Attempted nighttime hijackings by Somali pirates of two ships have been foiled in the Gulf of Aden, a maritime official said Tuesday.
The attacks earlier this week on two ships, flagged in Singapore and Panama, took advantage of a full moon and light winds.
They followed the hijacking Friday of a Spanish tuna trawler off the east coast of Somalia. It is one of the world's
busiest shipping lanes where some 169 ships have been attacked this year. Late Monday, two pirate boats shot rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns at the Panama-flag bulk carrier, and the crew fired back with distress rocket flares, said Noel Choong, who heads the International Maritime Bureau's piracy reporting center in Kuala Lumpur.
After the crew called the international naval coalition for help, a warship and helicopter chased the pirates away, he said, but had no more details.
None of the 24 crew were injured but part of the carrier was damaged, Choong said. The vessel, managed in Greece, was heading from the Middle East to the Mediterranean.
The Singapore-flag vessel, carrying cars and managed in Norway, was attacked Sunday night en route to Africa from the Middle East. Two pirate boats fired automatic weapons and chased the ship but the captain increased speed and dodged the pirates, he said. At one point, Choong said the ship sought help on an open radio channel but the pirates intercepted the call, and using broken English pretended to be a warship, possibly hoping to bluff the ship from seeking further help.
The 19 crew members are safe, he said. Piracy has flourished off the coast of Somalia, which has not had an effective government since 1991, allowing brigands to operate freely along Somalia's 1,900-mile (3,060-kilometer) coastline. Of the 169 ships attacked off Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden this year, 33 have been hijacked. Four remain in pirate hands along with more than 60 crew members, Choong said.