Piracy in de Golf van Aden
Op dit plaatje van de Gof van Aden hebben we een aantal dingen ingetekend:
- De incidenten van de meest recente jaren: stippen, hoe roder, hoe
vervelender. Bij de incidenten van 2004 waarvan wij op de hoogte zijn, zijn
de namen van de jachten vermeld.
- De meest risicovolle zone tussen Yemen en Somalië: gearceerd, hoe
donkerder hoe meer risico. Het hele gebied is ongeveer 50 mijl breed.
- Tot slot zie je nog de geheime waypoints A t/m D die gevieren een
corridor vormen, en waypoint X (blauwe cirkeltjes).
- En natuurlijk onze track.
Incidenten tot en met 2003
Imray heeft de incidenten tot en met 2003 op een rij gezet en op haar website
gepubliceerd. Inmiddels is deze pagina niet meer via de website van Imray te
benaderen, maar alleen via het specifieke webadres
De volledige tekst hiervan is opgenomen onderaan deze pagina.
De incidenten in 2004 waarvan wij op de hoogte
zijn hebben we verderop op deze pagina op een rij gezet. Let op: deze lijst
hoeft dus niet per definitie volledig te zijn.
Inray trekt uit deze reeks incidenten een aantal conclusies.
De belangrijkste is dat er geen sprake is van georganiseerde criminaliteit of
een patroon. Er zijn gevallen bekend waarbij vissersboten betrokken zijn,
reddingssloepachtige boten waarmee Somaliër naar Yemen worden gesmokkeld, en
zelfs militaire boten.
De belangrijkste gevarenzones worden aangegeven. In alle gevallen van piraterij
zijn er waarschuwingsschoten gelost, maar er wordt niet geschoten om te doden of te
verwonden of de boot te beschadigen.
Het lijkt erop dat zich geen incidenten voordoen bij nacht of in ruw weer. De
kans dat een jacht het slachtoffer wordt van piraterij wordt geschat op 1,5 tot
En nog een leuke uitsmijter: je hoeft geen hulp te verwachten, je moet erop
rekenen dat je klaar moet zijn om jezelf te helpen.
Wij hebben de incidenten verder geanalyseerd en komen verder nog tot de
- Tot en met 2003 heeft ongeveer 50% van de gevallen betrekking op een
individueel jacht. De andere 50% heeft betrekking op een groep van twee of
meer jachten. Het varen in konvooi leek dus op zichzelf geen veiligheid te
bieden, ware het niet dat:
- de incidenten in 2004 alle betrekking hebben op een individuele boot.
- Alle incidenten tot en met 2003 doen zich voor bij daglicht, met name vanaf de vroege ochtend tot de vroege middag. In 2004 ook
gebeurden de incidenten ook laat
in de middag en in de avond.
- Het Islamitisch weekend (donderdag en met name vrijdag) lijkt een groter
risico met zich mee te brengen.
- Volgens de coalition warships kan de Yemense Coastguard "a pain in the
ass" zijn. Geadviseerd wordt om tenminste 30 mijl uit de Yemense kust te
- Vanaf Aden naar het westen lijkt het veilig te zijn.
Incidenten in 2004
Let op: de volgende lijst is samengesteld aan de
hand van incidenten die gemeld zijn op de twee SSB-netten waar wij ons nagenoeg
iedere ochtend inmeldden. Er zijn echter ochtenden dat we de netten gemist
hebben. Bovendien zijn deze netten niet noodzakelijkerwijs de enige SSB-netten
van jachten is dit gebied, al is dat wel waarschijnlijk.
De lijst hoeft dus niet per definitie volledig te zijn.
- Notre Dame, een Frans jacht is overgevallen op 27 februari om 12.30 uur
door een vissersboot. De boot was langzaam, maar Notre Dame heeft niet weg
kunnen komen. Ze werd bedreigd door mannen met een geweer en messen. De
mannen kwamen aan boord, en hebben een snel rondje gemaakt door de boot en
gegrepen wat ze zagen.
Notre Dame was in staat om van tevoren een noodoproep
op kanaal 16 te doen, die werd gerelayed door een ander jacht, Papagena.
Coalition Vessel 082 stuurde een helikopter, maar
was te laat. Het aanbod om iemand aan boord te zetten werd niet aangenomen,
maar Notre Dame is wel tot aan Aden begeleid door dit warship.
- Klondike is op dezelfde dag twee keer achtervolgd door boten, om 20.00
uur en 23.00 uur lokale tijd. De posities zijn 13.39 N / 49.49 O
en 13.50 N 50.05 O. Door herhaaldelijk uit te wijken en snelheid te
vermeerderen, is Klondike in beide instanties weten weg te komen van haar
achtervolgers. Het is onduidelijk of de boten kwaad in de
zin hadden of dat het gewoon bedelende vissers waren, maar Klondike is voorzichtigheidshalve van het ergste uitgegaan.
In het eerste geval heeft Klondike een Mayday via de marifoon uitgedaan, die
werd beantwoord door een jacht dat een paar mijl achter hen zat. In het
tweede geval heeft Klondike Maydays uitgedaan op de marifoon en op HF
noodkanaal 2182 KHz. De marifoonoproep werd beantwoord door een groep
jachten dat en aantal mijl achter Klondike zat. Een van die jachten heeft
via Iridium autoriteiten in Australië gewaarschuwd, die op haar beurt het
internationale centrum voor piracy in Kuala Lumpur heeft verwittigd.
Klondike heeft uitgebreid rapport uitgebracht, dat is gepubliceerd op
Noonsite, de website van zeilgoeroe Jimmy Cornell. Zie de volgende link:
- Op dinsdag 2 maart halverwege de middag zag Getaway een
vissersboot die aanvankelijk in dezelfde richting voer. De boot voerde haar
snelheid op, maakte een haakse bocht en kwam recht op Getaway af. Op
het zelfde moment werd er op marifoonkanaal 16 gedurende een paar minuten
flink gevloekt en gescholden op een andere partij. Dit gebeurde in Engels
met een accent, en herhaaldelijk werd iemand verordonneerd om een ander
kanaal te gebruiken omdat kanaal 16 een emergency channel is.
Er was echter niets te horen van enig misbruik van kanaal 16 totdat het
gevloek en getier begon. Op deze manier werd Getaway weerhouden van
een mogelijke noodoproep. Uiteindelijk is de vissersboot vlak voor
Getaway langs gevaren, maar heeft haar niet benaderd.
Getaway voer op het moment van het voorval een mijl of 40 achter ons,
en wij hebben dit gevloek en getier op kanaal 16 gehoord. Getaway
heeft dit incident niet op het SSB-net gemeld. Wij hoorden ervan toen ze de
dag erna op zee bij ons aan boord kwamen. De vermoedelijke positie was om en
nabij 13.57 N / 51.08 O, maar dit is een schatting.
- Saltaire is op vrijdag 5 maart om 18.00 uur lokale tijd overvallen door een
zwarte boot met geel tuig van ca 50 voet. Saltaire probeerde de boot vanaf een afstand van 2 mijl te ontwijken, maar
de boot bleef achtervolgen en liep uiteindelijk in. De romp van de boot was
bedekt met gekleurd plastic om de boot onherkenbaar te maken.
Saltaire is niet in
staat geweest om en noodoproep te doen, hetgeen niet verbazingwekkend is,
aangezien er maar 1 persoon aan boord was. Je gaat niet even naar binnen als
je wordt achtervolgd.
Aan boord van deze reddingssloepachtige boot waren Somalische
vluchtelingen, met name vrouwen en kinderen. Drie mannen losten
waarschuwingsschoten. Er was 1 geweer, de andere mannen hadden messen. De
mannen kwamen aan boord en hielden het geweer gericht op de solozeiler. De
buit was: twee marifoons, en SSB zender/ontvanger (maar niet de tuner), twee
fototoestellen en wat geld dat speciaal voor dit doel in een
'nepportemonnee' met verlopen bankpasjes was gestopt, plus nog wat geld dat
ook voor dit doel in een lade was gestopt. De rest van het geld, en andere
zaken waren verstopt, en zijn niet gevonden. De overvallers leken geen
verstand van zeilboten te hebben in die zin dat ze de opbergplekken weten te
vinden. Een man legde zijn hand op de GPS, keek naar de solozeiler, en liet
de GPS vervolgens waar die was. De indruk van de solozeiler was dat de
overvallers geen zaken meenemen die noodzakelijk zijn om te navigeren.
In totaal zijn de overvallers ongeveer 30 minuten aan boord geweest.
- Virgo's Child is op za 6 maart op positie 14.36 N en 49.32 O benaderd
door een schip van de Yemense Coastguard. Virgo's Child was aan het
coasthoppen, en deze positie is ongeveer 7 mijl van de Yemense kust. De
Coastguard verzocht Virgo's Child mee te gaan naar de kust, wat ze weigerde.
Later kwam er een tweede schip van de Coastguard bij. De Coastguard bleef
het verzoek herhalen, gedroeg zich zeer agressief, en bleef Virgo's Child
omcirkelen om te proberen de boot tot stoppen te dwingen.
Virgo's Child probeerde een noodoproep te doen via de marifoon,
hetgeen werd bemoeilijkt doordat op kanaal 16 herhaaldelijk werd gestoord
door een klikkende microfoon. Uiteindelijk is de noodoproep via de marifoon
gelukt, die werd
beantwoord door een coalition warship. Na tientallen minuten kreeg de
official op het tweede schip van de Coastguard een telefoontje, waarna hij
meldde dat Virgo's Child 'free to go' was. Het vermoeden is dat het
coalition warship de Coastguard heeft gebeld, en heeft gemeld dat ze
Virgo's Child met rust moesten laten.
Virgo's Child was dicht bij de Yemense kust. Strikt
genomen heeft de Coastguard het recht om aan boord te komen, en wellicht
ook te verzoeken om mee te gaan naar de kust. Niettemin rechtvaardigt dit
natuurlijk niet zo'n agressieve en bedreigende benadering.
In elk geval vinden wij het onvoorstelbaar dat een groep jachten in dit
gebied aan het coasthoppen is. Aanvankelijk dachten we de ankerplaatsen die
ze op de SSB melden moesten interpreteren als geheime waypoints, maar
dat blijkt nu dus niet zo te zijn.
- Silver Girl leek op zondag 7 maart om 16.00 uur achtervolgd te
worden door een vissersboot. Op positie 14.46 N / 52.00 O zag zag Silver Girl
op 5 mijl afstand een vissersboot op de radar, die
haar kant op kwam. Silver Girl veranderde van koers, en de boot veranderde
mee. De bedoeling van het schip was niet duidelijk, maar Silver Girl
nam geen risico. Ze voerde haar snelheid op tot 10 knopen, en heeft na een half uur haar achtervolger hierdoor af weten te schudden.
Het is mogelijk dat de vissersboot kwaad in de zin had, maar bedelende
vissersboten komen vaker voor in dit gebied. Met wat baksheesh (een
pakje sigaretten, een blikje frisdrank of koekjes of iets dergelijks) kom je
daar meestal wel vanaf.
Volledige tekst van een
webpagina van www.imray.com die niet meer
direct benaderbaar is:
Red Sea Pilot – Reports
of Piracy and Suspected Piracy
Update 09 April
UPDATES: WE REQUEST
REPORTS OF ALL INCIDENTS AGAINST YACHTS IN THE RED SEA AND GULF OF ADEN EVEN IF
YOU WERE NOT PERSONALLY AFFECTED. PLEASE EMAIL TO Morgdav@aol.com cc Imrays,
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
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.
illegal act of violence, detention or any act of depredation committed for
private ends by the crew of a private vessel against another vessel on the high
seas (i.e. in international waters).
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)
What to expect
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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.
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.
Here are some general findings from the incidents we know of:
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.
- 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
- 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
- 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
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
- 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.
The main danger zones at the moment are two:
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.
- 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
- 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.
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 AhmedB@Salalahport.com.
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
An IMO officer in Aden, Capt Roy Facey (Tel/fax +9762 203521), is another
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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
|Central & E Med.,
|Straits of Hormuz
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
DO NOT OVERESTIMATE THE LIKELIHOOD OF AN ATTACK. UNLESS YOU HEAR SHOTS, BE
FRIENDLY. DO NOT PANIC. LEARN SOME ARABIC. USE THE HELP THE LOCAL AUTHORITIES
CAN GIVE BUT BE PREPARED TO RELY ONLY ON EACH OTHER. MAKE SURE YOUR REAL
VALUABLES ARE WELL HIDDEN. HAVE SOME NICE PICKINGS VISIBLE INCLUDING A SMALL
AMOUNT OF CASH (US$50–100) IN A WALLET OR SOMEWHERE THAT LOOKS LIKE YOUR 'SAFE'.
Arms or not?
- 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
- 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
- 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
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 THERE IS A SHIP NEAR BY, PLEASE TRY TO NOTE ITS NAME AND PORT OF REGISTRY
(see Follow-up below for why).
- 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
- 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.
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:
These details should be given to the authorities in Salalah,
Mukalla, Aden, Djibouti or the Hart Group as appropriate (for contact details
- 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,
- 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.
Please also inform us so we can keep this information up to date, email Morgdav@aol.com
(cc Imrays, email@example.com) 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Patrick Flouriot, email@example.com, would also like to be informed.