Gulf of Aden - Piracy Update

October 2008

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This is the text of circular ICS(08)45 issued on 7 October 2008 by the International Chamber of Shipping to all full and associate members:

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Action required: Members are invited to note developments in the last 24 hours with regard to the Gulf of Aden and most importantly to ensure that ships are reminded of basic passive self defense measures.

There are, at last, some encouraging indications that efforts to increase government engagement in the piracy problem in the Gulf of Aden are having some effect. 

Just a few hours ago (7 Oct 08) the UN Security Council asked all nations to “take part actively” in the fight against piracy off the coast of Somalia.  The Security Council voted unanimously to adopt a new resolution 1838, drafted by France, which seeks deployment to the area of naval vessels and military aircraft to use “the necessary means, in conformity with international law” to engage pirates.  A copy of the resolution will be circulated as soon as it can be obtained.

Members may also have seen press coverage today of the European Union’s plans to deploy increased naval forces into the area. The EU intention is start a system of military-led convoys; the Brussels based piracy cell will inform ships via national shipowner associations of the position and departure times for the convoys. 

ICS was represented today at a meeting with US and UK defence representatives. The meeting opened the way to further exploration of measures to combat lawlessness in the region and for the protection of international shipping. The need to continue to keep pressure on governments to comply with the new UN SC resolution and to establish a legal jurisdiction for successful prosecution of captured pirates is still very apparent.  

However it was also clear from the discussion that some ships continue to leave themselves vulnerable to attack through a failure to observe the most basic of passive defensive measures. Allegedly, recent incidents have included a failure to mount a stern lookout and in one reported case even leaving a ladder over the ship’s side. Use of speed and aggressive evasive steering has proved effective on several occasions.

Good basic guidance is available in MSC Circular 623 (attached) and of course in the ICS Piracy Guide. It is essential that a reminder of this guidance is quickly passed to all ships likely to transit areas at risk from attack by pirates and armed criminals.

P B Hinchliffe

Marine Director


International Chamber of Shipping, 12 Carthusian Street, London EC1M 6EZ

Tel +44 20 7417 8844 Fax +44 20 7417 8877