x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

US vessel thwarts pirate attack northeast of Fujairah

An armed security team on a Maersk ship off the coast of Fujairah prevented an attack from pirates who had advanced on the ship in multiple skiffs.

FUJAIRAH // An onboard security team yesterday repelled an attack by pirates in several boats who fired at a vessel of the Maersk Line, Limited, the company said.

The US flag vessel Maersk Texas "thwarted an attack by multiple pirate skiffs" while transiting the Gulf of Oman, northeast of Fujairah, after leaving the Strait of Hormuz, a statement said.

The security team fired warning shots when, despite cautionary signals, "numerous skiffs with armed men in each boat quickly closed on Maersk Texas".

When the skiffs continued to directly approach the multipurpose vessel, the team fired shots at the pirates. The pirates then fired at the ship, and the security team returned fire.

All sailors on board were safe, and the vessel has proceeded on its voyage to the US, said Kevin Speers, a senior director of marketing for the Maersk Line.

Clarifying reports that the Iranian navy had helped repel the attack, Mr Speers said: "The Iranian navy responded to Maersk Texas's distress signal but was never on scene."

Several small craft and fishing boats were in the area during the attack, but those vessels were not involved in the incident, the company said.

The Maersk Line is the world's biggest container shipping company. In earlier statements, it has said that attacks on its ships have been averted by anti-piracy activities from various naval forces and by the deployment of armed guards on several ships.

The company has invested heavily in fighting piracy, with costs reaching US$100 million (Dh368.1m) in 2010, doubling last year. New expenditures have involved preventive measures such as sailing at higher speeds in piracy waters and investments in training.

The United Nations International Maritime Organisation had issued a guidance in May of last year on the use of armed guards aboard ships.

There have been about 1,600 acts of piracy from 2006 to 2010, causing the deaths of 54 seafarers, according to the organisation.

Until the end of March this year, Somali pirates were still holding 15 vessels and 253 crew members hostage, with an additional 49 crew members held hostage on land, according to the European Union Naval Force.

rtalwar@thenational.ae