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Piracy and armed robbery against ships continue to occur around the world, inter alia in the waters off Somalia, off West Africa at the Gulf of Guinea and in South East Asia.

Denmark has developed a Strategy for the Danish Measures against Piracy and Armed Robbery at Sea 2015-2018.  The overall aim of the Danish efforts is to contribute to making piracy infested waters 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.

Best Management Practice (BMP4) is specifically aimed at ships in the high risk area in the waters off Somalia, the Gulf of Aden, the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. The BMP4 has also been issued by the IMO (MSC circular 1339).

All ships intending to embark on voyages in the 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.

In connection with voyages off West Africa, the industry "Interim Guidelines for Owners, Operators and Masters for protection against piracy in the Gulf of Guinea region" provide recommendations that take account of the specific conditions in the area and, at the same, refer to the relevant parts of the BMP4. The IMO also refers to the guidelines (Circular letter no. 3394).


Other relevant guidelines on the prevention of piracy and protection of seafarers

The IMO has issued a very considerable number of guidances on the prevention of piracy. 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) offer a number of good advice and recommendations on how to prevent attacks and - should this fail - how to minimize the danger to the crew and the ship. This guidance provides good advice and recommendations on how to prevent attacks and on how to minimize the danger to the crew and ship. 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). 

The purpose of the industry Guidance for Company Security Officers is to assist company security officers in developing procedures that can prepare the crew in case the ship is captured off Somalia or in the West Indian Ocean.

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 November 2013, the International Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia has approved a guidance on seafarers and their families' welfare in case of Somali-based piracy. The guidance has been drawn up by the industry working group under the contact group, and the purpose of its is to improve the welfare of seafarers and their families by means of a number of recommendations, including on assistance after their release.


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. And the recommendations and guidelines of the MSCHOA and ISAF, respectively.

Civilian armed guards

The IMO recommends (MSC circular 1406/Rev.2) 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. It is 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. 2). 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.

Piracy attacks must be reported to the Danish Maritime Authority. Please observe that, pursuant to the technical regulation on measures to prevent piracy, etc. issued by the Danish Maritime Authority, reporting must also be made to the shipowner, the authorities, other ships in the area and, in the high-risk area, to the MSCHOA and the UKMTO . Furthermore, reporting must be made to the Ministry of Justice and, if relevant, the police (link to Danish text) in case the ship has used means of force in connection with the attack.



United Nations' International Maritime Organization (IMO).

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 Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia

The Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme (MPHRP) is an NGO that assists seafarers and their families with humanitarian issues in case of piracy, armed robbery and the taking of hostages.

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