Omani waters again at risk of piracy as monsoon ends

Muscat - 

The end of monsoon could see a rise in the number of pirate attacks throughout the Indian Ocean as weather conditions ease and mark a return of the dangers regularly faced by merchant vessels, according to the EU NAVFOR naval mission to the region.

With the apparent resumption of pirate attacks following the hijacking of MV Fairchem Bogey and its 21-member crew while it anchored near Salalah on Saturday, fears are mounting that the easing of the annual storms in the region will bring about an increase in incidents after a sustained period of calm. So far this year, 12 merchant vessels have been hijacked in or around Omani waters, with more than 30 others attacked.

Speaking exclusively to Muscat Daily, Commander Harry Harrison (Royal Navy) of the EU NAVFOR anti-piracy mission to the region said that suspected pirates would likely be ready to capitalise on this. It was likely he added, that the use of ocean-capable mother ships would continue, resulting in a wider spread of attacks across the Indian Ocean.

“The issue of piracy in the Indian Ocean is of significance to the region and the rest of the world. We anticipate that the reduction in sea state in the Somali basin after monsoon will make conditions more favourable for pirates and that there may well be an increase in the number of attacks,” said Commander Harrison. Echoing this anticipation, Sjoerd Both, a maritime security consultant and former commander of the regional coalition Combined Maritime Force, stated that pirates would likely increase their activities as soon as the weather eases.

“Pirates will go where the gain-to-risk ratio is most favourable. Omani waters with their relatively high ship density and located at some distance from the Internationally Recognised Transit Corridor (IRTC) offer that opportunity.”

“International naval forces have done an excellent job within the operational constraints imposed on them. Until the international community is ready to inflict real pain on the pirates nothing will change for the better,” he added. The ratio of successful attacks had reduced from one-in-three to one-in-six due to the increasing number of merchant vessels adopting self protection measures, said EU NAVFOR officials.

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