Any vessels traversing through pirate waters must always be on the ready for threats of piracy. It’s essential that each ship follow recommended safety practices from agencies dedicated to fighting piracy. These practices are designed to avoid piracy in order to protect crewmembers and cargo from pirates.
All vessel owners, vessel operators, and maritime workers that must travel through or near high-risk areas need to be privy to anti-piracy practices by way of adequate instruction and practice. The Gulf of Aden is the dangerous strait through which cargo vessels must pilot their goods. Four percent of the world’s oil supply travels through here, along with tens of billions of dollars in cargo.
Follow the BMPs
The main piece of advice that will help vessels avoid a pirate attack is to implement the procedures in the Best Management Practices Against Somalia Based Piracy (BMPs).
The BMP explains, “Experience and data collected by Naval/Military forces, shows that the application of the recommendations contained within this booklet can and will make a significant difference in preventing a ship becoming a
victim of piracy.” And conversely, “The potential consequences of not following BMP, as set out in this booklet, are severe. There have been instances of pirates subjecting their hostages to violence and other ill treatment.”
BMPs cover numerous types of measures ships can employ, including:
Don’t Try to Skimp on Gas
Vessel owners and operators have been reported to be sidestepping one of the most important BMPs: increasing speed through pirate-infested waters, according to a 2012 CNBC report. The BMP recommends travelling at 18 knots or higher because the vessel will be better able to outrun an attempted attack. In fact, “Pirates have never managed to board a vessel travelling at 18 knots or more,” reports CNBC.
Unfortunately, in an effort to save money, some vessels keep their speeds low to avoid high gas costs. Shipping companies should keep in mind that preserving human life takes precedence over the financial bottom line.
Have a Plan Should You Face a Pirate Attack
Finally, even when a ship has followed the BMPs and taken necessary safety precautions, attacks and hijackings may still occur. Each vessel should have a plan in place should their ship sustain an attack.
Vessel operators need to remember that:
The International Maritime Organization (IMO) along with several international communities are developing and administering numerous types of anti-piracy initiatives in order to fight global piracy. This is a real problem with which mariners must contend.
The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) reports that there were 439 pirate attacks in 2011 alone. To secure the global shipping industry and to protect the lives of innocent seamen, the IMO, national governments, international organizations, and the shipping industry are taking action against the worldwide piracy threat.
The IMO began a comprehensive anti-piracy project in 1998. The organization explains that its “aim has been to foster the development of regional agreements on implementation of counter piracy measures.”
The project involved two stages:
The IMO stresses the importance of self-protection to avoid pirate attacks. Many of the strategies the IMO uses are geared toward helping officials and vessel workers learn proper anti-piracy measures, including:
The international community has also began implementing measures to combat armed robbery at sea.
As noted by the CFR, these include:
Governing officials worldwide understand a multi-faceted approach is necessary in order to effectively fight piracy. IMO Secretary-General Koji Sekimizu explains, “[T]he [UK international] Conference agreed that piracy cannot be solved by military means alone and reiterated the importance of supporting local communities to tackle the underlying causes of piracy and improving effective use of Somali coastal waters through regional maritime capacity-building measures.”
On June 20 2014, the White House released the United States Counter Piracy and Maritime Security Action Plan, addressing the increased concerns over piracy and maritime security worldwide.
Always a leader in maritime security, the United States has organized and led the international effort against piracy since 2009, the result of which has been a dramatic decrease in piracy off the coast of Somalia.
The release of this plan comes on the heels of the IMB’s warning of a new piracy threat in the South China Sea. Following a rash of tanker hijackings in the South China Sea, a warning has been issued to small tankers by the ICC Commercial Crime Services’ International Maritime Bureau (IMB) to maintain tight anti-piracy practices when in that region.
According to the report, the purpose of the Plan is to:
The Counter Piracy and Maritime Security Action Plan will implement two primary components:
The Plan provides clear guidance for counter-piracy measures, and details that the U.S. will use all appropriate methods of national power to limit piracy and other maritime security crimes. The Plan focuses on three core areas:
The Plan also provides specific strategies for the Gulf of Guinea and Horn of Africa regions, strategies which establish specific methodology and provide guidance on how the U.S. will respond to threats connected to the individual geographic, legal, and political environments.