Bulk Carrier Hijacked Off Somalia Coast

Somalian coastline
Updated Published

Off the Somalian coast, a commercial vessel remains hijacked by a group of unknown assailants, significantly raising fears of persisting instability for shipping as the Red Sea experiences escalating attacks, maritime security sources reported on Monday. 

On Friday, the Spanish navy sent a ship at full speed to the Maltese-flagged Ruen vessel, which has been reportedly hijacked. The vessel had voyaged 9 miles offshore from Bander Murcanyo in Puntland, Somalia on Dec 17th, says British maritime security company, Ambrey. 

“This was assessed likely to be the first hijacking of a merchant vessel by Somali pirates since the ARIS 13 in 2017. Ambrey assessed the event was likely partly a consequence of political instability in Puntland,” comments Ambrey. 

“There is assessed to be a possible criminal and opportunist risk.”

EUNAVFOR, the European Union’s naval force, stated on Monday that they are in “close collaboration with the Somali local authorities” to address the ongoing incident. They added that it is “coordinating efforts for a comprehensive follow-up and sharing of information”.

The vessel in question, the Ruen, last reported its position on Monday at 1810 GMT off the Somalian coast, according to MarineTraffic, maritime analytics provider. The Ruen’s Bulgaria-based manager, Navigation Maritime Bulgare, has not immediately responded to requests to comment. 

Shipping sources say that due to growing attacks by Iranian-backed Houthis from Yemen on commercial vessels in the Red Sea in support of Palestinian Islamist groups, Hamas, in their bid to win the war against Israel in Gaza, there are growing industry fears that there could be a spillover in attacks. 

Nicolas Delaunay, East and Southern Africa project director with the independent International Crisis Group comments: “When there is instability in Puntland, obviously that gives more room for potential pirates or gangs to operate. And Puntland now has seen a period of instability because of an election dispute.”

“Additionally, the Puntland Maritime Police Force, which was initially trained as an anti-piracy unit, over the years became more of a generic security provider less focused on piracy.”