Crew in hiding as ‘armed persons’ board Bahrain-bound ship off Somali coast

Vessel headed towards Khalifa bin Salman reported incident near Eyl

The crew of a Liberian-flagged vessel bound for Bahrain are hiding from pirates who boarded the ship off the coast of Somalia, according to a maritime security agency.

The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) said on Thursday that the bulk carrier had reportedly been boarded by “armed persons” to the south-east of Eyl, Somalia.

“Five to six unauthorised armed persons have boarded a merchant vessel…in the vicinity of Eyl,” the UKMTO said in a later advisory.

“Crew are mustered in citadel,” it added, referring to the room on a ship dedicated for those on board to shelter in the event of an attack.

The UKMTO also warned other ships that vessel’s navigational lighting “is limited and is likely to be below minimum anti-collision regulation specifications”.

The incident comes amid a rise in pirate attacks and an alleged deal between Al Shabab and Somali pirates operating off the country’s coast, which will see the militant group provide protection in exchange for ship ransom.

The group has yet to officially confirm the agreement, but it has threatened an end to a lull in pirate attacks. It will reportedly receive 30 per cent of all ransom proceeds.

In December, pirates seized the MV Ruen and its 18 crew members.

Shipping companies, including global giant Maersk, have suspended or advised vessels against transiting through the Red Sea amid increased Houthi attacks, with the militant group attacking military and commercial ships believed to be Israeli or travelling to Israel.

Vessels will travel via the Cape of Good Hope instead, which may lead to increased traffic off the Somali coast.

The attacks by the Houthis, who are allied with Hamas against Israel, led the US to send additional warships to the region and establish a joint maritime task force.

On Thursday, the Houthis fired a drone at a US commercial vessel in the Red Sea, the latest of several attacks on American military and commercial ships.

Washington said the missile did not land near the ship, and confirmed no US Navy personnel are on American commercial ships in the are

Source: The National News