Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Pirates Show Both Themselves to Merchant Ship and the Value of Armed Security Teams

Miscreants Again Shy Away When Faced with Armed Response
Shipping News Feature

GULF OF ADEN – Following our report of pirate activity in the Strait of Bab el-Mandeb in late March it seems that caution and observation are the watchwords for vessels transiting the narrows at this particular time of year with two more certain sightings of pirates in the past few days. Once again the miscreants were using their favoured modus operandi, coming alongside merchant vessels in fishing skiffs equipped with comparatively efficient motors, and once again the presence of heavily armed guards seemingly prevented more serious incidents.

In the morning of April 17 an unnamed freighter was accosted by five ‘Yemeni type’ skiffs travelling in excess of 20 knots at a reported position of 12.24.00 N - 043.42.00 E, in the Bab el-Mandeb. The master followed Best Management Practices (BMP) as recommended by the authorities and a flare was fired at the nearest skiff whilst the fire hoses were turned on. The skiff was clearly crewed by pirates as at least one boarding ladder was sighted but mustering the on board guards who showed their weapons led to the attack being aborted.

Around three hours later at reported position 12.13.4 N - 044.02.9 E, the same ship was again approached by a white fishing skiff which closed to within 150 metres whilst travelling at an estimated 22 knots. Five men aboard in battle dress showed their weapons which prompted the firing of two flares from the merchantmen. When this had no apparent effect another flare was fired and the security team once again showed their own weapons when the attackers retreated.

Vessels travelling in the region are referred to the advice of the Bahrain based Maritime Liaison Office (MARLO) for ships capable of transiting the Gulf of Aden route at different speeds. All ships are strongly urged to use the International Recommended Transit Corridor (IRTC) and follow the Gulf of Aden group transits if their speed is below 18 knots but greater than 10 knots. Vessels faster than 18 knots should plan to transit between 47ºE and 49 ºE during the hours of darkness whilst any ships which travel at less than 10 knots should contact UKMTO for routing guidance.

All vessels need to be aware of BMP4 recommendations and maintain contact with the relevant authorities such as MSCHOA and MARLO.