PIRACY AND SHIPPING – The menace called Piracy

Even though the Number of attacks have came down significantly the Danger still looms Large, the Menace that Piracy is still a headache for the Sailors as well as the managers ashore, talking about statistics Seaborne piracy causes an estimated loss of 16 billion $ per year, over the years it has changed colour from the lovable Jack Slide1Sparrow to the vicious Somali Pirates who not only cause harm to the international trade but even to the crew they take as hostage. As per international media reports being a pirate is a highly reputed job profile in the civil war torn country, main country involved are Indonesia, Nigeria and Somalia. Below we have described how onboard crew should prepare and react to the piracy attack.

Typical piracy attack profile;

Successful attacks have taken place in following vulnerability of the ship :
  • Vessel is  – Low speed (< 15 knots), low freeboard, inadequate planning and procedures and low state of alert
  • Two or more small high speed (upto 25 knots) open boats from a “Mother ship” approach from port quarter or stern, at twilight time.
  • Pirates give up if they are unable to board in 30 to 45 min.

General counter measures against piracy;

  • Be aware of piracy areas as promulgated from time to time. Avoid them if possible.
  • Pass high risk areas in darkness.
  • Use Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor (IRTC).
  • Prepare contingency plan. Brief all personnel about their duties.
  • Company security officer should develop, in consultation with the Indian Navy, a proper communication protocol with security agencies and D.G. Shipping.
  • Communication should be sent in following 3 stages : 1. Pirates chasing the ship, 2. Pirates boarding the ship, 3. All crew have taken refuge in safe house and no one is outside.
  • Conduct a drill before arriving at the area alongwith the security agencies.
  • Enhance vigilance during watch-keeping.
  • Switch off AIS.
  • Comply with COLREG at all times. Navigation lights should not be switched off at night.
  • Keep good lookout for suspicious craft, especially those approaching from port quarter or stern.
  • Use night vision appliance.
  • Use dummy lookout.
  • Proceed at maximum speed.
  • Man engine room. All machinery should be fully operational. Operate 2 generators.
  • Operate 2 steering motors.
  • Control vulnerable boarding points by closed circuit television monitoring.
  • Switch on upper deck lighting.
  • Deny use of ship’s tools and equipment to the pirates.
  • Enhance bridge protection by sand bags or equivalent.
  • Deploy physical barriers like barbed wires, anti-climb paint, etc.
  • Electrify barbed wires (not for tankers) or post dummy signs for electrification.
  • Create safe house.
  • Deploy water spray hoses, foam monitors and trailing wires.
  • Fit Pirate Warning system to warn the pirates that security forces are on the way. It should alsocreate crew noises in different parts of the ship to disorient the pirates.

In the event of an attack;


  •  Use water spray and foam.
  •  Use high intensity lighting, long range acoustic device, etc.
  •  Switch on AIS.
  •  Adopt evasive manoeuvres.
  • Sound piracy alarms, warning system and make PA announcement.
  • Muster all crew in safe hous
  • Send distress alarm.
  • Immobilise the engines including the emergency generator, and black-out the entire ship.
  • If possible and necessary, maintain control of steering to head the ship away from known navigational dangers.
  • Contact security agencies by established communication protocol.

Safe house;

  • It may be an exclusive compartment specially built for this purpose or one of the existing compartments like, engine room, steering gear room, etc., based on risk assessment of the company.
  • It should be difficult for the pirates to locate it on board.
  • Size should be sufficient to accommodate all crew for at least 3 days.
  • Watertight doors, frames and bulkheads should be constructed of steel resistant to repeated hits by bullets, hammer, grenades and cutting edges.
  • It should be difficult to cut through using oxy-acetylene equipment.
  • It should not be dependent on locks and hinges.
  • Specially strengthened steel covers should be fitted from inside of all openings.
  • It should not be possible to release CO2 gas into the area or flood it with water or throw explosives in it.
  • It should be provided with following equipment / facilities :
  • VHF, AIS, satellite phone and hand held GPS, Citadel.
  • Sufficient number of bunks and chairs.
  • Controls for immobilizing engines and power supply.
  • CCTV display of boarding points.
  • Power supply to operate lights, ventilation, communication equipment, etc., within the house.
  • Toilet facilities.
  • Tinned food and water for all crew for at least 3 days.
  • Forced and natural ventilation.

Author: Anish Surendran (2nd officer) & Chaitnya Prakash (3rd Officer),

Piracy data source- Statista


Categories: Crew matters, Industry, Navigation

Tags: , , ,

1 reply


  1. PIRACY AND SHIPPING – The menace called Piracy « MarinerOnBoard - Onboard & Ashore

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