Unfortunately, piracy and armed robbery against ships continue to occur around the world. Not least in the waters off Somalia, in the Gulf of Aden, the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean (the High Risk Area).
Denmark has developed a Strategy for the Danish Counter-Piracy Effort 2011-2014. The overall aim of the Danish efforts is to contribute to making the waters off the Horn of Africa and in the Indian Ocean safe and navigable for Danish and international shipping. The efforts include bilateral and multilateral political, military, legal and capacity-building measures.
Protection of ships
Ships navigating areas presenting a risk of piracy and armed robbery must carefully observe the technical regulation on measures for prevention of piracy and armed robbery against Danish ships issued by the Danish Maritime Authority.
The Danish Maritime Authority draws special attention to the industry Best Management Practice (BMP4). The BMP is specifically aimed at ships in the high risk area. BMP4 is also issued by the IMO (MSC circular 1339).
All ships intending to embark on voyages in the piracy-infested high risk area must report their planned route to the Maritime Security Centre Horn Of Africa (MSCHOA) and report to the UKMTO. Furthermore, relevant self-protecting measures must be taken.
Other relevant guidelines on the prevention of piracy
The Danish Maritime Authority also draws attention to the industry Guidance for Company Security Officers (CSOs). The purpose of the guidance is to help CSOs develop procedures that might prepare the crew for a situation where the ship is captured off Somalia or in the West Indian Ocean.
Reference is also made to the IMO Guidance to shipowners and ship operators, shipmasters and crews on preventing and suppressing acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships (MSC circular 1334). This guidance provides good advice and recommendations on how to prevent attacks and on how to minimize the danger to the crew and ship in case of lacking success in preventing the attack. The IMO has also drawn up guidelines for the authorities (MSC circular 1333) and guidelines on the securing of proof following a capture (MSC circular 1404).
In March 2010, the European Commission issued a Recommendation on measures for self-protection and the protection of piracy and armed robbery against ships, in which reference is made to the IMO guidelines.
In general, the IMO recommends choosing a route leading the ship away from areas presenting a risk of attacks, if possible.
Furthermore, the planning of the route should, in the view of the Danish Maritime Authority, depend on a specific assessment of the risk of attacks based on a number of factors, including especially the ship’s freeboard and speed and the hazardous nature of the cargo, if relevant.
In this connection, the Danish Maritime Authority recommends for the time being that ships proceeding at low speed or with a low freeboard carefully consider navigating the Gulf of Aden only if there is a possibility of joining a convoy or navigating under escort. Recommendations for yachtsmen are available in Danish here.
Civilian armed guards
The IMO recommends (MSC circular 1406/Rev.1) that flag States decide whether they will permit the use of civilian armed guards and, if they do so, draw up a policy hereon. It is left to the flag States to decide on the more detailed contents of such a policy. Denmark’s policy is laid down in the Strategy for the Danish Counter-Piracy Effort 2011-2014. Denmark has taken up a cautious attitude to permitting the use of civilian guards on board Danish ships. The extended operational area of the pirates means, however, that it has become more difficult for the international naval fleets to concentrate its efforts in the area where acts of piracy typically occur.
In consultation with the shipping industry Denmark has, consequently, decided to have a more open approach to the use of civilian armed guards, though it is realized that it is not a long-term solution to the piracy problem. Consequently, it is now possible for the shipowners to get a firearms license for use by armed guards following an application to the Ministry of Justice if it must be considered necessary on the basis of the general threat assessment for the area, and if the facts of the case, including compliance with the BMP, do not speak against it.
On the website of the Ministry of Justice, more information is available in Danish about how to aply for armed guards, including the information that should accompany an application, cf. this checklist.
The IMO has issued a Guidance to shipowners, ship operators, and shipmasters on the use of privately contracted armed security personnel on board ships in the High Risk Area (MSC circular 1405/Rev.1). The Danish Maritime Authority strongly urges compliance with the guidance. The purpose of the guidance is to assist shipowners, operators and masters considering the use of civilian armed guards. The guidance thus contains a number of conditions of which shipowners, operators and masters should be attentive in connection with the choice of private protection agencies and guards. It is, among other things, stressed in the guidance that the decision to use civilian armed guards should not be taken until an in-depth risk analysis has been carried out and all other protective measures have been made, including the use of BMP.
Furthermore, the IMO recommends (MSC circular 1408) that port and coastal States develop a policy and procedure for how they consider civilian armed guards and arms on boad ships. A number of conditions to be considered when developing the policy are recommended. They concern the requirements applicable when arms and guards arrive in a country with the purpose of embarking a ship and similarly when they are to disembark the ship. Furthermore, they concern the requirements applicable when a ship with civilian armed guards and arms call at a port. They may, for example, include notifications, identification of the guards, documentation of the flag State's permit for the guards, requirements for the storage of arms and control of these.
The MSCHOA website concerning the situation in the waters around Somalia, the Gulf of Aden, the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. On the website, it is possible to join convoys.
The websites of the MSCHOA and ISAF also contain recommendations for yachtsmen. Reference is also made to the Danish Maritime Authority’s webpage in Danish on yachtsmen.
The UKMTO (UK Maritime Trade Operations) office in Dubai functions as the primary point of contact for merchant ships and as a connection to the military forces in the area.
The IMB Piracy Reporting Centre in Kuala Lumpur issues reports on an ongoing basis on attacks or attempts hereon on ships all over the world.
The ReCAAP Information Sharing Center has detailed statistics on attacks or attempts hereon on ships in the Asian region.
The IMO monthly reports on piracy and armed robbery and attempts heron may also be of use when getting an overview of the risk in an area. The monthly report.