Pirates board Bangladeshi ship off coast of Somalia

Incident latest in resurgence of Somalian piracy in the Indian Ocean over recent months

In a previous incident, India's INS Sumitra rescued 19 crew members and a ship from Somalian pirates in January. Photo: India Navy
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Armed men boarded a Bangladeshi ship nearly 1,000km off the coast of Somalia, security agencies reported on Tuesday.

The bulk commodity carrier Abdullah was carrying cargo to the UAE from Mozambique. About 20 armed men boarded the ship from two boats, security company Ambrey Analytics said.

Bangladeshi broadcaster Somoy TV posted an image that appeared to show a small boat approaching the larger vessel.

The ship’s owner, SR Shipping Ltd., said it was carrying coal. Ship-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg shows the Abdullah slowed to a standstill in the Indian Ocean before turning round. It is now heading in the direction of the Somalian coast.

“We’re waiting for communications with the pirates. The ship is being controlled by the pirates near the Somali coast,” Mehrul Karim, chief executive of SR Shipping, said in a phone interview. “All the sailors are alive and in good health.”

The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) agency also flagged the boarding incident and advised vessels to transit with caution. UKMTO did not specify that it was Somalian pirates who boarded the ship.

The attack is the most recent sign that Somalian pirates are active again in the Indian Ocean.

Global shipping routes have been disrupted by tensions in the Red Sea, where Yemen's Houthi rebels have vowed to continue attacks on commercial ships that they say are in retaliation for Israel's war in Gaza.

Major shipping companies have been forced to send cargo vessels on a much longer route round southern Africa, driving up the costs of global shipping.

Somalian pirates now appear to be seeking to capitalise on this disruption, with a rise in attacks reported since late 2023.

At the end of last year, the first hijacking in the waters off Somalia took place since 2017.

Indian navy commandos boarded the Liberia-flagged ship MV Lila Norfolk in early January after it had been ambushed by pirates off the coast of Somalia. All 21 of the crew, including 15 Indian citizens, were rescued.

In December, pirates seized the Malta-flagged MV Ruen and its 18 crew.

Naval forces operating in the area have published warnings that two piracy groups have been working in the Indian Ocean.

- With reporting from agencies

Updated: March 12, 2024, 5:17 PM