MSCHOA - Maritime Security Centre Horn of Africa has a warning message for all would-be long-range cruising sailors:
Suspected pirates, caught REUTERS/Jason R. Zalasky/U.S. Navy (SOMALIA)
You may have heard that the number of pirate attacks off Somalia in 2012 reduced significantly compared to the number of attacks in 2011.
You may have also heard that the EU Naval Force (EU NAVFOR) conducted a successful operation in May against known pirate logistic dumps on the Somali shoreline, with the aim of making it much more difficult for pirates to build up their equipment and fuel supplies on the beaches and get out to sea quickly.
Furthermore, you may have heard that disruptions of Pirate Action Groups (PAGs) by Naval Counter Piracy Forces have become more successful and that one of Somalia’s notorious pirate leaders recently announced his retirement...
All the above is true and very much welcomed by Counter Piracy Forces, however, it does not reflect the full picture...
• Pirate Action Groups are still very active across the whole Indian Ocean. (see Map below)
• A confirmed attack on the 13th December 2012 was in the Gulf Of Oman - approximately 1100 nautical miles from Somalia. The most recent attack on the 55 January 2013 was in the Somali Basin.
• Pirate Action Groups are still pirating DHOWs and using them for long range operations to prey on vessels far out to sea.
• Pirate Action Groups have become more desperate because of improved deterrent measures by merchant ships and successful naval operations. Yachtsmen remain an easy target for attacks as they are considered low risk to Pirate Action Groups and perceived to be able to attract high ransoms.
• Hostages are being held for longer periods in captivity – the hostages from MV ICEBERG were released after spending over 1000 gruelling days in captivity.
• As captivity periods have become longer, the treatment of hostages has become more degrading, humiliating and violent.
• Hostages are increasingly being taken ashore – this fits the typical hostage holding pattern for previous yacht hostages.
• A yacht that is attacked by pirates helps to fuel the Somali Pirate Business Model and acts as an incentive for further piracy.
• We all have a shared responsibility in countering this on-going maritime threat in the Indian Ocean.
The joint risk assessment for threats to sailing yachts in the High Risk Area off Somalia has been undertaken by UKMTO, MSCHOA, NATO Shipping Centre and MARLO. Its conclusions are clear and incontrovertible - all sailing yachts under their own passage should remain out of the High Risk Area or face the risk of being attacked and pirated for ransom.
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