Two merchant vessels attacked by pirates off Muscat coast

Muscat - 

Two merchant vessels were attacked by suspected Somali pirates on Saturday in the Sea of Oman, just off the Muscat coastline, according to international piracy monitoring organisations.

In the first incident on Saturday morning, a merchant vessel was approached by Somali pirates on Saturday around 45 nautical miles northeast of Muscat but they were deterred following action taken by an embarked private security team.

Information released by the International Maritime Bureau’s (IMB) Piracy Reporting Centre stated that the incident took place when a dhow launched a skiff which then moved towards the tanker. The ship’s master raised an alarm, mustered the crew and contacted local and international authorities for assistance.

‘At a distance of 0.2 nautical miles weapons and ladders were identified on skiff and the onboard armed security team fired warning shots resulting in the skiff moving away,’ stated the IMB report.

The NATO Shipping Centre (NSC) also reported the incident, adding that the white skiff had ‘five to six persons’ on board.

Over the weekend the NSC issued a warning of an increased risk of pirate attack just off the Oman coast near Ras Madrakah, although attacks and hijacking remain down from last year due to improved security in the region.

The second attack occurred later the same day when another merchant vessel was boarded by pirates in the same area, although it is not known if the two attacks were linked.

According to the NSC, the pirates were unable to penetrate the vessel’s citadel, a secure strong room, and did not remain onboard.

On Sunday morning, both vessels were reported as being safe.

Despite the approaching northeast monsoon, sea conditions ‘have remained conducive’ to pirate attacks and merchant vessels have been urged to ensure that security measures are in place as pirate action groups (PAGs) ‘may continue to operate in the area’, according to the NSC.

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