability when in close proximity to the Somali coast should they experience difficulties, and a pre-emptive adoption of cautious routing is advised. In the event that a vessel experiences difficulties or mechanical issues in this area, it is prudent to immediately ramp up all vessel security measures and watches in the short term, to ensure the escalated threat is mitigated and inform regional monitoring organisations at the earliest opportunity.
Update: Further updates from the vessel indicate that she was experiencing engine issues whilst transiting off the coast of Socotra, and had decided to conduct repairs. Following making contact with authorities in Puntland, the vessel was boarded by local maritime police off the coast of Bareeda. There then followed a dispute regarding the presence of weapons on board, due to the presence of an embarked security team. The situation is reported to be still ongoing, and has not yet been resolved.
Source: Dryad Global