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Piracy - The Menace At Sea

Recent attacks in the Red Sea have rekindled the danger of vessels being boarded or attacked in the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, and by extension the wider Gulf of Aden, and into the Arabian Sea. 

In 2021, due to the reduction of the threat from Somali pirates, it was decided to reduce the existing naval deterrent in the vicinity of the Gulf of Aden. Towards the end of 2023, we saw Houthi armed forces target vessels passing through the area in response to the Israel/Hamas conflict in Gaza. The threat to merchant shipping and seafarers posed by the activities of aggressors unfortunately shows no signs of reducing. This has prompted a response from the Naval Forces of concerned governments, with a number of their vessels being moved into the region to protect merchant shipping lanes.

Whilst the current threat to maritime security in the Red Sea is notably different to piracy, there is concern that vessels choosing to avoid the Red Sea and re-routing via the Cape of Good Hope, could find themselves exposed to opportunistic piracy attacks in the Gulf of Aden and in waters off the coast of Somalia. 

In 2012, when Somali Pirates were regularly active in the Gulf of Aden, Steamship’s loss prevention department produced the film “Piracy – The Menace at Sea”. 

That video highlighted the Best Management Practice Guidelines that were compiled and published by the industry at that time to assist Owners, Operators and Crews to implement effective action to deter piracy and render vessels less vulnerable to attack.

It is self-evident that if aggressors are prevented from boarding a vessel, it cannot be hijacked, and consequently effective compliance with the BMP guidance is considered essential to reduce the risk of a vessel being taken.

The Managers’ perception of the loss prevention potential of this production was shared by a wide range of organisations which supported that project such as EU NAVFOR, NATO, OCIMF, INTERTANKO, INTERCARGO, IMO and the IMB.

However, as is the nature of such threats to maritime security, they have evolved over time. In the Red Sea, instead of skiffs, we have now seen Houthi forces use helicopters to board merchant vessels. More extensive use is being made of rocket munitions to target vessels passing through Bab el-Mandeb Strait, the Southern area of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.

These tactics have alarmed all in the shipping community. As such, crews are having to contend with not only the conventional perils of the sea, but also now warlike or terrorism risks associated with the use of aerial, waterborne and remote weapons. 

Despite the passage of time since first production, and whilst the content has a primary focus upon piracy rather than war or terrorism risks, Steamship’s video “Piracy – The Menace at Sea” still contains an extensive amount of information to help crews prepare and harden the vessel prior to passage in areas prone to maritime security threats.

The Managers believe that there is considerable loss prevention benefit to be derived from this initiative which encourages and emphasises compliance with the BMP guidelines.

As mentioned above certain operators have decided to mitigate the risk of transiting the Red Sea by re-routing vessels via the Cape of Good Hope. In addition to the potential piracy threat this may involve, it will also expose vessels to the upcoming southern-hemisphere winter, Operators are reminded to check the other articles on this website regarding heavy weather preparation for vessels.

Click here to view the full length version (Chinese (simplified characters) and Tagalog language versions also now available). 

 Press Materials for "Piracy - The Menace At Sea" 

 Winner of 2012 Seatrade Awards - Safety at Sea Award



Press Clippings

Michael Grey reviewed "Piracy - The Meance At Sea" in his Lloyd's List Industry Viewpoint column of 8 August 2011: 

Piracy on the silver screen

The article is copyright Informa and is reproduced with permission. Reproduction, retrieval, copying or transmission of the article is not permitted without the publisher's prior consent. Informa does not guarantee the accuracy of the information contained in the article nor does it accept responsibility for errors or omissions or their consequences. This article appeared in Lloyd's List on the 8th August 2011. For more information visit: 


"Piracy - The Menace At Sea" has already been well received and has been described as "essential guidance for any Mariner who is intending to operate in or close to the Indian Ocean"  - Royal Navy. Other reviewers said:

“A compelling film which hits the mark. The balance is absolutely right” - Lt Col RM Andy Price, EU NAVFOR

"Every ship should have a copy of this DVD and every crew member should watch it, it could save you and your ship!” - Rear Admiral Ort, NATO

"Excellent advice on how to protect yourself and your ship against pirates - highly recommended!" - Chris Trelawny,  International Maritime Organization

"Very well put together with a clear unambiguous message. We commend it to all who sail in these waters.” - Capt P Mukundan, International Maritime Bureau

“It’s Critical that Every Mariner watches this Film"  - Capt. Howard N. Snaith,  INTERTANKO

“I completely advocate its use as a training aid for ships; I have not seen anything to equal the quality of this product.”  - Peter Hinchliffe, Secretary General, International Chamber of Shipping