x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Naval force warns of piracy surge as monsoon eases and seas calm

Pirate attacks in the Gulf of Aden are likely to increase as the monsoon season ends, the coalition force that patrols the area has warned.

Pirate attacks in the Gulf of Aden are likely to increase as the monsoon season ends, the coalition force that patrols the area has warned. Merchant ships should be vigilant, because rough seas caused by the south-west monsoon have kept pirates away from the area in recent weeks, according to the Bahrain-based Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), a naval grouping made up of task forces from more than a dozen countries.

The alert came yesterday as the captain of the 14-strong Indian crew of the MV Nefya, which operates from Sharjah, recounted in an interview the crew's ordeal at the hands of pirates. The pirates seized their vessel and used it as a mother ship to launch an unsuccessful attack on a Liberian-flagged oil tanker, the 265,000-tonne MV Elephant. After several days, they abandoned the Nefya and its crew 15 nautical miles off north-east Somalia in the early hours of July 15.

"The prior preparation and vigilance of merchant mariners at all times of day and night is more important now than ever," said Turkish Rear Adml Caner Bener, commander of Combined Task Force 151, which patrols the Gulf of Aden. The south-west monsoon brings high winds and rough seas to the Gulf of Aden and the western Arabian Sea for much of June, July and August, making conditions difficult for small boats such as those used by Somali pirates.

More than 30 ships and aircraft from 16 navies patrol the seas along the Somali coastline, Africa's longest. But merchant ships must still take precautions to help deter pirates, as military vessels are not always close enough to provide assistance, the CMF said. To reduce the risk of attack, merchant vessels should use the internationally recognised transit corridor through the Gulf of Aden, report to maritime security centres before sailing, keep watch and use on-board security, the CMF said.

lmorris@thenational.ae