The cargo ship MV Rouen was captured by gunmen while sailing off the coast of Somalia, Spain’s defense ministry said today, raising fears that pirates are returning to the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea, where Houthi attacks already pose a threat to shipping.

A Spanish warship rushed to the area to verify reports of piracy on the Maltese-flagged MV Ruen. “It has been under pirate control since the morning of December 14th,” says the Spanish Ministry of Defense in a press release, emphasizing that it does not have information about the identity of the perpetrators.

It is believed to be the first seizure of a merchant ship by Somali pirates since 2017. Analysts say Somali pirates, who have spread terror for a decade, may try to take advantage of the chaos caused by attacks by Yemen’s Houthi rebels. in the midst of the war between Israel and Hamas.

“They consider the conditions to be favorable” for them, says Jerry Northwood, a veteran of the British Navy with years of experience in counter-piracy operations in the region. “Consider that naval patrols in the area are few and far between, and security measures on merchant vessels are almost non-existent,” points out Northwood, who is now a consultant for ship security services company MAST.

We are not currently treating the incident as a resurgence of piracy, says Corey Ranslem, CEO of Dryad Global. The piracy on the MV Ruen is characterized for the time being an “individual incident”, he underlines.