Spanish and Korean fishing vessels encountered pirates while operating off East Africa, and EU NavFor has confirmed that five suspected pirates have are being held and 23 hostages have been freed in an operation carried out by Spanish naval vessel Navarra.
The piracy incident escalated over several days, with a Yemeni dhow captured by pirates off the coast of Somalia. The pirates proceeded north to pick up additional members before attacking Korean fishing vessel Adria on 21st April around 280 nautical miles offshore, with skiffs operating from the dhow.
Adria increased its speed and conducted evasive manoeuvres as it was chased by skiffs, and Spanish purse seiner Txori Argi assisted as Adria was pursued. An hour later, the skiffs returned and both fishing vessels were fired on with what are believed to have been rocket propelled grenades.
Private Armed Security Teams (PAST) on board Adria and Txori Argi responded, and the skiffs retreated. That same day, another fishing vessel, Shin Shuen Far 889, also reported having been approached by two skiffs, which both retreated when the PAST on board revealed their weapons.
The same day, EU NavFor dispatched its Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPRAs) and conducted a search in the area, and were able to identify the mothership.
On 23rd April, in collaboration with its MPRAs, EU NavFor’s flagship ESPS Navarra successfully intercepted and boarded the captured dhow vessel. EU NavFor apprehended five suspected pirates, and the 23 hostages aboard the hijacked Al Azham were released unharmed.
With the support of the private security teams and EU NavFor’s various active assets in the region, including the frigate ESPS Navarra and MPRAs German Jester and Spanish Cisne, Operation Atalanta was able to control the situation and prevent any further attacks.
‘This incident clearly demonstrates that piracy and armed robbery at sea, off the coast of Somalia, has not been eradicated,’ said Operation Commander Rear Admiral Antonio Martorell.
‘The need for a strong maritime security presence in the High-Risk Area remains critical for the deterrence and prevention of future incidents and attacks,’ he said, commenting that this incident is the first notable piracy event since October of last year.
The Force Headquarters (FHQ) piloted the operation under the command of the Operation Headquarters (OHQ) in Rota, just three weeks after the operation hand over from Northwood, United Kingdom.
EU NAVFOR urges the maritime industry to remain vigilant across the high-risk area and to comply with recommended Best Management Practises, as supported by the Maritime Security Centre Horn of Africa located in Brest.