Four merchant vessels have been attacked by pirates off the coast of Oman in the last ten days, according to figures released by the European Union’s Naval Force’s (EUNAVFOR) anti-piracy mission to the region.
Speaking to Muscat Daily, officials from the taskforce said that in the first three months of this year attacks in the region had more than doubled when compared to the same period in 2010. This was likely due to the presence of Pirate Action Groups (PAGs) who were using mother-ships as an at-sea base from which to carry out their attacks.
“The pirates are better able to project themselves and the monsoons are not affecting their durability any more. It is something we are aware of and have been monitoring it. The mother-ships are a challenge for us,” said a spokesperson.
“There is certainly a presence of PAGs up around the Omani coast. It is unlikely that they will head around the corner towards Bahrain because of the very large military footprint and gray painted vessels there, but they are not afraid to have a look around and up the coastline.”
One such attack off Oman, on the MV Falcon Trader II, some 195 nautical miles (nm) off the Omani coast on March 24, was thwarted by US naval assets assigned to support NATO forces and the US Operation Enduring Freedom mission to Afghanistan.
Although unexpected, the help in securing the freedom of the MV Falcon Trader II was very welcome according to EUNAVFOR, who had been following the event for some time. “We knew that they have a task force in the region assigned to Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. The fact that they got involved in anti-piracy is great, it was a case of being in the right place at the right time.”
An attack on the MV Front Alfa on the same day was repelled by armed force from the merchant ship itself, while the MV Liquid Crystal was reportedly fired upon by pirates in skiffs on March 21. On Monday, Kuwaiti crude oil tanker MV Zirku was hijacked 250nm south east of Salalah, after being attacked by pirates. There is no news on the status of the 29 man crew.