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The Situation

In the last few years the attacks on vessels off the coasts of Somali have escalated until in November 2008 the Saudi Arabian supertanker MV Sirius Star was seized off the Kenyan coast. By November 2008 Somali pirates had attacked 97 ships and hijacked 40.

The IMO reports that recent incidents indicate that attacks have spread to the northern Somali coast. The Somali pirates are now attacking vessels in the northern Somali coast in the Gulf of Aden. Somali pirates are dangerous and are prepared to fire automatic weapons at ships in order to stop them. Occasionally they fire RPG (Rocket Propelled Grenade) launchers at ships. Pirates are believed to be using “mother vessels” to launch attacks far from the coast. These “mother vessels” proceed far out to sea and launch smaller boats to attack and hijack passing ships. Eastern and Northeastern coasts are high risk areas for attacks and hijackings. The IMB maintains its advice that vessels not making scheduled calls to ports in Somalia should keep as far away as possible from the Somali coast, ideally more than 250 nautical miles until a more permanent and encouraging sign is seen. Mariners are advised to report any suspicious boats to the IMO Centre.

Gulf of Aden / Red Sea : Somali pirates are now attacking vessels in the northern Somali coast in the Gulf of Aden. These pirates are firing automatic weapons and Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPG) in an attempt to board and hijack vessels. Once the attack is successful and the vessel hijacked, the pirates sail towards the Somali coast and thereafter demand a ransom for the release of the vessel and crew. All vessels transiting the area are advised to take additional precautionary measures and maintain strict 24 hours radar and anti piracy watch using all available means. Watch keeping crews should look out for small suspicious boats converging on vessel. Early sighting and accurate assessment will allow Master to increase speed and manoeuvre to escape pirates and at the same time request various Authorities/Agencies for assistance. (source IMO)

There is particular concern at the scale of the Somali threat, which now threatens the ship-route via the Red Sea and Suez, and appears to be a problem for any vessel in transit between Europe and the Middle East.  There is no immediate solution to the problem, although patrolling warships have scored some successes in dealing with pirate vessels. Although the reported sinking of a “mothership” in November 2008 by INS Tabar proven incorrect, the vessel had actually been boarded by pirates, this demonstrates the difficulty of the purely naval approach to the problem.


in the news: Somalia

Pirates commandeered a United States-flagged container ship with 20 American crew members off the coast of Somalia 9th April 2009, in what appeared to be the first time an American-crewed ship was seized by pirates off Somalia.

The container ship, the Maersk Alabama, was carrying thousands of tons of relief aid to the Kenyan port of Mombasa.

The ship was taken by pirates at about 7:30 a.m. local time, 280 miles southeast of the Somali city of Eyl. The ship is owned and operated by Maersk Line Limited, a United States subsidiary of A.P. Moller-Maersk Group, the Danish shipping firm.

The Maersk Alabama was at least the sixth commercial ship commandeered by pirates in the last week off the Horn of Africa

The New York Times
9 April. 2009

Ship owners require resilience, not merely security


Our Aims

1. To provide effective Systemic Resilience at sea by taking a holistic, helicopter view to solve an increasingly challenging international problem.

2. To design, provide and service a fully integrated, but flexible, package of equipment, intelligence data and personnel which will enable merchant vessels to safely transit high threat areas, or to safely visit high threat ports.