On the 2nd January 2018 an Iranian fishing vessel was hijacked off the coast of Somalia. In addition, there have been a total of seven other reported pirate related incidents in 2018 already, indicating that the significant increase in maritime piracy in 2017 is set to continue into the new year.
Whilst there is still no confirmed news as to the fate of the fishing vessel, Ali Shire, the mayor of Haabo in the northern semi-autonomous region of Puntland, told Reuters, “A group of Somali pirates captured an Iranian fishing vessel and are likely using it as a mother ship in order to hijack (other) ships”.
Steven Roberts, Director at Regal Maritime Solutions explained, "Fishing vessels operating in the Indian Ocean are vulnerable to piracy attacks primarily because of their prolonged operations as opposed to a straight forward transit. The vessels are also smaller (less than 100m in length) and have lower free boards than most (not all) commercial vessels.
When the fishing nets are casted the vessel is unable to move until the nets have been reeled in which can take up to 2 hours. During that time the vessel is particularly susceptible to attack."
Previously, a combination of security teams on board vessels and efforts from multiple naval forces have helped fishing vessels off the coast of Somalia remain relatively safe. However, the severe reduction of naval numbers and patrols in the region combined with the worsening famine and economic stability in Somalia has seen pirate organizations begin to re-emerge.
Armed security teams remain the main line of defense against further hijackings and it is vital that shipping companies ensure that their fishing fleets are adequately prepared to operate in high risk areas.