A maritime security alert has been issued for the northern Gulf of Oman after US-flagged cargo ship Maersk Texas was attacked by a group of around 20 skiffs approximately 50NM east of Fujairah at around 0900 local time on 23 May.
Reports suggest an attack group of 10 skiffs approached the starboard side of the vessel at a speed of 25 knots and ignored fire hoses, manoeuvres and warning shots fired by the on board security team. The skiffs returned fire. A second group of 11 additional skiffs was sighted off the port, but retreated after warning shots were fired at them. The first group turned away after chasing the vessel for around 12 minutes. No injuries were reported.
Swarm attacks by large numbers of skiffs have yet to result in a successful hijacking, but will continue to be used as a tactic to overpower vessels in chokepoints such as the northern Gulf of Oman and the Bab el Mandeb straits; groups of suspicious vessels are able to disguise themselves amongst large volumes of local traffic in these areas.
Commercial vessels should proceed with extreme caution through the northern Gulf of Oman, Red Sea and Gulf of Aden over the coming weeks as sea states are forecast to be calm and favourable for attack groups. Further swarm attacks should be anticipated.