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Navibulgar confirms security incident aboard MV Ruen near Socotra, awaits contact from kidnappers

Friday December 15, 2023


Mogadishu (HOL) - The European Union's Operation ATALANTA has intensified its response to the ongoing situation involving the MV Ruen, a Maltese-flagged vessel managed by Bulgaria's Navigation Maritime Bulgare (Navibulgar), now believed to be hijacked near Somali waters.

Navibulgar confirmed a "security incident" with the MV Ruen approximately 380 nautical miles east of Socotra, Yemen. The company has lost contact with the ship, which was in a non-piracy area. The crew, comprising eight Bulgarians and sailors from Angola and Myanmar, are safe but not in control of the vessel. Speaking on Bulgarian TV, Alexander Kalchev, director of the company, said, "We expect the kidnappers to contact us."

A member of a group previously involved in ship raids in Puntland told Reuters that pirates had seized a vessel without confirming its identity. "Six of my pirate friends managed to capture a ship, and they will bring it to the coast of the eastern region of Puntland," Mukhtar Mohamud said by phone from the coastal city of Qandala. The United States has linked the recent boarding of the tanker Central Park to Somali pirates, capturing five individuals during a US Navy intervention.

Bulgaria's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has formed a specialized team, in coordination with Malta, the ship's flag state, to address the crisis. Speaking from Brussels, Prime Minister Nikolai Denkov urged calm and continuous monitoring during the upcoming negotiation period.

The UKMTO has issued an alert for potential piracy activities off the Somali coast, effective until December 17. 

Dutch and German shipping companies, including Maersk and Hapag-Lloyd, are reevaluating their operations in the Red Sea due to increased risks. Maersk has suspended transits through the Southern Strait, a crucial European route, while Hapag-Lloyd has temporarily ceased its Red Sea operations.

Annet Koster, Director of the Royal Association of Dutch Shipowners, notes the significant impact of these decisions on global shipping. Delays in product delivery could extend up to ten days, necessitating the search for alternative routes by various shipping companies. 

The hijacking reflects the persistent challenges in maritime security, reminiscent of the Somali piracy surge a decade ago.


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