Reports indicate that Somali pirates have successfully hijacked a Sri-Lankan flagged bunker tanker in what would be the first such incident in five years in the former piracy blackspot.
The Aris-13, managed by Aurora Ship Management in Dubai, is said to have sent a distress call and turned off all tracking systems after reporting that it was being followed by two skiff boats, according to Reuters.
The vessel is believed to have been apprehended off Puntland and diverted towards the Somali coast. At least eight pirates are reported to have boarded the ship.
A spokesman for piracy watchdog International Maritime Bureau confirmed the owners had lost contact with the vessel. United Kingdom Maritime Trade Organisation (UKMTO) is monitoring the situation and a war ship is proceeding to the area to investigate the incident.
Aircraft from regional naval force EU Navfor are believed to have been scrambled, and are in the area to track down the exact whereabouts of the vessel.
If confirmed, the hijacking will stun the shipping community, with Somali piracy reaching a crisis point for the industry between 2009 and 2011, with 237 attacks launched by Somali pirates in 2011 according to the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre.
Last year saw two attempted Somali piracy attacks including one in October 300 nm of the Somali coast on a product tanker. The IMB warned in its 2016 annual report: “The IMB PRC believes that a single successful hijacking of a merchant vessel, will rekindle the Somali’ pirates desire to resume their piracy efforts.”