Piracy and armed robbery at sea is a global challenge. It occurs many places in the world, but primarily in the waters off Somalia, off West Africa at the Gulf of Guinea and in South-East Asia.
For a maritime nation like Denmark, which accounts for more than 5 per cent of global transport measured in value, the challenges are noticeable. Not only does piracy and armed robbery at sea have a negative impact on global commercial shipping. It also involves large human costs for the persons taken hostage and their relatives, just as the persons performing work on board the ships passing piracy-infested areas are affected.
The Danish Government contributes to making waters where Denmark has considerable maritime interests safe and navigable for Danish and international shipping and seafarers. The overall priorities to this end is described in the government’s Priority paper for the Danish efforts to combat piracy and other types of maritime crime covering the period from 2019 to 2022.
Protection of ships and seafarers
One of the factors that primarily determines whether a ship is attacked by pirates has proven to be the ship's physical characteristics. This means, inter alia, freeboard and speed combined with the visible use of a number of measures. In the endeavours to increase the protection of ships, it has therefore been important to involve the shipowners who have themselves assumed the responsibility for the safety of the ships through the use of counter-piracy measures.
Merchant ships navigating areas presenting a risk of piracy and armed robbery must, thus, have special procedures today for protection against piracy and armed robbery.
Danish merchant ships must, to the widest extent possible, observe the IMO recommendations and guidelines for preventing piracy. In this connection, especially the international recommendations for measures to be taken in piracy-infested areas – the so-called Best Management Practices (BMP) – constitute a core element.
Please observe that Danish merchant ships' procedures for voyages or port calls in areas presenting a risk of piracy and armed robbery must have been drawn up in consideration of these IMO recommendations and guidelines.
Technical regulation on measures to be taken to prevent piracy and armed robbery on board Danish ships issued by the Danish Maritime Authority
IMO recommendations and guidelines for preventing piracy
The Danish regulations also focus on seafarer protection. Today, the act on seafarers' conditions of employment, etc. contains provisions giving seafarers and their relatives improved security in piracy situations and tightening the shipowners' obligations as regards the prevention, preparedness for and handling of acts of piracy. The regulations stipulate, inter alia, that a shipowner cannot give a seafarer held hostage in connection with piracy notice of termination and that shipowners are obliged to pay wages to seafarers throughout the hostage period as well as a maintenance contribution to the seafarers' closest relative(s).
The international contact group on piracy off the coast of Somalia has approved guidelines on the welfare of seafarers and their families in case of Somali-based piracy. There are also special recommendations for yachtsmen, just as the European Commission has drawn up a recommendation on protective measures and precautions to be taken to prevent piracy and armed robbery against ships.
Guidelines on the welfare of seafarers and their families in case of Somali-based piracy
Recommendations for yachtsmen from the International Sailing Federation (ISAF)
EU Commission recommendation on protective measures and precautions to be taken to prevent piracy and armed robbery against ships
Civilian armed guards
It is possible for Danish merchant ships to use civilian armed guards in areas presenting a risk of piracy and armed robbery. The Danish National Police can, for example, grant shipowners general permission to use civilian armed guards on board for a one-year period, which is – contrary to an individual permit – not associated with a specific voyage, a specific security service, guards mentioned by name or specific arms.
Order on the use of civilian armed guards on board Danish cargo ships issued by the Ministry of Justice (in Danish)
Ships intending to navigate the so-called high-risk area off the coast of Somalia must register their planned voyage with
The Maritime Security Centre – Horn of Africa (MSCHOA) and, at the same time, report to the UK Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO). Actual acts of piracy must be reported to the Danish Maritime Authority. Furthermore, it must be reported to the Ministry of Justice and the Danish National Police if force is employed on the part of the ship in case of acts of piracy.
Form for reporting acts of piracy to the Danish Maritime Authority
Other relevant information
Read more about piracy and the prevention of acts of piracy: