Tanker attacked in Gulf of Aden

Location of Stolt Apal. Credit: IHS Markit AISLive ship tracking portal

A UK flagged chemical/products tanker, Stolt Apal, was attacked by pirates 75 nautical miles off the coast of Yemen on 17 May.

The vessel owner, Stolt Tankers, confirmed in a statement that the tanker was attacked by six pirates who approached on two speedboats. “After multiple warning shots were fired by the armed guard team aboard Stolt Apal, the skiffs opened fire on the ship. The armed guard team returned fire, disabling one skiff and ending the pursuit,” Stolt Tankers said in the statement.

There were no injuries to crew or the team of armed guards aboard, the company reported, and the bridge area suffered minor bullet damage. No cargo damage or pollution was detected after the shootout, and Stolt Apal resumed its journey to Yanbu Commerical Port, Saudi Arabia.

According to IHS Markit AISLive ship tracking data, as of 18 May the vessel is currently transiting the Strait of Hormuz.

The Gulf of Aden was the maritime piracy hotspot of the previous decade; today the Gulf of Guinea claims the top spot. Between 2005 and 2010 Somali pirates dominated the waters off the horn of Africa, with the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) reporting 905 incidents of piracy in the region in that period. However, following the increased presence of international warships and counter piracy measures introduced in the Best Management Practices for Protection against Somalia Based Piracy, published in 2011, Somali piracy has dwindled significantly.

The IMB has recorded only 9 attacks this year in the Gulf of Aden, compared to 47 in the Gulf of Guinea. Following the most recent attack, off Yemen, the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations issued a statement for vessels to still remain vigilant: “vessels transiting the area are advised to exercise extreme caution.”