Pirate update: they’ve changed again – much to the confusion of Wildcat, who had only just replaced the mental image of briny Jack Sparrow corsairs with young Somali fishermen in GPS-guided skiffs.
Your average pirate these days is a machete-toting Indonesian who boards anchored ships with the scent of ransom in his nostrils. That’s according to the London-based International Maritime Bureau (IMB), which on Monday reported a slump in attacks off Somalia, but increased activity in Southeast Asia.
They may be heartier, but they’re not any smarter – although Wildcat will forego a full byline to be on the safe side. Two LNG tankers were among the targets this year, with the skirmishes occurring within eight days of each another, according to the IMB’s full incident log.
The 100,000-ton LNG Aries, which flies Marshall Islands colours and is managed by Japan’s Mitsui OSK Lines, came under fire from pirates in a dhow northeast of Oman’s Masirah Island on 20 June.
“Pirates were also armed with RPGs. The dhow closed on the tanker and at a distance of 50 metres fired on the tanker,” said the IMB, adding that three rounds met their target.
Spoiler alert: despite the incendiary conclusion of Syriana, LNG is not flammable or explosive because it is too concentrated to ignite. Even so, common sense prevents anyone from putting this to the test. And without regasification facilities, it’s safe to say pirates attempting to commandeer LNG tankers are hell-bent on terror and ransom rather than cargo seizure.
The incident has not deterred the redoubtable LNG Aries, which is currently bound for Japan from the Qatari port of Ras Laffan, according to Marine Traffic.
Pirates also attempted to storm the Liberia-registered Neo Energy tanker at the southern entrance to the Red Sea just a week before the Aries fracas. “Six skiffs with three to eight persons in each approached the tanker underway at speeds between 14 to 20 knots,” reads the report.
The pirates were dogged, but not trigger-happy. Neo’s onboard security “showed their weapons” to the approaching skiffs, and repelled the pirates five times, according to the IMB. Wildcat was relieved to see that Neo’s now in calmer waters, last spotted in Quintero, Chile.
Oil and LPG tankers were also the targets of pirates in 2012, with 35 recorded incidents this year, according to the IMB, which keeps a ‘live map’ of incidents and reports brigand sightings on Twitter. Patch tag, you could call it. CN