Piracy Report HRA: Red Sea, Gulf of Aden and Somalia

Piracy Report HRA: Red Sea, Gulf of Aden and Somalia

google map HRA2

The High Risk Area (HRA) of the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden and the Somalia Coastline has been relatively benign for a number of years since the deployment of Naval Anti-Piracy Coalition forces, targeted Coast Guard training, adherence to BMP-4 and the deployment of Privately Contracted Armed Security Personnel (PCASP).

However, a recent spike in piracy activity off the Yemeni and Somalia coastlines has raised fresh concerns regarding the security of vessels transiting the region. Securewest International Maritime Intelligence Team has closely observed the surge of incidents since 1 February 2017 and this report provides our conclusions and recommendations.

The Securewest International Global Response Centre (GRC) has documented 19 maritime related incidents during the period, 1 February - 11 April 2017 in the HRA, of note five were approaches with intent and five were separate hijackings.

Details of incidents can be seen here.

Initial trend analysis indicates an increase in determined, pre-planned approaches to assess levels of ship security before subsequent attack or withdrawal, dependent on the response of the vessel security protocols or a show of PCASP. Pirates operating in the High Risk Area have been observed targeting specific vessel vulnerabilities such as slow speed, unsecured access points, and inadequate or relaxed adherence to BMP-4.

Of particular note are the two incidents on 8 April 2017. The first was an approach at 08h20 in the morning by a skiff with three people on board, tracking and actively observing the vessel's security protocols. A Securewest International PCASP was deployed on this vessel and the alarm was raised. Emergency procedures were conducted but it was not until the PCASP overtly displayed that they were armed and ready to defend in all regards that the skiff withdrew and changed course.

Later the same day, in the immediate vicinity of this incident, another vessel was targeted in a similar fashion. The alarm was raised and Naval Coalition Forces (Indian/Chinese) were sent to the area. This vessel did not have a PCASP on board and the pirates boarded. The ship’s crew retreated and secured in the citadel and remained there until given the all clear by the coalition forces in attendance.

This heightened activity highlights the need to remain highly vigilant while transiting the HRA. There is additional concern that this activity is being conducted during low season when sea states are less conducive to piracy operations by small boats. The fact that incidents have increased also suggests the use of motherships to support and coordinate attacks at sea for a protracted period.

HRA Map 2017 2

Risk Mitigation and Recommendations:

Securewest International, currently assess the threat for the HRA as HIGH, an incident is highly likely. It is strongly recommended that all vessels transiting the HRA conduct a Ship Security Plan review in line with BMP-4 and give consideration to the deployment of PCASPs in support of BMP-4 guidelines. A Maritime Threat Assessment to capture the very latest threat in the region is also highly recommended.

Other measures (provided for consideration as applicable):

  • Conduct anti-piracy drills based on the ship security plan.

  • Inspect and secure spaces not in use. 

  • Increase lighting on weather decks and waterline.

  • Stage fire hoses and prepare for charging. 

  • Strategically place fire axes. 

  • Secure all portholes including access/egress. 

Upon detection of suspicious vessels:

  • Activate search lights and direct them at suspected vessel. 

  • Consider when to use SSAS. 

  • Alert authorities of the situation. 

  • Sound alarm and assume security positions. 

  • Charge fire hoses. 

Attack appears imminent or ongoing attack:

  • Notify authorities and activate SSAS. 

  • Warn other ships in the area of possible attack. 

  • Use spotlights to blind pirates. 

  • Aim fire hoses at vessel in attempt to swamp vessel and directly at persons attempting to board. 

  • Use fire axes to cast off grappling hooks, ropes and poles; staying out of weapons fire. 

  • Sound alarm to alert crew members to seek citadel


The combined effects of the ongoing civil and military conflicts in Yemen and Somalia and the relaxation of some ships' security protocols are focussing determined piracy gangs, often lead by ruthless and uncompromising gang leaders and their need to seek riches at sea. The groups appear to be very well organised, logistically supported and coordinated but have not taken unnecessary risk, rather choosing to pursue the softest least protected targets for financial gain through robbery or kidnapping.

Securewest International continues to closely monitor the regional situation and advise all clients appropriately. For further information or to find out more about Securewest’s services please contact: Wayne Britton.

Securewest International has specialised in global risk management since 1987, and is now a leading worldwide security specialist. Our people are among the most qualified and experienced in the industry, with thousands of successful project days in the most hostile countries worldwide. Due to our sector experience and structure, we can deliver fully integrated solutions without hindrance to operations or undue administrative burden, drawing on our in-house Maritime Travel Risk, Intelligence, Land, Risk Consulting, QHSSE and Response Teams.

Securewest is uniquely placed to address the challenges and mitigate the risks associated with Travel Risk operations. We have the right people, equipment, access and authorisations to conduct these tasks safely, legally, reliably, ethically and in line with industry best practice. QHSSE is an essential and measurable component of our service offering, and we have invested significant time and resources in developing a market leading standard. Securewest is LRQA ISO 9001; ISO 14001, OHSAS 18001 and ISO 28000:2007 certified.

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