Unknown assailants have gained access to a merchant vessel underway in the Indian Ocean, in an incident that marks a new piracy attack in the region.

Spokespeople for German company Minmarine MPP Shipmanagement confirmed that the victim of the piracy attack is the 17,800-dwt multipurpose vessel Basilisk (built 2013).

“From the brief interaction we had with the master we understand that the crew has taken refuge in the ship’s citadel,” a spokesman said.

Maritime authorities nearby have been alerted.

European Union naval force EUNAVFOR said in a statement that one of its warships “has been the first actor to respond” and “is taking appropriate actions to respond effectively and promptly” to the alert.

The Basilisk has an international crew of 17 seafarers on board.

“Minmarine MPP Shipmanagement would like to stress the safety and well-being of the seafarers on board is a prime concern,” the company said in a subsequent statement.

The Royal Navy’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) had previously reported that it received information about an “unknown number of unauthorised persons” boarding a merchant vessel 420 nautical miles (780 km) southeast of Merca, Somalia.

The assailants had approached the vessel on two small craft.

Maritime security intelligence firm Diaplous corroborated the UKMTO report.

Ambrey Analytics said the ship was a Liberia-flag general cargo ship.

This fits the description of the Basilisk, which is listed under the ownership of Switzerland-based Massoel Meridian.

The vessel was observed sailing with a northeasterly heading at 15.6 knots.

No course alteration or speed increases could be observed prior to the vessel coming adrift.

The ship was en route from Porto Grande, Cape Verde, to Jebel Ali, United Arab Emirates, and had an estimated 4.5-metre freeboard at the time.

The vessel remained adrift with its AIS on.

Somali piracy has resurged in recent months, coinciding with attacks by the Houthi rebels in nearby Yemen.

Several piracy attacks have been recorded since December, with the European Union expressing concerns that the reported payment of a $5m ransom to free a bulker recently, the 58,100-dwt Abdullah (built 2015), could embolden pirates.

Several pirates have been apprehended in the region, mostly by the Indian Navy but lately also by EU forces patrolling the area.

Pirates have targeted merchant ships and small fishing boats in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean.

The fishing boats may be used later as mother ships for further attacks on larger vessels.

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