Stolt-Nielsen guards blew up pirate skiff in gun battle

More details of Gulf of Aden attack revealed, while second incident downplayed.

A security team on a Stolt-Nielsen tanker blew up a pirate boat during a fierce gun battle off Yemen on Sunday.

The Private Maritime Security Company has revealed more details about the attack on the 32,800-dwt Stolt Apal (built 2016), while downplaying reports of a second suspicious approach in the area.

The PMSC said two blue Yemeni-type skiffs were involved.

The first was seen on the tanker’s starboard quarter, after which Stolt Apal altered course.

The skiff maintained its distance while the second boat approached the ship’s starboard quarter at 22 or 23 knots from 3 nautical miles (5.5km) away.

PMSC added that Both skiffs rendezvoused and conducted an “exchange”, and then one of the skiffs altered course and approached the tanker.

The other skiff remained in a standoff position.

The boat that approached carried a large number of blue drums but no boarding equipment was seen onboard.

Faces covered

“Those on board the skiff wore khaki clothing and covered their face,”PMSC said.

As the skiff approached, the tanker’s embarked armed security team fired two warning shots, the PMSC added.

The boat then opened fire on the tanker after the second warning shot with several bursts from an automatic weapon.

Only minor damage was reported to the bridge, while the skiff was “disabled.”

The security team was still receiving fire when the skiff exploded about 200 metres from the tanker, PMSC said.

It is unclear what happened to the pirates.

Shrapnel was later identified behind the Stolt vessel.

“Following this, the other skiff moved away on a north-easterly bearing. The tanker subsequently continued her course”, PMSC said.

Stolt-Nielsen has been contacted for further information.

The Norwegian shipowner had confirmed the incident on Sunday, about 75 nautical miles.

Six armed men were involved.

Oslo-listed Stolt-Nielsen said it had disabled one skiff.

“The bridge area sustained minor damage from bullets but there were no injuries, no pollution and no cargo impacted on Stolt Apal,” the chemical tanker player added.

Second incident dismissed

PMSC also said a second incident in the area this week is not viewed as hostile.

A Panama-flagged supramax bulk carrier was approached approximately 49 nautical miles south-west of Aden in Yemen.

A skiff approached the starboard side of the vessel at a speed of 20 knots, closing to 1.5 nautical miles.

Embarked security displayed weapons and the skiff withdrew. No weapons or boarding equipment were seen onboard.

In a third incident far to the south, a Saudi Arabia-flagged MR tanker was boarded in the Nacala outer anchorage in Mozambique during ship to ship transfer operations involving a Liberian-flagged aframax.

On sighting the suspect on the poop deck, the crew raised the alarm, prompting the individual to escape in a boat with two accomplices. Nothing was stolen.

Source: TradeWinds