Pirates hijack freighter off Somalia's coast

In the boat patrolling for pirates

In the boat patrolling for pirates

A number of suspected pirates boarded the Sri Lankan-flagged vessel off the country's northern coast on Monday, residents and officials say.

A spokesperson for the European Union Naval Force which runs an anti-piracy operations in the area, said it was too early to confirm pirate involvement. "It is thought to be the first hijacking of a large commercial vessel there in about three years", the Associated Press has reported.

The hijacking began on Monday when the captain of Aris 13 sent a mayday alert as two skiffs closed in on the tanker in the Gulf of Aden.

EU Navfor aircraft were flying overhead to monitor and track the ship's route.

But attacks fell sharply after ship owners tightened security and vessels stayed further away from the Somali coast.

Somali pirates demand ransom for release of oil tanker with Sri Lankan crew Wed, Mar 15, 2017, 12:33 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Aris 13 is owned by Panama company Armi Shipping and managed by Aurora Ship Management in the United Arab Emirates, according to the Equasis shipping data website. During the hijacking the bunker tanker Aris 13 has eight crew on board, but their destiny is unknown. "We will not be releasing any information", Karagiannis said before shutting the door. It came as a surprise to the global shipping industry as worldwide patrols had suppressed pirate hijackings for several years.

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Nur, the local elder, told the AP that young fishermen including former pirates have hijacked the ship.

"Progress in building a federal state in Somalia, combined with collective worldwide naval efforts and antipiracy policies from the regional states, such as Puntland, has contributed to the reduction of onshore safe havens for pirates along the Somali coast", the report found, crediting warships, the use of armed guards on commercial vessels, and global deterrence efforts.

Argyrios Karagiannis, the managing director of Flair Shipping, declined to comment.

Pirates have been around for thousands of years, but they became a global problem when the Somali Democratic Republic collapsed in 1991, according to Ohio State University.

"This attack reinforces the need for vessels to follow shipping industry Best Management Practices (BMP) within the BMP specified High Risk Area", he added.

"So this is not a pirate attack, it's angry fishermen trying to protect their area so that they can fish", said Harare Ahmed Mohamed Matan, a fisherman in Puntland, in a phone interview. He mentioned that the men have been sailing through the ocean in search of a ship to hijack since yesterday morning and that they found the ship and made a decision to board it.

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