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Hijacked cargo ship ABDULLAH released on the east coast of Somalia

MariTrace, 14 April 2024

Reports in the Bangladesh press, BBC Somalia and by Agence France Press suggest that the hijacked cargo ship and 23 crew have been released early on Sunday morning, 14 April - 33 days after hijack. At the time of capture, the 23 crew onboard were thought to have adequate food and water supplies onboard for 25 days.

The 190m, 58,000 DWT cargo ship was reported under attack by a pirate action group (PAG) at 09:53 UTC on 12 March 2024, 550NM east of Mogadishu. ABDULLAH had been sailing from Maputo to the United Arab Emirates, carrying a cargo of 55,000 tonnes of coal. At the time of the attack the ship's Master, Mohd. Abdur Rashid, reported that 20 armed pirates were on board and that the ship was stopped in position 01 27 N 054 53 E. ATALANTA assets made contact with the ship's Master, who confirmed that there were 20 pirates onboard and that the ship's crew were not in the citadel. Thereafter ABDULLAH proceeded on course 311 at 8 knots towards the eastern coast of Somalia and at 15 March, was reported anchored at position 07 22 N 049 42 E, 35 NM south of Eyl.

ABDULLAH is owned by Kabir Steel and Rerolling Mill Group (KSRM), based in Chattogram, Bangladesh.

On 12 March EUNAVFOR released a general view of warships and other assets deployed in the vicinity of the hijacked cargo ship, but KSRM were said to be against any naval operation to rescue the ship and crew. 

An update by EUNAVFOR on 14 March reported there were 12 alleged pirates onboard the hijacked ship; more recent media reports suggest there may have been as many as 65. A company spokesperson had said that the pirates made first contact with KSRM on 20 March. Photos shared via social media by family members of the crew suggested that the crew had been permitted to observe Eid on 10 April. The pirates are thought to have departed the ship in nine small boats at about 03:00 Dhaka local time on 14 April (midnight in Somalia). Speaking to the Bangladesh media at 03:45 Dhaka time, KSRM confirmed the release of the ship. The update was reported in the Chinese press and Bangladesh media; and by AFP, later re-reported in other outlets. The AIS track of the hijacked ship is consistent with the release timings reported to the media.

AIS track of the hijacked cargo ship ABDULLAH, 13 April to 14 April 2024. Source: MariTrace.

A photograph posted on social media on Sunday by a family member of the hijacked ship suggests that navy personnel may have boarded ABDULLAH in daylight hours, soon after release. If correct, these marines are likely to have been deployed from EUNAVFOR. The photo shows 16 people in combat uniforms standing behind the crew of the vessel, who are holding a Bangladesh flag. One crew member is holding a mobile phone. At the far left of the image, two marines appear to be holding a Spanish flag. To the right, four crew appear to be holding a flag that resembles the Italian naval ensign. Two frigates can be seen in the water close to the ship. The AIS track of the cargo ship suggests that a meeting with EUNAVFOR vessels would have occurred around noon UTC.

Earlier media reports had suggested P&I Club had engaged Crisis 24 to conduct negotiations: this was refuted by KSRM, saying that negotiations for the release of ship and crew had been led by the CEO of KSRM. The company said that it used its experience of an earlier hijacking, MV JAHAN MONI, hijacked in the Arabian Sea on 10 December 2010 with 25 crew onboard, to navigate the negotiations for the release of ABDULLAH. JAHAN MONI had been carrying 43,150 tonnes of nickel ore and was held for 100 days for a reported ransom of $4m.

KSRM declined to reveal the total ransom paid for ABDULLAH, which is reported to have been air-dropped in cash in US dollars in the vicinity of the hijacked ship, at an unknown time in the hours leading up to the ship’s release on 14 April. Later reports on 14 April suggest the sum may have been $5 million. Unconfirmed media reports from Bangladesh and Somalia suggest that the Puntland police may have arrested eight persons from the PAG as they reached the shore.

ABDULLAH is expected to reach a port in the UAE by 20 April, from where it may take up to 25 days to repatriate the crew, all Bangladesh nationals.

Incidents of hijacking and boarding, October 2023 - April 2024. Source: MariTrace.

The case of ABDULLAH is the 14th incident of piracy in the area since October 2023. In the context of increased threats to merchant shipping in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden since November 2023, some are concerned that piracy is returning to the Horn of Africa. However, a return to the scale of piracy in 2008-2012 is currently assessed as unlikely.


AUTHOR'S UPDATE 24 APRIL 2024 - ABDULLAH arrived at the port of Hamriyah, UAE, in the early hours of Tuesday morning, 23 April. The 190m cargo vessel is currently berthed, offloading cargo (assumed to be coal). According to media reports 24 April, all 23 crew will return to Bangladesh aboard ABDULLAH when the vessel departs the UAE.


No AI was used in the writing of this article. MariTrace analysis and reporting is based on open sources; all information is human-curated and assessed via multi-phase, structured methods using industry-standard techniques to check for provenance, bias and accuracy.

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