Navigation off the Indian Coast - Mistaking Fishing Boats with Pirates Skiffs

March 2011

Navigation off the Indian Coast - Transgressing of Fishing Nets - Mistaking Fishing Boats with Pirates Skiffs

The threat to merchant shipping posed by Somali pirates persists and as weather conditions moderate the attack rate is likely to increase in the weeks to come. Through the use of mother ships, Somali pirates have the capability to operate over 1,000 nautical miles from the Somali coast, thus greatly increasing the scope of the threat. Consequently, it appears that many vessels operating in the High Risk Area as defined in BMP4, are adopting passage plans that involve transits close to the coast of India within the EEZ. This introduces other risks associated with fishing vessel operations off the Indian coast. There has already been one well publicised incident off Kerala in which armed guards on a vessel opened fire on fishermen after mistaking them for pirates. There has also been a recent collision between a merchant vessel and a fishing vessel. In response to these incidents, the Government of India has recently issued the attached Merchant Shipping Notice. It should be noted that this requires the Indian Navy to be informed if armed guards are carried on any vessel operating within the EEZ. Attention is also drawn to the advice contained in IMO Circular MSC.1/1334 on the information to be taken into account in assessing whether vessels  might constitute a Pirate Action Group.