Danish Ship Suffer Pirate Attack for the Second Time in two Years

The attack has given the shipping company and indeed the industry much to think about. Pirates are cunning, they are intelligent and resourceful it appears that they have yet again spotted a window of opportunity, and they will look to exploit such weaknesses. It is clear that the security have to be onboard for it to be effective. It may sound trite, but it is true. By passing through parts of the High Risk Area without guards then vessels remain vulnerable. As has been demonstrated off Oman, onboard the Torm Kristina.

The Danish MV Torm Kristina was sailing to Muscat (Oman) when she was approached by 2 suspected pirate skiffs. The crew quickly assembled in the citadel and sent a mayday message out. The mayday message was passed to the Commander of the NATO counter piracy task force, Rear Admiral Antonio Natale. He tasked one of the NATO warships HDMS Iver Huitfeldt, which was in Muscat for a port visit and therefore only 90 miles away, to proceed to the MV Torm Kristina and assist her.

By the time the NATO warship arrived on the scene three hours later, the pirates had left the Torm Kristina. It is believed that they saw the warship coming towards them and realised they had no realistic possibility of taking control of the Torm Kristina.

A boarding party from the Iver Huitfeldt boarded the Torm Kristina, searched the ship to ensure that no pirates were still on board and once this was established they freed the crew from the citadel.

Vice Admiral Christian Canova, Deputy Commander at Allied Maritime Command said, “Despite the winter monsoon which generates bad sea states, this incident demonstrates the pirates are still active and able to operate far away from Somalia, but we are watching them and when Best Management Practices such as citadels are in effect on merchant vessels, we are able to react quickly and deter pirate actions. Once again, NATO warships have proved their ability to react quickly and to use their speed and capabilities to deter and disrupt piracy and to free innocent merchant sailors. This incident shows that we cannot be complacent.”
MV Torm Kristina is now free to sail.

Second time for Torm Kristina
In January 2011 the Torm Kristina came under fire for several hours from unknown pirates. The tanker was loaded with gasoline bound for Europe and was attacked off the coast of Oman in an area that has been considered safe until the attack on the Danish coaster Leopard. The pirates fired at the Torm Kristina for several hours, but did not manage to enter the ship, which increased speed and made evasive manoeuvres to avoid boarding. One of the self-propellered grenades penetrated the wheelhouse and wounded one of the 23 crew members. After a couple of hours the pirates left the scene and the Torm Kristina continued to Mumbai in India to meet with Torm’s land based team to get treatment and help.
Only a week before the attack on the Torm Kristina the company sister Torm Clara suffered a similar attack in the same area.

Thinking about
If you were a pirate and were increasingly frustrated by efforts to board ships because of BMPs and guards, what would you do? Well you might look to find out which ships were heading into port to pick guards up, and then you may hit them before they crew the vessel. It seems that this could be exactly what happened to the vessel, MV Torm Kristina which was attacked by suspected pirates on 15 December.
According to press reports the Danish vessel was sailing to Muscat, Oman in order to perform what has been termed a, a quick logistical port visit. It was prior to arriving in port that she was approached by 2 suspected pirate skiffs.
By the time the NATO warship arrived on the scene three hours later, the pirates had left the vessel. It is not entirely clear as to why they left, perhaps they were frustrated by the citadel arrangements, though some have stated they saw the warship coming towards them and realised they had no realistic possibility of taking control, though this appears to be conjecture and perhaps a little wishful thinking.
At the time of the attack the Torm vessel was headed from the Persian Gulf to Tuban, Java. There were no guards on board at the time, but the shipowners association has stated that the guards were on their way to the ship and it seems likely to have been the reason for the logistical port visit. Christian Sogaard, vice president of Torm, has confirmed the vessel was due to embark guards, though he was keen not to reveal where they would be picked up. Torm never passes through the Gulf of Aden without guards on board, he added. Thankfully the attack was foiled, but it appears we came very close to seeing the first major hijacking for some time.

Background Information:
NATO has contributed to the international counter piracy effort off the Horn of Africa since December 2008. The mission has expanded from escorting UN and World Food Programme Shipping under Operation Allied Provider and protecting merchant traffic in the Gulf of Aden under Operation Allied Protector. In addition to these activities and as part of the latest mission, Operation Ocean Shield, NATO is working with other international bodies to help develop capacity of countries in the region to tackle piracy on their own.
NATO Allies agreed on 19 March 2012 to extend Operation Ocean Shield for a further two years until the end of 2014.

NATO Forces currently in Operation Ocean Shield:

  • ITS SAN MARCO – Flag Ship (ITALY)

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