A Greek-chartered bulker helped foil a potential hijacking by a large number of pirates in the Gulf of Aden at the weekend, TradeWinds has learned.
The incident on Sunday morning – which also involved a German multi-purpose vessel and a Singapore-controlled tanker – saw the Indian Navy step in to destroy all the pirate vessels with an unconfirmed report that a massive number of arrests were made.
The 53,600-dwt Matumba (built 2005) was travelling east through the Internationally Recognised Transit Corridor (IRTC) when an embarked security team spotted a suspected pirate mothership and eight skiffs.
“The security team immediately contacted Indian Navy escort ship through Channel 16,” a statement from the bulker’s charterer, Meadway Shipping & Trading, read.
“The Indian Navy escort ship responded accordingly by launching helicopter with SOF team.”
The statement from Meadway had previously claimed the incident took place on Saturday. However, the charterer later confirmed it occured on Sunday, although before the later incident which also required the Indian Navy’s attention.
A report from the UAE-flagged ship’s master seen by TradeWinds claimed that there were about eight pirates in each skiff and all were arrested. All skiffs were said to have rocket-propelled grenade launchers, grenades, guns and ammunition onboard while 19 drums of fuel were also uncovered.
The master’s report also claims that the Indian Navy destroyed the pirate mothership and all eight skiffs. The Navy has not made any announcement about any arrests although it has admitted one of its ships intervened in another attempted attack in the region later on Sunday.
The master of the Matumba, which is owned by Al Jaber Group of UAE, said it was asked to remain at the back of the convoy as it was the only ship with an embarked security team.
The vessel has a crew of 21 from Syria, Indonesia, and Egypt. It was travelling from the Black Sea to Thailand fully loaded with a cargo of steel products. The three other ships in the convoy at the time have been named as Briese-Schiffahrts’ 6,159-dwt BBC Pacific (built 2007), the 115,400-dwt products carrier Pacific Sky (built 2009) and a ship named as Sugar Wind.
Meadway has good reason to be more cautious than most when it comes to negotiating waters around Somalia. On 5 November last year its owned 53,600-dwt bulker Delvina (built 2007) was hijacked in the southern part of the Somali Basin while en route from the Mediterranean to East Africa with a cargo of wheat.
The Greek owner did, however, manage to secure a remarkably swift release of the Marshall Islands-flagged ship and its 21 crew on 17 December last year. A ransom of $3.6m was reportedly paid.
The incident with the Matumba was swiftly followed by another in the Gulf of Aden involving the Indian Navy. A 12-ship convoy was threatened by eight pirates in one skiff in the IRTC.
The INS Delhi scrambled a helicopter and a boarding team disarmed the pirates after finding weapons and a large amount of fuel onboard their vessel. Great Eastern Shipping’s 52,200-dwt bulker Jag Ratan (built 2001) was part of the convoy which the pirates were allegedly trying to intercept.