Horn of Africa and Somali Basin – Continuing Piracy Operations (NSC Update)

July 2013

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From NSC Weekly Piracy Update for 20 - 26 Jun 2013:

Significant Events within the Reporting Period

During the past week the NATO Shipping Centre has received reports on two incidents involving fishing vessels in the High Risk Area. The first is a report of a pirated fishing vessel, while the second incident appears to be a SOLAS related accident. The first report confirms that pirates continue to display both a capability and intent to conduct operations within the Horn of Africa and Somali Basin. Therefore vessels transiting the area must remain vigilant and use prudent actions to counter pirate activity and report incidents in a timely manner.

In the first instance the Iranian fishing vessel, AL HUSSAINI was reportedly hijacked IVO Socotra Island sometime in late May (no further information available). The vessel was consequently used to conduct approaches on merchant vessels for over 3 weeks. Once the vessel was basically depleted of all food and fuel the pirates left the vessel (10 – 11 Jun 13). The crew were able to contact the ship’s owner and who then contacted MRCC Mumbai. The vessel and crew are safe and were last reported being towed back to Kochi by an Indian Coast Guard vessel.

This event is a clear example of why it is important to follow the operating procedures in accordance with BMP 4. Early engagement with UKMTO is critical in order to ensure the various Counter Piracy organizations can mobilize assets and identify pirates at sea. Based on the current available timings and locations we cannot accurately recreate the movements of the vessel and understand where it was operating however the NATO Shipping Centre is working with a variety of agencies in an effort to build a more comprehensive understanding of the incident. Without knowing where the vessel was operating we are unable to identify any approaches on merchant vessels which could be attributed to the pirates who hijacked the AL HUSSAINI, nor can we provide any warnings with any kind of area accuracy. Without timely reporting follow on warnings and movement of counter piracy assets is not possible.

The second incident appears to be a SOLAS incident involving the Taipei flagged fishing vessel CHUN YING. The vessel was reported missing and when an associated fishing vessel discovered the CHUN YING burned out and abandoned Counter-Piracy assets were made aware of the location. Within 24 hours a long range Maritime Patrol Aircraft located a life raft with an unknown number of personnel. There were a total of 31 persons onboard the CHUN YING (28 crew and a 3 person security detail). At time of release there is no further information nor is there any evidence that this is more than a fire at sea resulting in the crew having to abandon ship. The event was reported to the appropriate Rescue Coordination Centre and help is enroute.

The South west monsoon conditions will continue to dominate the region until sometime in the fall when the weather system will breakdown and transition to the North east monsoon season. Until then the overall forecast for small boat / skiff operations is unfavourable along the East Coast of Somalia extending from the tip of the Horn of Africa down through the Somali Basin.

For further information on basic regional and seasonal fishing information please go to the following page: http://www.shipping.nato.int/operations/OS/Pages/Fishing_in_the_HRA.aspx

 

Standing Guidance

Regional Considerations:

Masters are advised to remain vigilant at all times in transit or at anchorage and fully implement protection measures, as set down in BMP4, across the entire High Risk Area (HRA).

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.

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.

Fishing vessels may approach a merchant ship to maximize fishing opportunities or to safeguard fishing nets and fishermen may carry small arms. It is not uncommon for fishing vessels to follow merchant and large vessels in order to capitalise 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.

Weather:

Southwest monsoon conditions are starting to influence the operating areas, with the exception of the GOA. Winds and seas continue to increase in all areas as the Southwest Monsoon continues to establish over the next week.

Piracy Threat:

The threat of piracy against merchant shipping continues throughout the entire HRA. 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. However, pirates are able to act far off the coast of Somalia and are likely in search of vessels of opportunity.

Pirate Tactics:

Pirate Attack Groups (PAGs) have made “soft-approaches” on merchant ships transiting the HRA. A skiff will often approach a vessel to probe the reactivity of its embarked security team, if present. If they elicit no response, the pirates may then proceed with an attack, sometimes accompanied by a second skiff. This practice seems designed to allow pirates to avoid needless expenditures of ammunition and personal risk without a significant probability of success.

Continued Vigilance and the use of BMP:

It is imperative that merchant vessels remain vigilant at all times in transit and/or 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. NSC would like to remind masters that BMP4 highly recommends maintaining best possible vessel speed when transiting the HRA to deter pirate boardings.

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 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 ukmto@eim.ae, NATO Shipping Centre (NSC) at info@shipping.nato.int or MSCHOA at postmaster@mschoa.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.

 

 

Duty Watchkeeper
NATO Shipping Centre
Tel: +44-1923-956574
Fax: +44-1923-956575
E-mail: info@shipping.nato.int
NSC website: http://www.shipping.nato.int/