Reporting period: 19-25 Dec 2012
All 22 hostages from the MV Iceberg 1 have now been released from pirate captivity. They had been held since the Iceberg 1 was pirated on 29 March 2010, a period of two years and nine months. The former hostages are now recovering from their ordeal and are receiving food and medical care.
On 21 Dec 2012 at 0845Z, a vessel transiting in the Gulf of Oman (2322N; 05926E) was approached and chased by two skiffs for approximately 1.5 hours. Vessel was subsequently confirmed as safe. On 20 Dec 2012 at 1015Z, a vessel transiting in the Gulf of Oman was approached by a skiff reported in position 2449N; 05750E, with possibly armed personnel onboard. The skiff fell back and the vessel was reported safe.
The vessel reported hijacked from Bossaso anchorage on 18 Dec 2012 has returned to its previous position. This incident is no longer assessed as being piracy related. See Alert Update for NSC 028/12.
In addition to the incidents above, the NATO Shipping Centre has identified a new area of concern on the PAG map located within the Gulf of Oman.
Merchant vessels are advised to remain vigilant throughout the HRA and ensure that Self Protection Measures are in place as Pirate Attack Groups (PAGs) are likely operating in the area. Sea states have been favourable to piracy over recent weeks. They are expected to become more marginal in the coming weeks with the onset of the Northeast monsoon. However, small boats will still be able to operate.
Any areas of concern will be posted to our PAG map. The PAG map is available on the NATO Shipping Centre website:http://www.shipping.nato.int
During the past few months there have been continued reports concerning suspicious activity in the HRA. Fishing activity is expected to continue in this area. Fishermen may carry small arms. Masters are reminded to remain vigilant in order to distinguish between fishing vessels and potential pirates.
Counter Piracy Guidance
Masters are advised that the threat of piracy against merchant shipping is always present throughout the entire HRA and vessels are advised to ensure all necessary Self Protection Measures are implemented as recommended in BMP4. As per Section 5 of BMP4, early registration with MSCHOA before entering the HRA and regular reporting to UKMTO are highly recommended. Prudent and timely implementation of all recommended actions and ship hardening measures in BMP4 can make the critical difference of being approached, attacked, or pirated. NSC would like to remind masters that BMP4 highly recommends maintaining best possible vessel speed when transiting the HRA to deter pirate boardings.
Successful disruptions by naval forces over the past few months, in conjunction with masters’ adherence and implementation of BMP4, have significantly reduced the pirates’ ability to capture vessels. Somali pirates have shown the ability to act far off the coast of Somalia and in darkness. Somali pirates are in search of vessels of opportunity, such as those who are not employing BMP4 recommended Ship Protection Measures.
Despite deterioration in conditions associated with the approaching Northeast monsoon, sea states remain conducive to piracy operations. Merchant vessels are advised to remain vigilant throughout the HRA and ensure that Self Protection Measures are in place, as PAGs may continue to operate in the area.
Recently, PAGs have made “soft-approaches” on merchant ships transiting the HRA. A skiff will often approach a vessel in order to probe the reactivity of an embarked security team (if present). If no response, the pirates may proceed with an attack, sometimes accompanied by a second skiff. This practice is likely more economical as they would avoid needless expenditure of resources, such as ammunition, and personal risk without a significant probability of success.
There have been a number of incidents reported to Counter Piracy organisations in the HRA involving small craft approaches to merchant vessels. Although these incidents may appear to be piracy related, the majority actually are not and have been assessed as non-piracy related activity common to the pattern of life in the area. This can include fishing, small vessel trade, smuggling and other local traffic. Please note that, if we assess an approach or incident to be piracy, we will issue relevant warnings and alerts, keeping the merchant shipping community fully informed at all times.
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 with the minimum of delay.
Sailing yachts should avoid transiting the HRA. Past activity has shown that pirates will also 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 merchant vessels.