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ID: 84 Title: The PIRATE situation near Singapore & How I prepared for it Replis: 3 Read: 3231 Author: 2
Name: OCEAN SAILOR  Posts: 171  **  Vancouver Time: 2003-4-15_21:43:11 Quote    Reply
I recently delivered a yacht from the U.S. to Singapore, a 70ft MacGregor. The passage from Darwin to Bali to Singapore gave me some restless nights as the stories and in particular the following e-mail from a Professional Sydney Boat delivery person who was going to be on board as 1st Mate and has been edited for obvious reasons.

Hi Phil, Just a quick one to make sure its all ok. My good friend who is a skipper for ..... Tankers rang me today and told me he was boarded by pirates at the top of the Malacca Straits just off Medan last week. So i Feel it is a very worthwile cause if you could arrange some $U.S. and im not talking just $50 just incase as this speaks a universal language. and if you dont need it then just cash it in later on. And furthermore the threat of war in Iraq is highly possible whilst underway. My friend ..... made it very clear that the threat of this occuring in that area is highly possible as he has just met them. They boaded his ship because he was going too slow and they came from nowhere and they left with a small amount of cash. So Phil please consider getting some cash in $US as these bastards dont give a crap who we are if we have something they like.

Another story was told to me that another yacht in the same area, within a month of us talking, had been riddled with AK 47 fire, boarded, all electronic gear wrecked and only escaped when a lateral thinking crew member who happened to be down below and had access to a handheld V.H.F. pretended to be the navy in close proxminity and asked whether they needed help, if no reply was heard within 2 minutes they, the navy vessel, would motor full steam ahead to there location to investigate and quoted the approx LAT & LONG. The pirates hastely retreaded without loss of life.

Now I was not going through the Mallaca Staits, north of Singapore, but my good friend advised me that there are pirates of the coast of Borneo near the intended route I was about to make. This caused me considerable concern for a period of time untill as one does talked to fellow sailors. One was a Kiwi who sailed frequently between Bali and Singapore on the inside between Samartra / Borneo. (Our intended route). This person gave me his waypoints of his route and advised me every thing would be O'K if (1) I stuck to the route and maintained radio silence. Radio silence was infacticuly spelled out to me, both S.S.B. and V.H.F. This I adhered to, with a wallet full of U.S. dollars and no incidence occured involving pirates,Thankfully.

After arriving in Singapore I had stories told to me that pirates do not like engaging in machine gun fire and veer of from vessels that fire a burst of rounds near their vessel. One boat owner told me he was going to purchase a AK 47 based on this story. Now I have not had a encounter with pirates and I'M not advocating such action but merely relating statements that have been made to me and received third hand. I personally would not bother with a AK 47 but would get my hands on a shoulder rocket launcher if I was going through the Mallaca Straits.

Now I do not want to be swamped with e-mails requesting the details of the route and waypoints disclosed to me as it is a frequently used route by Locals and the very kind person that gave them to me. Accordingly anybody wishing such infomation may obtain such by contacting the Webmaster Tom Yang who can verify your long term association as a 7 knots registered member and forward same (O"K) message to me before such info is given out in fear pirates may visit this web site and wish to get their hands on such information.

May the wind on our backs be not our own, Have a better than average day, And I hope this dialogue has been informative, PHIL CLARKE:: THE Captain from Hell NO 2.

Name: Tom Yang  Posts: 110    Vancouver Time: 2003-4-15_23:38:3 Quote    Reply
One time I was encouraging falks to enter captain logs "live" on 7knots. A sailor replied and said, due to the fear of pirates, he wouldn never do that. He pointed out that pirates in the area can easily read his "live" logs at 7knots as well, and thus know exactly where and when to find him!

What do you think?

Name: OCEAN SAILOR  Posts: 171  **  Vancouver Time: 2003-4-23_20:6:27 Quote    Reply
Yes :: I agree, it is possible and is one of the reasons for maintaining radio silence,and in addition they have extremely good radio directional finders.

A very good web site to keep you up to speed is the pirate web site.

Cheers PHIL::

Name: OCEAN SAILOR  Posts: 171  **  Vancouver Time: 2003-7-4_19:45:4 Quote    Reply
Here is a article from the web site, which may be off interest to alot of passage makers on the subject of Piracy. Red Sea Pilot – Reports of Piracy and Suspected Piracy

Update 09 April 2003


From 1998 to date there have been a total of eighteen recorded incidents in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. Ten are confirmed cases of piracy or robbery or attempted piracy or robbery. Two occurred within 70 miles of the Somali coast, waters yachts are strongly advised to avoid. Three occurred in Yemeni waters and five about half way across the Gulf of Aden. Of the remainder, seven have been confirmed as having nothing to do with robbery or piracy. Four or five of these were contact with pushy Yemeni military patrols. One or two involved contact with fishermen mistaken for robbers. One appears to be a case of a crime committed aboard.

Against ten confirmed incidents in this 5 season period, hundreds of yachts have passed trouble-free north- or southbound through the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. NATO naval patrols in the area are currently greatly improving security. However, we have had recent reports of increased incidence of theft from yachts anchored in the port of Djibouti. This is NOT piracy but a problem to be aware of. For the following information we should like to thank and offer sympathy to the victims on Lisestrambord, Ocean Swan, Shady Lady, Blodeuwedd, and near victims on Penyllan and Daisy Duck.

Definitions Robbery: the crime of theft of goods or chattels within a given jurisdiction. International waters usually begin a minimum of 3M and a maximum of 12M from a state's territorial baseline. Hence 4, 8 and 15 below were robbery, 2, 3, 12, 17 & 18 were piracy, and 1 & 5 attempted piracy.

Details of incidents (most recent first):

09/03/03 Australian yachts Penyllan, Sea Dove, Gypsy Days and Narena in close company with American yacht Imani were harassed at 0900LMT by gun fire from a distance of about 0·5M when in 13°11'N 48°40'E, approximately 80 miles off the Yemen coast and 90M from Somalia. The approaching boats were described as "possibly old ship's lifeboats... probably made of wood or GRP... visible on radar within 1·5 miles... and inboard powered. They were covered with bright blue and orange plastic sheeting possibly to conceal their identity or the identity of their cargo..." They were similar to those described in the incident involving Bambola (see below) and also carrying passengers but the report from Penyllan estimates them to be smaller, about 12m long. The yachts shook off pursuit by maintaining a speed of 6–7knots. A Panamanian registered freighter the ROYAL PESCADORES, visible on the southern horizon, answered one of many VHF mayday calls and closed their position. Then a US warship called and said he would be in their position in 3 hours. A report was also made to the German navy in Djibouti via other yachts at anchor there. At 0912 an Orion 4-engined navy aircraft flew over the yachts, made contact and searched without success for the open boats. During the evening a US frigate also checked the group of yachts and told them they planned to patrol the problem area "for several days" and would welcome calls from yachts on channel 16. The near victims think that sailing in a convoy of five may have helped deter their assailants. Undoubted piracy attempt. circa 02/03/03 British yacht Bambola Quatre, in company with yacht Josephine, in 13°31'N 48°24'E, about 35M off the Yemen coast, S of Bir Ali, was approached at first light by 3 boats described as fast ships' lifeboats, about 20m long, covered with blue and orange sheeting. Shots were fired, Bambola was boarded and radios, money, etc. were stolen. Both Bambola and Josephine were damaged. The lifeboats carried numerous passengers huddled under awnings, probably illegal immigrants being smuggled from Somalia to Yemen. Undoubted piracy. 14/04/02 French owned and registered catamaran, Blodeuwedd, attacked at 1330LMT in 12°37'N 48°28'·3E, 80M from both the Yemeni and the Somali coasts. There was a ship passing close by. A small boat with about 7 men aboard approached and fired warning shots when 50m away. Essential equipment was wisely and effectively hidden. The yacht put out a distress call on VHF and further shots were fired, some of which damaged hull and mainsail. The ship did nothing. The armed attackers crashed alongside causing damage. They then boarded the yacht and ordered the crew to the foredeck. They were evidently extremely tense. They demanded cash and proceeded to ransack down below and on deck. Owner and crew offered no resistance. The robbers took all three of the boat's outboard engines, solar panels and other high value equipment and left about 1½ hours later in the direction of Somalia. The word Somali was used repeatedly by them during the attack. The ship had meanwhile sailed on without offering any assistance. An intermediary in France was then contacted by satphone (hidden during the attack). He raised the French navy in Djibouti and reported the incident. The yacht headed for Mukalla to try to find an engine. The navy put the yacht in contact with the French embassy in the Yemen. Undoubted piracy. 23/02/01 Ocean Swan, Shady Lady and Mi Marra were in approx 13°47'N, 48°12'E, 6–10M off the Yemen coast near Balihaf. Around dawn (0645LMT) they saw three boats fishing inshore of them. The boats released their gear and rapidly closed on Ocean Swan which had Shady Lady in tow. Shots which damaged rigging were fired by one boat when it was some 200m away. The main attacker rammed Ocean Swan. A second craft arrived on the other side but was then told to stand off by the chief robber. The attacking craft were wood-built, inboard diesel powered, local fishing boats with timber uprights protruding above the gunwhale. The boat attacking Ocean Swan had five crew, one armed with a Kalashnikov and two with knives. Any identifying marks had been disguised by draping a tarpaulin round the hull. The other craft each had 5 or 6 crew. While the first was robbing Ocean Swan, one of the others robbed Shady Lady. The third, standing off Ocean Swan, may have been intended to attack Mi Marra but, given Mi Marra was nearly a mile away, may have thought it too risky. The craft attacking Ocean Swan spent 45mins–1hr ransacking. There was extensive loss of easily moveable equipment but, thanks to good stowage and on-board security, much was missed. One of the owners was threatened with a knife and asked for money. She told the intruder to ask her husband who gave him the US$50 in his pocket. On Shady Lady the thieves ripped out the VHF and stole money. During the incident Mi Marra stood by but was helpless to intervene once arms had been ruthlessly used. No help was forthcoming on any international emergency channel on MF/HF and contact was made with us on Fiddler's Green II purely by chance. The authorities in Salalah were then alerted via help from Harmonie II and, subsequently, an Inmarsat alert was broadcast. Contact was later made with the harbourmaster in Mukalla who took all details by radio. No help ever reached the victims. After the incident the thieves seemed to have carried on fishing!

All three yachts proceeded to Aden and reported to the authorities. The latter were sympathetic but apparently unable to enforce the law in an area of the Yemen, which seems to be beyond central government control. Undoubted robbery.

12/04/01 Italian owned, British registered, Daisy Duck, attacked at 0740LMT in 12°55'N 48°20'E, 64 miles from the Yemeni coast and 98 miles from the Somali coast. The attacking craft was a blue, wooden traditional fishing boat with a small cabin roof and a high, noisy exhaust. There were 3 crew of unknown provenance. As the attacking boat approached the yacht, a Hyundai container ship came up from astern. Four other ships were within 16M on radar. Daisy Duck contacted the container ship on VHF 16 because they needed fuel and were worried about the closing fishing boat. The container ship reassured them about the fishing boat but said they couldn't stop to provide fuel. Shortly afterwards the fishing boat closed to within 15m and asked Daisy Duck to stop. When Daisy Duck refused and accelerated, the fishing boat fired shots. There is no report of the shots hitting Daisy Duck.

The skipper of Daisy Duck was armed and had his gun stood-by. He returned fire aggressively. Subsequently the one remaining attacker who was still upright steered the attacking boat away, in what direction is not known. Meanwhile the skipper's wife, below with the two young children, sent Mayday calls on VHF16 and MF/HF 2182kHz, 4125kHz, 6215kHz, 8291kHz, 12290kHz and 16420kHz. There were no replies, not even from the Hyundai container ship now 0·5M off Daisy Duck's bow despite repeated, direct pleas. Subsequently contact was made via ham radio with the Rome Coastguard and the Italian embassy in Djibouti. Undoubted piracy attempt.

27/01/01 Yachts Freedom, Tosimoh and Mintaka were about 50M miles SSW of Mukalla in approx. 13°56'N 48°54'E at approx 1000LMT. The yachts were on a reciprocal course with two fast huris (local fishing craft) which looked like passing close to starboard. The approach was treated as potentially aggressive. Alerts were sounded by the yachts on VHF, SSB and GMDSS via Inmarsat C. A flare pistol was fired low between the approaching boats and other similar deterrent action was taken. The local craft veered away, resumed their original course and met with up to four other huris about 1M away. After ten minutes two different huris returned eastward past the yachts. The alert sounded again. The huris were told to go away by voice and gesture. They carried on past. An interesting side effect of the GMDSS Inmarsat C distress alert is that families in Germany and Britain were alerted by national MRCCs. Mukalla port authorities were eventually alerted on 2182kHz. Probably contact with fishermen. 09/01/01 Freedom (Irish) and Tosimoh (German) were approached at approx 1300LMT by two local fast boats about 10–15M SE of the Small Strait at Bab el Mandeb while sailing in company with another German yacht, Mintaka. The first boat swung to parallel Freedom. The bow man looked as though poised to jump onto Freedom although in fact this position is commonly adopted to trim local craft. A wave was exchanged. Freedom broadcast an alert. The craft fell astern, appeared to have engine trouble and was joined by the second. Both turned away towards Tosimoh. Tosimoh brandished a mean looking signal projector. After some shouting the two boats left at speed in the direction of Mayyun. Meantime a nearby ship had responded to the alert which was then cancelled. The incident was reported in Aden as a suspected incidence of piracy/robbery. The authorities believe this was a military patrol but this has not been confirmed. 24/12/00 French yacht Lisestrambord was stopped by an armed boat about 15M offshore between Balihaf and Bir Ali (approx 13°43'N, 48°12'E). The attack was made at 1430LMT by a boat carrying about 50 people. The crew consisted of 5 men armed with guns and knives but there were about 45 refugees also aboard – men, women and children. Shots were fired in the air before aggressive boarding which caused damage. They stole cameras, video equipment, binoculars, polar jackets and alcohol. They were also given US$300 under duress. They tried to insist that Lisestrambord follow them to the coast (probably Yemeni, but not specified), but the skipper refused. The incident was reported to Immigration in Mukalla. Undoubted robbery. 26/10/00 Australian yacht Funtastic, close off Ras al Ara, was approached by a military patrol which tried to persuade the skipper to return with them to Ras al Ara. Funtastic claimed shortage of fuel and the patrol left, satisfied with baksheesh (some cigarettes and soft drink). The incident was not reported to Yemeni officials, so the soldiers have not been disciplined.

During autumn 2000 the French yacht Anouchka passed inside the exclusion zone around Mayyun (Perim Island) and was technically in violation of regulations. A military patrol approached. Some of the boat's crew were in uniform. The patrol was pushy and demanded baksheesh. Anouchka reported the incident and an Inmarsat piracy attack report was subsequently broadcast and never cancelled. The incident was followed up by the Yemeni authorities. The troops concerned have been punished.

In the spring of 2000, at an unknown date, the single-handed Polish yacht Sadyba, a white hulled, 10m Bermudian sloop, went missing on passage between Djibouti and Massawa for causes unknown. These are inaccurately charted waters with strong currents, strong winds, brutal seas and much shipping traffic. Unexplained disappearance.

27/01/00 Australian catamaran Gone Troppo attacked and shot at in mid-Gulf of Aden about 70M from the Somali coast. One crew member wounded. The yacht was immobilised by having a fishing net dropped across its bows, subsequently fouling the propellers. No replies to repeated VHF Mayday broadcasts. Extensive theft of money and electronics. Subsequently pirates may have shadowed Gone Troppo but left when contact was made with a passing ship which offered protection. The robbers were Somali. Undoubted robbery. 22/11/99 Panamanian registered Airflow, a 28m schooner, approached on converging intercept courses by two vessels between the Hanish Is and Bab el Mandeb. Avoided encounter by changing course and by contacting Aden harbourmaster and a nearby tanker, which Airflow then closed for further protection. Naval assistance, sent by Aden authorities, arrived after the potential threat had disappeared. Yemeni enquiries have ascertained that the intercepting vessels were Yemeni military patrols.

18/11/99 Yacht Leonard Star, flag unknown, boarded by armed men 2M E of Jazirat at Ta'ir in the Red Sea. Boarders attempted to steer yacht towards Jazirat at Ta'ir. A threatened satcoms phone call to the Aden authorities ended the incident and the boarders were satisfied with drinks and food. Yemeni enquiries have ascertained this was a military patrol. The soldiers concerned have been punished. 11/11/99 Australian yacht Aphrodite III shot at when it failed to stop after being threatened by pirates posing as police off Ahwar, between Mukalla and Aden. Extensive theft of money and equipment. The Yemeni government apprehended and imprisoned the criminals, recovered the stolen goods and offered to make full repairs to the yacht. This is the ONLY case of robbery when the criminals have been caught and punished, possibly because of extensive and immediate international press coverage of the incident. Undoubted robbery. 11/09/99 French yacht Correlation, on arrival in Aden, reported an attack 6M off NE tip of Somalia. The crew comprised two men and a woman. One of the two male crew was reported to have been shot dead by pirates when he attempted to fight back. This was neither confirmed nor denied by the female crew. The Aden authorities report that when the yacht reached its next port of call in the Red Sea, only the skipper was still aboard. Police investigations in Europe continue. A probable on-board crime.

End of 1999. Details are sketchy. German yacht Nono hijacked when close in shore off Cape Guardafui, Somalia. Crew kidnapped and subsequently released following negotiations between German foreign service officials and the hijackers. A ransom may have been paid. The yacht and its contents were entirely lost. Undoubted piracy. 29/04/99 Finnish yacht Violetta hijacked 70M off Bosaso, N Somalia. Crew initially ransomed but subsequently released with no payment via offices of UN and pirates' village elders. Yacht later recovered, but it had been stripped. Undoubted piracy.

What to expect


Unless you have organized an escort (see Somalia and Yemen in Prevention and Protection below) you CANNOT EXPECT ANY HELP. In ALL BUT ONE of the recent cases, when distress calls were made on international distress frequencies, there was no response. In contravention of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, Chapter V, even nearby ships may ignore you. YOU MUST BE READY TO HELP YOURSELF. The positive news is that NATO navy patrols in the Gulf of Aden and Horn of Africa area may help deter attacks. Second, the Hart Group (see Somalia below) patrols aggressively using high speed RIBs off the Somali coast between Bosaso and Cape Guardafui, which may help as well. And finally it does appear from a recent IMO meeting that a Yemeni Coastguard will soon be a reality. Attackers:

Here are some general findings from the incidents we know of:

From the most recent reports there appears now to be a maximum danger area running from the Yemeni coast in the longitude of Bir Ali (48°10'E to 48°25'E) to the Somali coast. The known attacks are products of chance encounters – you and a few hoodlums/smugglers unluckily in the same patch of water at the same time. There is no indication of organized crime, radio frequency monitoring, radar or any other sophisticated aids to detecting and intercepting victims, though there are suspicions that intelligence on yacht movements may be being gathered from yachts passing through Mukalla. The attackers have so far all been in traditional wooden craft or in what may be salvaged ship's lifeboats and all inboard powered. There have been no attacks using the Yemeni inshore fishing boat, the outboard powered, long, fast, narrow and usually GRP huri. There is no specific danger time, though early daylight hours have featured four times. The craft have been engaged in no specific pre-attack occupation. Some appear to be fishing. Three, and all the most recent attacks, have undoubtedly been smuggling people. The attackers seem to include both Yemenis and Somalis, but Somalis seem predominant. There is no consistent pattern. Some attackers draw close and ask you to heave-to before firing warning shots. Others fire warning shots and close to board immediately. One immobilised its victim by fouling their propellers with a fishing net. In every incident of piracy or robbery the attackers have always fired warning shots. They do not shoot to kill, injure or disable the boat. They shoot to warn and intimidate. Attacks are pushed home fast and hard with no regard to topsides. The attackers seem to have only one or two guns, usually Kalashnikovs or the Chinese equivalent. They otherwise have knives. Most are apparently nervous. The attackers do not appear to attack at night or in strong weather, but analysis suggests that in quiet weather smugglers crossing the Gulf of Aden from Somalia to Yemen attempt to leave and close the coasts (make departure and arrival) in the dark and hence cross the central Gulf of Aden during daylight hours. Remember that these are 'gun culture' societies where carrying a gun is a badge of status. The same is true of knives. That a fisherman carries a gun and fires warning shots does not mean he will shoot you in order to rob you. Ditto the carrying and brandishing of a knife.

Relatively safe waters:

The coastal waters between Mukalla (Yemen) and Mina Salalah (Oman) should be safe. From Aden through into the Red Sea along the Yemeni coast was safe in 2000/2001/2002/2003 apart from a slight risk of petty harassment by importunate Yemeni military and fishermen. Other than harassment by Yemeni military and fishermen, there have been no incidents reported from Yemeni waters in the southern Red Sea. There have been no reports of problems when approaching or leaving Djibouti to/from Bab el Mandeb. Eritrean coastal waters are safe and fairly actively patrolled by Eritrean forces. In practice at present, except for Danger Zones 1 and 2 below, the safest water for an unescorted transit of the Gulf of Aden extends south from the Yemeni coast to about one quarter to one third the distance towards (90–100 miles N of) the Somali coast.

Danger zones:

The main danger zones at the moment are two:

The first appears to be in mid-Gulf of Aden W of approximately 48°50'E out to 80M N of the Somali coast, i.e. off that part of the Somali coast NOT patrolled by the Hart Group. We advise holding further N towards the Yemen coast, to/from the Bab el Mandeb area. If unescorted, avoid the whole coast of Somalia out to 90–100 miles offshore and especially from 47°30'E to Djibouti waters. The second is from about 60M E of Aden until about the same distance SW of Mukalla with the band of maximum risk between 48°10'E and 48°50'E. We would advise staying at least 20M offshore between 49°E and 46°50'E and planning your passage, if you can make sufficient speed to cover the approx. 50M wide band of maximum risk in hours of darkness and in company. With the current (e.g. headed W in winter) you'll need to be able to guarantee 5kts, against it (e.g. headed E in winter), you must be able to make 7–8kts. There is a potential, if lesser danger, in the outer approaches to Djibouti. The safest approach/departure is to approach/leave on a WSW/ENE course from/to the direction of Aden.

Prevention and Protection:


The Omani Navy is well armed, very efficient and has a base in Mina Salalah. They actively patrol the coast. There have been no reports of any criminal activity on the Omani coast. Contacts: Salalah maintains listening watch on 2182kHz and Ch 16. Harbourmaster Capt. Ahmed Burham Ba'Omar. Tel (+968) 219500 ext 420, Fax (+968) 219253, email


The port authorities in Aden and Mukalla are very concerned but, until the new coastguard is fully established and properly trained, unable to take active measures either to prevent robbery of yachts or to respond to distress calls, supposing they receive them. Until 2002 this has been a product of a port authority/military/police turf war and a failure of central government authority in one of its governorates. To help their case for the enhancement of the coastguard service, the port authorities in Aden and Mukalla are anxious that ANY INCIDENT is reported to them, whether or not the threat proves to have been real. They do take the matter seriously although any follow up to ascertain the facts and punish any Yemenis responsible is usually lukewarm and clogged by red tape unless fired up by major, adverse international publicity. Some yachts have managed to arrange an escort with the authorities from Mukalla to the Bali Haf area. The escort was a police inshore speed boat. The escort wanted to coast hug whereas the yachts wanted to stand well offshore. But despite the difference, the escort may have served its purpose. If you are worried, ask in Mukalla or Aden if an escort can be organized. The jointly-funded EU and USA backed Yemeni coastguard is being trained and equipped. Delay has been caused by wrangling between the USA and EU, presumably over whose systems and equipment prevail ... and therefore who gets to increase a sphere of influence and score a nice contract or two, but recent news suggest at least there are now positive and active developments. Contacts: Aden: Harbourmaster, VHF Ch16 from about 25M and SSB 2182kHz to about 100M. Tel: office + 9762 202850; Duty Officer +9762 202262, 202238; fax +9762 206241. An IMO officer in Aden, Capt Roy Facey (Tel/fax +9762 203521), is another helpful contact. Mukalla: Harbour pilots, Captains Salem and Amin. VHF Ch 16 to about 25M and on SSB 2182kHz to about 60M. Tel: Mukalla 354742; mobile 7951076


A north Somali (Puntland) coastguard has been established using a Bermuda registered company and a British registered ex-fisheries protection vessel, the Celtic Horizon, a 65-metre, former stern trawler. The HART Group Ltd. (set up and run by an ex-British SAS officer) has informed us that they operate a Fishery Protection force and Coast Guard in the Somali State of Puntland. The area covered is from 100 miles west of Bosaso (roughly 47°30'E), round the Horn of Africa to Eyl, on the Indian Ocean coast. The trawler acts as a mother ship to several fast RIBs operated by armed men.

Contacts: The Hart Group can be contacted in London: +44 20 7751 0771 or in Somalia +252 572 6121, fax +252 523 6104, email

Djibouti There is no Djiboutian maritime force that operates offshore. The French Navy have a presence in Djibouti and NATO forces (in spring 2003 under German command) are now using the port as a base. A watch is reportedly kept by the French on MF 2182kHz and VHF Chs 12 and 16 but distress calls may not be heard unless the call is made within a short distance of Djibouti. You can try to alert them BEFORE your transit to ascertain how best to get help if you need it. You will need to be able to speak French. Contacts: French Navy (la Marine Française) tel: +253 351 351 or + 253 35 03 48. Ask for OPO (officier permanent d'opération).


There have been no recent cases of piracy or robbery affecting yachts reported in or near Eritrean waters. In periods of heightened tension however, for example during the Yemen/Eritrea conflict over the Hanish Is, yachts straying into sensitive areas have been detained. The Eritrean forces patrol coastal waters and may stop you and ask to see your papers. Their vessels are somewhat ramshackle. They may respond to a distress call, but don't rely on it.

US Navy

This is a long shot but they are known to maintain a LISTENING WATCH ONLY on the following schedule. NATO navy patrol vessels may also monitor these frequencies:

Location/area Frequency (USB) Hours of service (Z/UT)

Indian Ocean/Red Sea/

Diego Garcia 13201·0kHz 24hr 11176·0kHz 1500–0200 6738·0kHz 1200–2200

Central & E Med., 23227·0kHz 0700–1500

Straits of Hormuz & 15015·0kHz 0500–0200

Persian Gulf 13244·0kHz 24hr 11176·0kHz 24hr 6738·0kHz 1500–0700 3137·0kHz 2000–0500

In addition there is a USN correspondence frequency, watch times unknown and believed to be also used by keen retired USN personnel, of 14467·0 kHz which might work when all else is silent. The US Navy was called on one of the above frequencies when a yacht was being shadowed suspiciously on passage between Pakistan and the Straits of Hormuz and in short order a helicopter arrived. Whether that would happen in the Gulf of Aden we do not know, but any route to potential help is worth having.

Strategy and tactics


Inform local port authorities (NOT agents, Immigration, Customs or anyone else) in Salalah, Mukalla, Aden, Djibouti or the HART Group of your passage plan and ask them to inform your next port of your eta (see contacts in Prevention and protection). If you have Inmarsat or can otherwise contact Djibouti, try to alert NATO naval HQ there of your impending passage. If you are apprehensive, don't be afraid to ask for an escort. Keep in regular touch with your port of departure for as long as you can. Contact your port of arrival as early as possible and regularly thereafter. While transiting the Gulf of Aden, prepare your boat against boarding by robbers – secure important valuables out of sight, hide any portable GPS, VHF or satphone, leave some attractive goodies on display, have some cash "hidden" where it can easily be found. If you can get an escort organized, well and good. Otherwise sail in convoy – ideally at least three or four in a group. Sail in loose company no more than ½ mile apart. This allows swift concentration for mutual aid, but disperses the 'target' and presents a dilemma for a single attacker.

NOTE: two downsides of sticking too close to each other:

In the case of begging fishermen, you present a concentrated area of rich pickings. In the case of armed attack, especially by multiple craft, you may all get hit. Use codes for position reporting if you lose sight of each other. (The simplest is a bearing and distance from an agreed reference position known only to the boats in company.)

At night run without lights. If you are worried about nearby shipping, ONLY use deck level port, starboard and stern lights. Agree on how your convoy will maintain contact visually at night. (Hourly illumination of all round white masthead lights for a minute or two works well.)

If you have it, use radar actively. Try to identify contacts before they have you visual and steer to stay beyond visual range (in effect about 4–5M, though note incident 1 above and the first radar contact at 1·5M).

Don't chatter on VHF. a. NEVER broadcast your position in clear; pirates who attack ships in the Far East (S Malacca Straits) are reported to monitor VHF and use frequency scanners, though they aren't usually interested in small fry like yachts. There has been no indication that Gulf of Aden pirates are that sophisticated.

b. In company ONLY exchange NECESSARY messages and ALWAYS on LO-POWER.

Inform yourself and make sure all your group know of emergency frequencies and contacts for aid e.g. French Navy, US Navy and the Harbourmasters in the Gulf of Aden ports of Aden, Mukalla and Salalah.

REMEMBER, if you are approached, TRY TO BE FRIENDLY. Smile, offer a welcome. If your contacts aren't pirates, you get off on the right foot. If they are, at least you've helped keep the temperature low. Some approaches will be by armed military patrols. The soldiers are poor, they would like to share your plenty. An early offer of baksheesh by you will avoid an ugly demand by them. Others will be curious fishermen, probably anxious to trade their fish for goodies hard to come by where they live. Their lives are hard and hazardous but they may also be armed.


If you are SURE these are pirates who are AGGRESSIVELY AND ACTIVELY PURSUING YOU, IMMEDIATELY broadcast an alert using ALL means (SSB, VHF, SATCOMS and mobile phone if you can get a signal (note that Aden's network is NOT reliable because the government occasionally switches it off for internal security reasons)). It's worth a try even if help is not forthcoming.

If pursuit closes and shots are fired, send a MAYDAY and send up PARACHUTE FLARES. Then SURRENDER. You can try warning shots if you are armed but remember, they may be better armed and meaner minded than you. Try to be polite. Don't try to keep things back unless they are very well hidden. Don't forget that early, seemingly VALUABLE concessions may prove enough to satisfy. Your valuables can be replaced; your life can't.

Arms or not? As incident 5 above shows, sometimes a gun seems to work. But you must be aware of the downsides. You must choose the right weapon – close or long range, single or multiple shot, etc. You must decide whether to license it or keep it aboard unlicensed. You then have to decide whether to declare or hide it at each port of entry.

Come the hour, you have two choices. To shoot first and hope you scare the blighters off. Or wait till they shoot and hope that either you'll then drive or scare them away (as in incident 5) or that you'll win any subsequent firefight.

In any case you will have to use your gun swiftly, accurately and to potentially deadly effect – that is, you MUST shoot to inflict SIGNIFICANT DAMAGE AND INJURY in order effectively to deter. You will have to live with the consequences, be they legal or psychological. Remember, in a 'gun culture' using firearms to intimidate is 'normal'. If warning shots are fired and you shoot back and injure or kill, you risk discovering that it's heads they win, tails you lose. Up to you, but we'd advise against (see Strategy & tactics 14 above).

Follow-up: If you are unlucky enough to be a piracy victim, or feel you have been threatened by potential piracy, please, while you can still remember the details, log: date, time and position of attack or approach direction of approach and description of suspect craft (including colour, size, means of propulsion, design (local or modern imported), construction material (GRP, wood, etc.), any conspicuous features and any name or numbers description and number of crew on suspect craft, whether in uniform or not & whether armed and with what description of any contact made (nature of gestures, messages passed, language used, etc.) details of any injuries sustained

details of any damage to your vessel

details of items stolen (description, serial numbers, etc.)

details of last direction in which pirates were observed to be moving (approx. course & speed)

if there was a ship nearby which ignored your distress call, its name, port of registry, approximate course and speed.

These details should be given to the authorities in Salalah, Mukalla, Aden, Djibouti or the Hart Group as appropriate (for contact details see above).

Please also inform us so we can keep this information up to date, email (cc Imrays, and, especially so that ships' failure to respond to distress messages can be followed up, Mike Devonshire at the joint ISAF/IMO sub-committee which targets piracy of pleasure craft email to Patrick Flouriot,, would also like to be informed.


I would not position report or talk to any vessel within a 1250 nms of a known danger area. I would also endevour to leave my (next port of call) on the departure documents blank. In some instances this has been picked up, so accordingly I declared my next port of call in the oposite direction when going through danger areas because of corruption, amongst Government Officials in some Countries.

Phil Clarke