According to a report filed Sunday August 7th by the IMB Live Piracy Reporting Centre, pirates attacked a vessel approximately 20 nm off the coast of Eritrea in the Red Sea. What marks this attack out for special attention, and the reason it should be of particular concern to all shipping companies and members of the maritime community is that in this instance, it would appear the pirates attacked in large numbers, en masse.
The report states that 12 skiffs approached the vessel, a bulk carrier, and that each skiff contained five to eight pirates, all armed and carrying boarding ladders. The skiffs were approaching at around 17 knots and as they closed to approximately 300m, on the command of the Master, the armed security detail on board the bulk carrier fired warning shots at the pirate craft. The majority of the pursuing skiffs fell back as it became clear the security team were armed. Two skiffs continued to give chase, returning fire at the vessel. The security team engaged the pirates and, after approximately 30 minutes and numerous approaches, the pirates aborted their attack and moved away. There were no reports of injuries to either pirates or security team and crew.
While the rather ragged nature of the attack illustrates that the pirates still lack discipline, it should concern everyone in the maritime community that so many pirates would group together to attack a merchant vessel simultaneously. Whether this represents a genuinely new approach to tactics by pirates is as yet unknown. What is clear, however, is that only the presence of an armed security detail on board the bulk carrier ensured its continued safe passage and the safety of its crew and cargo. Had there been no armed detail on board, it would seem clear that this story would have had a very different outcome.