We have received a number of queries asking if it is now safe to resume sailing through the High Risk Area of the Gulf of Aden, Somali Basin and the western Indian Ocean because there have been no  incidents reported during July, August and September.  

However, NATO Shipping Centre has reported this week two piracy incidents between 17 October and 23 October in the High Risk Area: one attack and one disruption and there are reports of suspicious activity.  

The South West monsoon has now ended, the most likely reason for this lull in pirate activity, and the calmer sea state and improved weather provide more conducive conditions for pirate activity.  

Avoid transiting the High Risk Area

The advice from the Maritime Security Centre for the Horn of Africa (MSCHOA), NATO Shipping Centre, UK Maritime and other agencies is clear; that all sailing yachts should avoid transiting the High Risk Area in the Indian Ocean for the foreseeable future.  

Stuart Carruthers RYA Cruising Manager "The possibility of attacks and the successful pirating of sailing vessels remain likely due to their vulnerability. Seafarers should be left in no doubt about the very clear and present danger to recreational and other vessels transiting this area".  

All progress to date in the anti-piracy campaign will be undone if seafarers become complacent or drop their guard.  

Alert map produced by the Nato Shipping Centre October 2012

Sailing yachts could be more vulnerable

A number of recent TV news items have suggested that tougher military tactics in the High Risk Area and action to destroy pirate boats and assets ashore mean that the party is ending for the pirates. Plus it also appears that the practice of carrying armed personnel on merchant ships is having a significant effect on their safe passage.  

These factors could however make sailing yachts more vulnerable to attack.

The Nato Shipping Centre is concerned that a reduction in revenue sources from merchant vessels could make sailing yachts even more desirable. They believe that large groups of yachts rather than acting as a deterrent could be seen as a larger target and a bigger source of income.  

If, regardless of this advice, you elect to undertake a voyage in the High Risk Area you should:  

  • Inform Maritime Security Centre Horn of Africa (MSCHOA) at postmaster@mschoa.org with the subject line "Yacht Vessel Movement"; and
  • Maintain regular contact with UKMTO Dubai on +971 50552 3215 or email ukmto@eim.ae and MARLO on marlo.bahrain@me.navy.mil or +973 3940 1395 with position updates.  

Further guidance

The RYA leads an ISAF working group on piracy that maintains contact with the Maritime Security Centre for the Horn of Africa (MSCHOA), which produces information and advice for blue water sailors. 

NATO Shipping Centre (NSC) website is a comprehensive package of advice and daily updates to the merchant shipping industry. However, the PAG Map (continuously updated by watch keepers), the Daily Piracy Overview, as well as the Weekly assessment are all valuable products in order to keep up to date with the current piracy situation.  

Maritime Centre Horn of Africa

Stuart Carruthers Cruising Manager