Curious Entry in UKMTO Report for 8-14 February

The UK Maritime Trade Operation (more commonly called UKMTO) has issued its report for last week, with a number of incidents reported which have not previously appeared elsewhere.

Despite frequent requests, UKMTO policy is to only notify vessels which have registered with them in the vicinity of incidents when they occur; many analysts argue that for proper domain awareness, publicly sharing such incidents as they occur allow the industry to factor these in when passage planning. However, as things stand, we are only informed of events in the retrospective report.

With that in mind, here are last week’s incidents as logged by UKMTO:

Suspicious Activity

8 Feb – 12. 15.500N 44 15.500E. A vessel reported sighting 4 skiffs and altered course. The skiffs also altered course and 1 was seen to increase speed to approx 17kts. The vessel altered course again as did the skiff which then closed to within 0.2nm. The embarked AST showed their weapons and the skiff veered away, vessel and crew are safe.

8 Feb – 12 24N 43 32E. A vessel reported sighting 3 skiffs approaching at 20kts. 2 skiffs approached starboard mid-ships and the other to port at a range of 500–800m. The vessel sounded its horn and fired a flare. The embarked AST fired warning shots, the skiffs halted and broke off, vessel and crew are safe.

10 Feb – 11 55.683N 43 26.249E. A vessel reported 2 skiffs crossing the ship’s head at 1.2nm and suddenly turning to close to port at a range of 500m. The ship sounded 2 long blasts and altered course, the skiff came to within 200-300m. The AST showed their presence and the skiffs moved away, vessel and crew are safe.

11 Feb – 19 26N 59 58E. A vessel reported 2 skiffs approaching at approx 20kts. The vessel altered course and the skiffs moved parallel to the new course, closing to within 1nm. The skiffs followed for a while before moving off. The ship had an AST embarked, vessel and crew are safe.

11 Feb – 24 57N 60 43E. A vessel reported 2 skiffs and another MV. The 2 skiffs approached either side of the vessel from astern to within 200m. The ship sounded its alarm and fired a flare. The skiffs stayed in position for 3-4 minutes before returning to the MV, no further action reported, vessel and crew are safe.

Attacks

13 Feb – 01 07N 044 07E, a RORO/cargo ship was attacked by 1 skiff carrying 5 armed POB. The skiff closed to within 500m and AST opened fire, the skiff returned fire and then moved away. The vessel and crew are safe.

Screen Shot 2014-02-16 at 12.41.29

The incident on February 11th (pictured above, image courtesy of OCEANUSLive.org) in position 24:57N-060:43E is a curious one. The report states that two skiffs made an approach in the Gulf of Oman, off the Iranian coast and then returned to a MV in the vicinity. Does this mean they were launched from the MV? Was the MV a mother ship? Were they fishermen with nets in proximity to the original MV? Were they Iranian military? What kind of ship was the MV?

The report leaves more questions than answers. At present, it is not believed that Somali pirates have access to any large vessels from which to mount attacks, sticking to whalers and dhows for use as mother ships. Hopefully, this incident will be more fully reported and answers provided.

It is also interesting to note that the incident on February 13th is classified as an attack by UKTMO. NATO Shipping Centre has described this incident as an approach rather than an attack, despite shots being fired at the merchant ship.

Update: NATO SC has now revised its initial report on the Feb. 13th incident and has changed it from an approach to Suspicious Activity. A rather strange move, considering shots were reportedly fired at the MV.

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