Venezuela – Piracy/Armed Robbery at Puerto la Cruz

July 2011

A worrying trend of acts of piracy/onboard robbery has started to materialise in the Puerto la Cruz area of Venezuela. There have been incidents where bandits, operating from small fishing-type craft (with many people on board)  in the hours of darkness, have climbed aboard vessels anchored in areas away from harbour and naval bases.  Crews have been gagged, threatened with high calibre weapons and beaten.

Vessels waiting to berth at Jose and other oil terminals in that area are often ordered to anchor in the vicinity of Barcelona city. Venepandi advise that the Master should if possible instead proceed to anchor in Bahia de Pozuelos, in the area of Puerto la Cruz city.

Precautions should be taken to help avoid/minimise the risk of such as incidents occurring. Venepandi suggest:

1. Always anchor in Bahia de Pozuelos, near the site of Guaraguao, in the vicinity of Puerto la Cruz.

2. There should be 24 hours surveillance in place on the main deck or the bridge while in the area.

3. Use lighting to help identify any suspect boats and make them aware they have been discovered.

4. In the event of an attempted boarding, or where there is suspicion of an attempt to do so, immediately alert the harbormaster and shipping agency. In the absence of a response, call the P&I representative.

5. If the pirate boat or boats do not back down, use the whistle.

6. If the pirates or bandits manage to board, do not offer any resistance. As well as being armed, they may be under the effect of drugs and are usually aggressive. It is believed that the bandits are prepared to kill if necessary.

7. As far as possible, report the incident to the local P&I correspondent to help secure assistance, including the national guard, army etc.

Venepandi have been liaising with the local authorities and National Guard, and say that the port captaincy is advising masters to give the following signal so that other vessels are alerted:  five long blasts at intervals of one second for every blast, then wait roughly 10 seconds to start again.

Based on a report circulated by Venepandi, Caracas, and published with their kind permission