Tommi Orchards by PVIIlogo

Using a Citadel

Vessel Protection


The use of a robust Citadel is an effective method of vessel/crew protection. pirate

However, it must be seen as part of a balanced series of measures and not as an item on its own.


Good intelligence, proper crew training and drills, barbed wire properly deployed, effective watch keeping and basic bridge protection are the vital pre-requisites for vessel protection.

Citadels should never be seen as the primary means of crew protection, avoidance of boarding by pirates must ALWAYS be the first objective. While there have been a number of reported successes where pirates abandoned vessels where the crews were in Citadels, there was one incident (not reported) where a crewman was killed by gunfire while in a Citadel and there have been cases where pirates have attempted to set fire to the ship to drive the crew out. We believe that anti-Citadel measures by pirates must be anticipated.

Some basic requirements

  1. 100% of the crew MUST go to the Citadel for it to be effective.  This is where procedures and practised drills are vital. Apart from the very few designated to stay on the bridge until the attackers are actually on board ALL CREW must go to the citadel when the alarm is first sounded. The bridge team must not wait once the vessel is boarded and must have a secure escape route.


  1. The Citadel should be bullet proof and be able to withstand attack for a minimum period. There are now good products on the market which can render the Citadel effectively bulletproof and blast protected. As far as self help is concerned double plating welded around and on the Citadel doors is a start.
  1. There must be guaranteed communications(NOT VHF) with the outside world. These must not be affected by power failures or destroyed equipment on the bridge. They should be supplemented by other navigation aids. This all enables the vessel to be controlled from the citadel.


  1. Propulsion denied to the attackers. By duplicating propulsion and steering systems controls and main electricity, emergency generator controls and other systems in the Citadel and isolating the bridge control systems the vessel cannot be controlled should the attackers reach the bridge.
  1. Water/provisions for 96 hours. This seems a long time however with attacks taking place ever further away from Somalia this is a wise precaution. If possible enable emergency power supplies for the Citadel only, provide first aid supplies, a portable toilet, and [optionally] AC.


  1. Infra Red CCTV [optional] highly desirable so that the crew can see where the pirates are and if they have left the vessel.
  1. Finally, ensure that CO2 and Holon fire suppressive systems are disabled in the Citadel and that the Citadel is gas proof. Always have an air vent to the outside.



The location of a Citadel, its general use, equipment and orders on when and how it should be used must be a result of clear company policies, set out in the ship’s security plan, with the full commitment of Masters. In our experience this varies from fleet to fleet, from vessel type to vessel type.

Citadels should be prepared BEFORE the vessel transits, if they are to be wholly effective and are part of a vessel’s security precautions.

Idarat Maritime Ltd.  provides advice to shipowners and will facilitate workshops and undertake vessel audits in order to assist the shipowner to develop effective anti-piracy counter-measures, drills and procedures.


For more information please contact:

Christopher Ledger


box ship

19 Nov. 2010

In the afternoon, the MV VEGA LIBRA was attacked approximately 750 nautical miles East from Socotra Island. The bulk carrier stated it received hits from three RPGs and AK47 fire. Despite the suspected pirates’ perseverance, the MV VEGA LIBRA continued evasive action, zigzagging, during the pirate attack. After more than one hour, the Pirate Action Group eventually abandoned their attack.


Ship owners require resilience, not merely security




  • intelligence,
  • audit and preparation of the vessel,
  • training of the crew,
  • assistance to the Master and ship's officers,
  • reconnaissance,
  • enhanced watch-keeping,
  • avoidance,
  • warning,
  • deterrence and (only when all else has been tried)
  • the physical prevention of boarding by using non-lethal equipment operated by trained maritime security operatives.