News 16 Oct, 2008

Piracy in the Gulf of Aden

As a result of the increasing number of piracy attacks and hijackings in the Gulf of Aden, the US Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) has analysed over twenty recent incidents involving gunfire or seizure. Many of the attacks were found to have occurred in clusters east of longitude 046° 38´E and west of longitude 050° 32´E. All but one of the incidents took place during daylight hours, the only exception being an attack carried out at 0430 in bright moonlight. The average service speed of the vessels that were boarded was 14 knots. However, the attackers were unsuccessful on eleven occasions where the ships in question were travelling at an average speed of 15 knots.

Vessels should therefore endeavour to transit as much possible of the eastern part of the Gulf of Aden at night, particularly ships with low freeboards and those that are unable to steam faster than 15 knots.

Vessels passing through the Gulf of Aden should also be aware of the recently established Maritime Security Patrol Area (MSPA). The MSPA is patrolled by coalition naval and air forces and is bordered by the following coordinates:

012° 15´N, 045° 00´E
012° 35´N, 045° 00´E
013° 35´N, 049° 00´E
013° 40´N, 049° 00´E
014° 10´N, 050° 00´E
014° 15´N, 050° 00´E
014° 35´N, 053° 00´E
014° 45´N, 053° 00´E

Vessels may also take advantage of the voluntary reporting scheme administered by the UK Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) in Dubai, Tel: +971 50 552 3215, Fax: +971 4 306 5710, Telex: (51) 210473, Email: Reports are requested:

• At Suez for vessels entering or leaving the region via the Red Sea
• 5°S for ships entering or leaving the region via the Indian Ocean (South)
• 78°E for ships entering or leaving the region via the Indian Ocean (East)

The initial report should include:

• Ship name
• International Radio Call Sign
• Flag
• IMO number
• Inmarsat telephone number including satellite prefix
• Telex and fax number
• Email address
• Name of company having day to day management
• Type of ship
• Date/time of current position, course and speed
• Itinerary in the region with route way points and destination port(s)
• British personnel on board (if any)

Thereafter, ships are requested to report their noon positions and speed, actual departure times and estimated arrival times at ports and destinations when outward bound from the defined areas. All timings are requested in UTC and the preferred method of communication is email.

In the event of an attack, or if an attack is threatened or observed, immediate assistance should be sought by broadcasting a distress message on VHF Channel 16. The prospect of a military response may be increased by contacting the UKMTO, the US Navy Maritime Liaison Office (MARLO) Bahrain, Tel: +973 1785 3927, Email: and the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA), Tel: +253 358 978. Suspicious behaviour by other craft should also be reported. All contact details should be readily available on the bridge in case of need.

Attacks may also be reported to the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre, Kuala Lumpur which issues daily status reports on piracy and armed robbery via broadcasts on the Inmarsat-C SafetyNET service. Telephone Helpline (24 hours): +60 3 2031 0014, Tel: +60 3 2078 5763, Fax: +60 3 2078 5769, Telex: MA34199 IMBPCI, Email: and

The IMB Piracy Reporting Centre maintains a live map of piracy attacks. In addition a useful IMB Piracy Alert provides details and photographs of vessels suspected of being used as mother ships.

The Ship Security Plan will generally include practical measures aimed at minimising the risk of an attack. IMO Circular MSC/Circ.623 Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships also provides useful guidance on this issue.

Recent developments include the adoption of Resolution 1838 (2008) by the UN Security Council which calls upon States to deploy naval vessels and military aircraft to fight and repress acts of piracy off the coast of Somalia. Seven NATO frigates are reported to be on passage to the region and are expected to arrive within the next few days. In addition, the European Union’s military co-ordination cell EU NAVCO has announced the arrival of two French warships in the Gulf of Aden which are operating a limited escort service within the MSPA between 12° 30´N, 045° 00´E and 14° 40´N, 053° 00´E. Arrangements are being co-ordinated by the commander of the French fleet in the Indian Ocean (ALINDIEN), Tel: +33 4 9402 8949, Email: However, Members should exercise caution if asked to sign an agreement allowing an escort vessel to place armed personnel on board for the duration of the transit, particularly if the terms include indemnities which may prejudice P&I cover. In case of doubt the Managers should be contacted for advice.