Visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) team members from the guided-missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf (CG 72) close in on rigid-hulled inflatable boats to apprehend suspected pirates in Gulf of Aden in the Arabian Sea, in this February 12, 2009 file photo. (REUTERS)Short Url
Despite being repelled, Sunday’s attack on a British-flagged chemical tanker shows that pirates still have the “intention and capacity” to attack ships in the Gulf of Aden and beyond, experts say.
It “would only take one successful hijacking for widespread piracy to be rekindled,” Michael Howlett, director of the International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Recording Centre, told Arab News.
“This wasn’t an isolated incident, and it demonstrates that the intention and the capacity to attack vessels are there.”
Maritime security firm Dryad Global said Sunday’s attack was the ninth reported suspicious incident in the Gulf of Aden so far this year.
Munro Anderson, a partner at Dryad Global, told Arab News that there has been a significant increase in reporting of suspicious incidents in the Gulf of Aden this year compared with 2019.
International naval intervention in the region, as well as new legal frameworks for dealing with piracy, have been “instrumental in curtailing piracy in the region,” he said.
But he warned that the attack could represent an evolution in the conduct of piracy in the region.
“Piracy used to be concentrated around the coast of Somalia, but now it’s moving toward the Gulf of Aden and the Bab Al-Mandab waterway,” he said.
“The Gulf of Aden is a chokepoint with over 33,000 transits per year. This kind of activity (piracy) is going to concentrate in this area,” he added.
“The traffic in the Gulf of Aden and Bab Al-Mandab isn’t just commercial shipping. There’s a huge amount of illicit trading, trafficking and migration taking place too.”
The war in Yemen and the actions of Houthi militias in the country, he said, have been a major factor in the uptick of piracy and security issues in the region.
“The overspill from the war in Yemen has also manifested itself in the targeting of Saudi vessels,” Anderson added.
“That’s of course because the Houthis are regional proxies for the (Iranian) IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps).”
On its website, the UK Maritime Trade Operations naval authority advises vessels in the area “to exercise extreme caution” due to the risk of piracy and other security incidents.