Regional Considerations:

Horn of Africa


Masters are advised to remain vigilant at all times inside the High Risk Area (HRA) and follow the guidance and protective measures, as set down in BMP4.

Sailing yachts

Sailing yachts should a void transiting t he HR A. Past activity has shown t hat pirates will attack both large and small yachts passing their way. Despite the fact that attacks on merchant vessels appear to have decreased, the possibility of attacks and the successful pirating of sailing vessels remains likely due to their vulnerability and the reduction of revenue sources from pirated merchant vessels.


There have been a number of incidents reported to counter-piracy organizations in the HRA involving small craft approaches on merchant vessels. When reporting, information should be complete, in particular reports to include any piracy related equipment /weapons (ladders/RPGs). Many of these incidents have been assessed as non-piracy related activity and are associated with common patterns of life in the area. These activities include fishing, small vessel trade, smuggling and other local vessel movements.

Fishing activities – possible mix up with piracy

Fishing vessels may approach merchant ships to maximize fishing opportunities or to safeguard fishing nets which have been set. Furthermore fishermen in the region regularly carry small arms on bard their vessels, so the visual identification of a  small arm is not a  positive indicator of pirates. It  is not uncommon for fishing vessels to follow merchant and large vessels in order to capitalize on the often increased numbers of fish in the resultant wake. Please note that, if the NATO Shipping Centre assesses an approach or incident to be piracy-related, we will issue relevant warnings. Please see further information on NSC webpage The Dhow and Skiff Recognition Guide

Weather in HOA:

SW monsoon influence is showing gradual decline. These conditions will last until the North East Monsoon begins, historically around Mid-November. Small boat activity may be observed earlier than this in the more prominent fishing areas and Coastal waters depending on the local conditions.

Piracy Threat:

The threat of piracy against merchant shipping continues throughout the HRA. Successful disruptions by naval forces, in conjunction with masters’ adherence and implementation o f BMP4, have significantly reduced the pirates’ ability to capture vessels. Pirates retain capability of conducting acts of piracy against vessels of opportunity.

Pirate Tactics:

Pirate Attack Groups ( PAGs) have made “soft-approaches” on merchant ships transiting the HRA. Skiffs have been known to approach vessels in order to probe the reaction of t he crew and any possible Privately Contracted Armed Security Personnel (PCASP) on board. If the pirate approach does not elicit a response, the pirates may then proceed with an attack, using additional skiffs. However, the use of BMP4 and the reaction of PCASP have recently been effective in warning off any small boats which might otherwise have had close contact with the transiting vessel.

Continued Vigilance and the use of BMP:

It is imperative that merchant vessels remain vigilant at all times in  transit and/or at anchorage and fully implement protection measures set down in BMP4 across the whole High Risk Area (HRA) as it can make the critical difference of being approached, attacked, or pirated. NSC would like to remind masters that BMP4 highly recommends maintaining best possible vessel speed when transiting the HRA to deter pirate boarding.

Registration & Incident Reporting:

As per Section 5 of BMP4, early registration with MSCHOA before entering the HRA and initial and regular reporting to UKMTO are highly recommended to ensure military authorities are aware of a vessel’s passage and vulnerabilities.

It has been observed that some Masters are choosing to phone their Company Security Officer (CSO) first in the event of a  piracy incident. However, one of the fundamental requirements of BMP4 is that UKMTO is t he primary point of contact for merchant vessels during piracy incidents in the HRA. This aims to avoid unnecessary delay and prevent inaccurate or incomplete information from reaching military commanders. CSOs should ensure their ships’ security plans reinforce the BMP4 recommendation that UKMTO be immediately telephoned at +971 50 55 23215 in the event of any piracy activity. UKMTO will then make it  apriority to contact the CSO with any in formation received whilst ensuring the relevant in formation reaches the military commanders without delay. Masters should provide as much accurate information as possible. This will ensure the incident can be fully assessed and information is quickly provided to other ships in the area for their awareness and vigilance.

Masters should provide as much information as possible about the incident. If Masters are able to take pictures and/or video of  t he suspicious activity safely, please provide these via e mail to UKMTO at, NATO S hipping Centre (NSC) at or MSCHOA at This information will be used by Counter Piracy forces. Pictures supplied from an attack on a merchant vessel have previously led to the rapid release of a pirated dhow. Masters are encouraged to monitor navigational, coastal and local warnings and Notice to Mariners.

Source: NATO Shipping Centre