Horn of Africa
Masters are advised to remain vigilant at all times inside the High Risk Area (HRA) and follow the guidance and protective measures, as set down in BMP4.
Sailing yachts should avoid transiting the HRA. Past activity has shown that pirates will attack both large and small yachts passing their way. Despite the fact that attacks on merchant vessels appear to have decreased, the possibility of attacks and the successful pirating of sailing vessels remains likely due to their vulnerability and the reduction of revenue sources from pirated merchant vessels.
In accordance with BMP 4, following any piracy attack or suspicious activity it is vital that a detailed report of the event is provided to UKMTO and MSCHOA. The format of the report can be found at annex D to BMP 4. These reports constitute extremely valuable contributions to a better understanding of the pattern of life in the region and to the Maritime Situational Awareness, elements that are in the foundation of the advice that Counter-Piracy forces deliver to merchantmen.
When reporting, information should be complete, in particular reports to include any piracy related equipment / weapons (ladders / RPGs). Many of these incidents have been assessed as non-piracy related activity and are associated with common patterns of life in the area. These activities include fishing, small vessel trade, smuggling and other local vessel movements.
Fishing Activities - Possible Mix Up with Piracy
Fishing vessels may approach merchant ships to maximize fishing opportunities or to safeguard fishing nets which have been set. Furthermore fishermen in the region regularly carry small arms onboard their vessels, so the visual identification of a small arm is not a positive indicator of pirates. It is not uncommon for fishing vessels to follow merchant and large vessels in order to capitalize on the often increased numbers of fish in the resultant wake. Please note that, if the NATO Shipping Centre assesses an approach or incident to be piracy-related, we will issue relevant warnings. Please see further information on NSC webpage The Dhow and Skiff Recognition Guide
Weather in the High Risk Area
Monsoonal conditions have decreased in strength along the coast of Somalia. NE winds of 10 - 15 knots and sea states of up to 1 - 1,5 metre from the NE produce favourable conditions for all operations in all seas.As a result of that, single skiffs and whalers might find it easy to operate throughout the NE Monsoon and Spring Transitions periods.
Successful disruptions by Naval Forces, in conjunction with Masters’ adherence to and implementation of BMP4, have significantly reduced the pirates’ ability to capture vessels. However, pirates retain the capability of conducting acts of piracy against vessels of opportunity.
Pirate Attack Groups have made “soft approaches” on merchant ships transiting the HRA. Skiffs have been known to approach vessels in order to probe the reaction of the crew and any possible Privately Contracted Armed Security Personnel (PCASP) onboard. If the pirate approach does not elicit a response, the pirates may then proceed with an attack, using additional skiffs. However, the use of BMP4 and the reaction of PCASP have recently been effective in warning off any small boats which might otherwise have had close contact with the transiting vessel.
Continued Vigilance and the Use of BMP
It is imperative that merchant vessels remain vigilant at all times in transit and at anchorage and fully implement protection measures set down in BMP4 across the whole High Risk Area (HRA) as it can make the critical difference of being approached, attacked, or pirated. Masters are reminded that BMP4 highly recommends maintaining best possible vessel speed when transiting the HRA to deter pirate boarding.
Registration & Incident Reporting
As per Section 5 of BMP4, early registration with MSCHOA before entering the HRA and initial and regular reporting to UKMTO are highly recommended to ensure that military authorities are aware of a vessel’s passage and vulnerabilities.
It has been observed that some Masters are choosing to phone their Company Security Officer (CSO) first in the event of a piracy incident. However, one of the fundamental requirements of BMP4 is that UKMTO is the primary point of contact for merchant vessels during piracy incidents in the HRA. This aims to avoid unnecessary delay and prevent inaccurate or incomplete information from reaching military commanders. CSOs should ensure their ships’ security plans reinforce the BMP4 recommendation that UKMTO be immediately telephoned at +971 50 55 23215 in the event of any piracy activity. UKMTO will then make it a priority to contact the CSO with any information received whilst ensuring the relevant information reaches the military commanders without delay. Masters should provide as much accurate information as possible. This will ensure the incident can be fully assessed and information is quickly provided to other ships in the area for their awareness and vigilance.
Masters should provide as much information as possible about the incident. If Masters are able to take pictures and/or video of the suspicious activity safely, please provide these via email to UKMTO at firstname.lastname@example.org, NATO Shipping Centre (NSC) at email@example.com or MSCHOA at firstname.lastname@example.org. This information will be used by Counter Piracy forces. Pictures supplied from an attack on a merchant vessel have previously led to the rapid release of a pirated dhow.
Safety of Navigation
Masters are encouraged to monitor navigational, coastal and local warnings and Notices to Mariners.