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Maritime Security and Piracy



In this ever changing environment, political instability is plain to see in almost every region of the world, that includes the Seas..

This political instability can have a knock on effect for travellers, businessmen and members of government or non-government agencies.

With that, the SECURITY WEBSITE is pleased to bring you an up to date Travel Warnings section. This information is vital for your piece of mind and for your travel planning. Forewarned is Forearmed.

This section of the Security Website is updated on a daily basis, however our information is drawn from the US State Department who are the World leaders in Travel Security Information.

Below you will find information pertaining to Maritime Piracy

Piracy at sea is a worldwide phenomenon which has affected not only the coasts of Africa, but also Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Yemen, and Venezuela. American citizens considering travel by sea should exercise caution when near and within these coastal areas.

The information below is vital to any sea vessel, Commercial or otherwise.....

The Security Website has also accumulated some interesting facts with regards to the Somali Pirates.


Weapons Used.

Many modern pirates have heavy-duty firepower, including automatic weapons, mortars, and rocket-propelled grenades. Pirates are also often equipped with cell phones and other tech gadgets to keep in contact with organizers who feed them information about ships and their locations. Many pirates’ weapons are specialized to their geographic location, with the most dangerous usually being in the South China Sea and Somalia.

Geographic Occurrences.

With the recent news about the pirate capture off Somalia, it may appear to some that modern pirates are isolated to this geographic area. While the political upheaval in Somalia does provide an ideal, lawless hideout for pirates, the fact is pirates are often found in many places around the globe. Some areas most frequented by pirates include the Red Sea, the Indian Ocean, and the waters of Indonesia and Singapore.

Financial Loss.

The estimated annual loss due to piracy worldwide is about $13 to $16 billion. Unfortunately, most carriers decide not to report piracy incidents due to the financial burden. When an incident of piracy is reported, ship owners experience insurance rates that can increase by as much as 30% as well as the daily loss incurred during an investigation that can often run about $1000 a day.

Ties to Government and Organized Crime.

Many modern pirates have ties to the government and organized crime, such as the pirates in Somalia and the Far East, with some pirates in the South China Sea reportedly working under the protection of the Chinese government. Other pirates take advantage of a lack of government involvement, such as the pirates near Brazil, where there is no Coast Guard or its equivalent.

Anchored Ships vs. High Seas Kidnapping.

Pirates boarding ships at sea and kidnapping the crew have been making the news but an older report suggests that 72% of pirate attacks occur on anchored ships where the pirates either steal the ships or take cargo and crew members’ belongings. Recent trends show that kidnapping the crew in order to get ransom money is on the rise, as pirates cannot only profit from the ransom but stolen goods as well.

High Ransom.

When kidnapping is involved, ship owners sometimes must pay high ransom prices to help their kidnapped crew. Ransoms average around $120,000. Some owners will hire security organizations to escort their ships, at costs of around $120,000 per trip to avoid the high ransom payments, danger to their crew, and potential loss of the ship and its cargo.


Piracy is a frequent activity happening much more often than what makes the news. Take a look at the Live Piracy Report and the Live Piracy Map at the ICC Commercial Crime Services and you will see that reported piracy incidents are currently occurring at about 20-30 per month. While not all incidents result in kidnapping or theft, many do.

Environmental Pirates.

Not all pirates use lethal weapons and are seeking riches. Some pirates, such as those in the group Sea Shepherd, are known to ram ships, throw rancid butter on their decks, or even sink ships in an attempt to disrupt their activities. Usually target ships are participating in whaling or fishing that harms other marine wildlife such as dolphins, seals, and sea turtles.

Little Deterrent.

Due to the current legal situation, most pirates who are captured are merely questioned and released. Unfortunately, there are almost no laws against modern pirates. Local laws pertain specifically to citizens and may not apply to pirates, and finding witnesses and translators can be difficult once pirates are detained. Additionally, many countries do not want to take on the expense of imprisoning pirates, so they are often returned to their life of piracy–complete with few deterrents to slow them down.

Help from London.

London, the world headquarters of shipbroking and insurance, is also likely a hub for intelligence that is sent to Somali pirates. It is thought that at least one of the known pirate groups has "consultants" in London sending information to the pirates that include the layout of the ships, cargo, and routes. With this much information, the pirates have plenty of time and ability to carefully plan their attack so that the ships have little defense.



Gulf of Aden


The number of pirate attacks in the Gulf of Aden has risen significantly.  Hijackings in the Gulf of Aden tend to occur primarily off the coast of Somalia.  In some instances attacks have occurred as far as 300 nautical miles out in international waters.   Most of the attacks in the Gulf of Aden have been directed against cargo vessels.

Attacks against cruise ships are rare but do occur.  The Department of State is aware of two such attacks and one attempt in 2008.  There have also been several attacks against private vessels such as yachts.  The Department is unaware of any injuries or fatalities involving American citizens resulting from these attacks.

Recent incidents in the region include an attack on Oceania Cruises’ premium cruise ship, the Nautica, in the Maritime Safety Protection Area in the Gulf of Aden; an attempted attack on Transocean Tour’s cruise ship MS Astor in the Gulf of Oman; the hijacking of a 50-foot yacht resulting in the kidnapping of the two French citizens aboard; and the seizure of a French luxury yacht and its 30 crew members.

Americans transiting the Gulf of Aden should consult with their cruise ship company regarding precautions that will be taken to avoid hijacking incidents.  The Department of Transportation Maritime Administration (MARAD), at, provides detailed piracy countermeasures for vessels transiting the Gulf of Aden at recommends that vessels add additional security, transit at the highest practicable speed, and change course repeatedly if under attack and unable to outrun the pirate vessel.





Incidents of piracy off the coast of Venezuela are a serious concern.  Violent attacks on private vessels over recent years include the severe beating of an American citizen, the fatal shooting of an Italian citizen, and a machete attack on a U.S. citizen.  A November 2008 attack resulted in the death of one American citizen and injury to another when pirates boarded their private boat.

U.S. citizen sailing yachts in the region have been advised to exercise a heightened level of caution in Venezuelan waters and to consult the U.S. Coast Guard web site at for additional information on sailing in Venezuela.



Straits of Malacca and Malaysia


The Straits of Malacca (SOM), situated between Indonesia and Malaysia, was long considered to be the world’s most dangerous waters for pirate attacks.   Pirate activity in the region, however, has declined significantly since 2005 due to increased military patrols and vessel security.  The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) reported 25 pirate attacks in the Straits of Malacca in 2004, 10 in 2005, and only two through the third quarter of 2008.  Fourth quarter statistics are not yet available.

Although the waters off Tioman Island, located on the east coast of Malaysia, are not historically known for piracy, there were four attacks in 2008.  The IMB issued an alert to all ships transiting the South China Sea off Tioman Island after pirates armed with guns and machetes robbed three vessels and hijacked a tugboat and barge.  Ships have been advised to maintain a strict watch in this area.



Review the Worldwide Caution, Country Specific Information, and Travel Warnings or Travel Alerts for all countries that you plan to visit.  When travelling by sea, either privately or by commercial shipping, review the information available from the International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Centre and the MARAD piracy countermeasures.

U.S. citizens living or traveling abroad are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration web site to obtain updated information on travel and security.   American citizens without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.  By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency.

U.S. citizens are strongly encouraged to maintain a high level of vigilance, be aware of local events, and take the appropriate steps to bolster their personal security.  For additional information, please refer to A Safe Trip Abroad.
U.S. Government facilities worldwide remain at a heightened state of alert.  These facilities may temporarily close or periodically suspend public services to assess their security posture.  In those instances, U.S. embassies and consulates will make every effort to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens.  Americans abroad are urged to monitor the local news and maintain contact with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
As the Department continues to develop information on any potential security threats to U.S. citizens overseas, it shares credible threat information through its Consular Information Program documents, available on the Internet at In addition to information on the Internet, travelers may obtain up-to-date information on security conditions by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the U.S. and Canada or, outside the U.S. and Canada on a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444.  These numbers are available from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm Monday through Friday, Eastern Time (except U.S. federal holidays).

Please check out the Security Website Travel Alerts section HERE for even more updates that may affect YOU.

Please remember we also have a Travel security Advice section here at the SECURITY WEBSITE.....


The SW Team..............