Experience in Countering Maritime Robbery


In the region of Somalia, the international community, under the auspices of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), has implemented a large set of measures to counter Somali piracy over several years since 2008. Much has already been written about that, including in the pages of the Maritime Fleet, and that, after all, has led to the present result. Let us recall only the most effective specific measures to protect sea vessels from pirates in order to disseminate positive experience in other regions (if possible, of course). Such measures are universally recognized to be:

  • The escorting of merchant ships by a warship;
  • the use of hired armed guards on ships;
  • strict implementation of the IMO-recommended guidance on “Best Practices for Protection against Piracy Based in Somalia” (NEM-4), which can be adapted for any piracy-prone area of the world (for the Gulf of Guinea region, this was done and endorsed by IMO in 2013).

The application of the aforementioned anti-piracy measures in the Somali area continues unabated today. Meanwhile, in connection with the successes achieved in the fight against Somali piracy and taking into account the accumulated experience of anti-piracy forces, the size of the High Risk Area (HRA), which was approved in the relevant circulars of the IMO Maritime Safety Committee in 2009-2011, was reduced from December 1, 2015 at the suggestion of leading shipping companies. At the same time, the boundaries of the Voluntary Reporting Area (VRA) of the headquarters of the UK Marine Trade Operations (UKMTO) and registration in the Maritime Safety Center – Horn of Africa (MSCHOA) remained the same.

In Asia, attacks on ships mostly occur in territorial waters and are therefore considered armed robbery. Approximately 40% of all incidents occur at anchorages and berths and about 60% with passing vessels. The majority of attacks are committed for the purpose of petty theft, however, in 2014-2015 in the South China Sea there were a number of hijackings of tankers by pirates and armed robbers of passing vessels to steal cargo of oil products (in 2015 there were 6 such hijackings). Leading shipping companies have responded to this by implementing the provisions of the “Guidelines for tankers operating in Asia on countering piracy and armed robbery related to theft of oil products cargoes” since 2015 at the suggestion of the ReCAAP11 Information Exchange Center.

Since 2007, the waters of the Straits of Malacca and Singapore, traditional hunting grounds for pirates, have been regularly patrolled by the law enforcement agencies of Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, which have concluded a series of agreements on joint action on this issue. A regional agreement, ReCAAP, is also in force. They also include aerial surveillance of the Strait of Malacca.

Japan, whose imports and exports depend entirely on the Straits of Malacca and Singapore, also provides its patrol vessels for anti-piracy operations in those waters. Bilateral and regional international cooperation on anti-piracy issues in the region is thus taking place. As a result, by 2013, the number of piracy incidents there had fallen to two per year, but thereafter there was a sharp increase: 48 in 2014, 94 in 2015; with 87% of these in 2015 occurring in the Singapore Strait. Three incidents involving theft of oil product cargoes were also recorded in the Strait of Malacca at the same time.

In the coastal and especially port waters of a number of other Asian countries, there has been no decrease in the number of robberies against ships in the past few years. This is a cause for concern: in 2015, for example, in the territorial waters of Vietnam there were 6 cases and 27 attempted attacks, India – 3 cases and 10 attempts, Bangladesh – 10 cases, Philippines – 7, Singapore – 3, and so on.

In the Asian region, the international shipping community also identifies a notional high-risk area – in Southeast Asia, which covers the Straits of Malacca and Singapore, the northern parts of Indonesian waters and the western part of the South China Sea.

In other regions of the world, attacks on ships generally occur in territorial waters, more often in port areas, with the aim of stealing ship’s property, personal belongings and seafarers’ money. The situation has not yet improved. Coastal waters of South and Central America (Caribbean Sea, waters of Costa Rica, Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Guyana) are considered piracy-prone.

Given the current circumstances in piracy-prone and near-piracy-prone areas of the world, it makes sense to use the positive experience gained in countering piracy today, without waiting for local pirates and robbers, inspired by isolated successful attacks or simply taking risks to survive, to develop their activity to the level of the Somali piracy of 2009-2012.