The Seychellois Attorney General announced on 18 December that six Somali nationals apprehended by the crew of EU NAVFOR flagship ITS Virginio Fasan have been charged with ‘committing an act of piracy’ and ‘attempting an act of piracy’ in the Indian Ocean.
They will now face legal prosecution before the court and if convicted, the suspected pirates could face up to 30 years’ imprisonment in a Seychelles detention facility. This case follows other successful piracy convictions such as the Tribal Kat case in 2016, when a French court sentenced six Somalis to between 6 – 15 years after they were found guilty of attacking the yacht and the murder of its French skipper, in an incident which took place back in September 2011.
The six Somalis formed the crew of a motor whaler, supposedly acting as mother ship. They were detained in a skiff following attacks on a 52,000 tonne container ship, MV Ever Dynamic and a fishing vessel Galerna III. These events reportedly took place over a 24 hour period on 17th and 18th November in the Southern Somali Basin, in an area known for piracy incidents. During the incidents, it was alleged that a number of rocket propelled grenades were fired against the container ship. However, the high freeboard, the ship’s adherence to Best Management Practice (BMP) 4, the presence of a security team on one of the vessels, and good seamanship avoided any damage or injuries, and all crew and vessels are now safe.
The suspected pirates were apprehended by the Italian Marines from ITS Virginio Fasan after their vessels were located using Fasan’s SH-90 helicopter, following initial searches by the Spanish Maritime Patrol Aircraft. This search for the suspected pirates was coordinated with military partners and from information provided by the masters of the vessels concerned. Positive visual verification was made which allowed this to take place.
Major General Charlie Stickland, Operation Commander of EU NAVFOR said “I am delighted that the evidence gathered by our flagship, ITS Fasan was sufficient for the Seychellois authorities to bring this case to trial. Once again, I would like to personally congratulate the efforts of the Seychelles authorities and the men and women working for on Operation Atalanta to help keep the seas safe 24 hours a day”.