Unconfirmed reports of attacks on Iranian vessels

On Sunday, 10 November, Iranian media reports indicated that Iranian naval forces thwarted an attack on an Iranian tanker, MT Tour 2, as she was underway close to the Bab el Mandeb Strait on Saturday, 9 November. Details on the incident remain limited at this juncture, but according to reports, the suspected pirates approached the tanker, but were compelled to abort their attack through the presence of the Iranian Navy. Iranian media sources further reported that an Iranian tanker was approached by suspected pirates in the Gulf of Aden on Saturday, 9 November, and an Iranian bulk carrier was approached in the same region on Sunday, 10 November. The suspected pirates were compelled to abort their attempted attacks.

In a separate incident, a Bahamas-flagged tanker was approached by seven suspected pirates on board two skiffs as she was underway at an unknown location off Oman on Friday, 8 November. According to reports, the skiffs approached the tanker at high speed and closed to within 100 metres. Members of an embarked armed security team displayed their weapons, and the suspected pirates moved away.

It should be noted that the aforementioned incidents were not reported by the official reporting bodies or the NATO Shipping Centre, and further information and verification is awaited. Furthermore, there is a significant amount of small boats, including fishing vessels, which operate both legitimately and illegitimately throughout the region. Due to the fact that fishermen may be armed, and may approach merchant shipping in an attempt to protect their fishing equipment, such activity may be misinterpreted as pirate activity.

Nevertheless, the incidents are a reminder of the threat of piracy and hijacking that exists in the region. A recent press release from the international naval counter piracy forces urged caution against complacency. The press release stated that despite the reduction of Somali pirate activity, the root causes of Somali piracy, which include extreme poverty and lack of employment opportunities in the coastal settlements, have not been eradicated. Masters transiting the region should ensure comprehensive counter piracy measures are in place at all times. 

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