Private security guards aboard a Spanish fishing trawler fought a gunbattle with Somali pirates on the Indian Ocean Thursday, as confrontations between mariners and brigands off the coast of Africa become more violent.
The pirates hit the Albacan with a rocket-propelled grenade, causing a fire that was quickly extinguished, officials said. None of the 33 crew members or three guards was hurt. Three private guards aboard the Albacan fired back at the pirates, a ship’s owners association said. The pirates fled.
The high-seas firefight underscores what maritime officials say is a deepening trend on the seas off East Africa : increasingly violent attacks from pirates desperate for the millions of dollars in ransom that are routinely paid for hijacked ships. Maritime officials say pirates are ratcheting up the violence of their attacks as ships and crews become better at fending them off. Only seven ships were fired on worldwide in 2004, but 114 ships were fired on last year off the Somali coast alone, according to the International Maritime Bureau.
The Albacan was fishing between Kenya and the island nation of Seychelles when two skiffs approached carrying pirates brandishing weapons, the EU Naval Force said.
"The crew took refuge inside the ship while the security team confronted the pirates," the ship owners association Cepesca said in a statement from Spain. "There was an exchange of gunfire and the pirates also fired a rocket-propelled grenade at the vessel before fleeing."