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Maritime and coastal Agency
MGN 241 (M)

Measures to Counter Piracy, Armed Robbery and

other Acts of Violence against Merchant Shipping
Note to shipowners, Masters etc

This Marine Guidance Note supersedes Marine Guidance Note 75 (M) issued
in June 1998.

This Marine Guidance Note aims to assist ship owners and seafarers in
understanding the risk of
piracy, armed robbery and other acts of violence against ships, and reminds
them of the importance
of taking action to deter such acts and advises on how to deal with them if
they occur.
Key points:
Be vigilant
Reduce opportunities for theft
Establish secure area(s)
Prepare and exercise anti-attack plans
Report all incidents to the coastal and flag state authorities


Permission for use of Marine Guidance Note 241 in the scope of education of foreign (non-
Dutch) seafarers has been granted by the Department of Transport to the Dutch Shipping
Inspectorate by letter ref MSB 5/5/06 of 7 October 2003 and by license from HMSO ref
CO2W0003582 of 4 November 2003.

MGN 241 (M)

Measures to Counter Piracy, Armed Robbery and

other Acts of Violence against Merchant Shipping
Note to shipowners, Masters etc

This Marine Guidance Note supersedes Marine Guidance Note 75 (M) issued in June 1998.


This Marine Guidance Note aims to assist ship owners and seafarers in understanding the risk of
piracy, armed robbery and other acts of violence against ships, and reminds them of the importance
of taking action to deter such acts and advises on how to deal with them if they occur.

Key points:
Be vigilant
Reduce opportunities for theft
Establish secure area(s)
Prepare and exercise anti-attack plans
Report all incidents to the coastal and flag state authorities

INTRODUCTION particular in Indonesian waters. Attacks also

continue to occur in the Indian Sub-Continent,
1. This Marine Guidance Note brings to the and are particularly prevalent in Indian and
attention of ship owners, Masters and crews, Bangladesh waters. Africa has seen a
the risk of acts of piracy on the high seas or significant rise in incidents, and is now second
armed robbery against ships at anchor off ports only to South East Asia in terms of numbers of
or when underway through a coastal State's attacks. Vessels operating in the waters in and
territorial waters. It outlines steps that should around Nigeria and the Ivory Coast are
be taken to reduce the risk of such attacks, susceptible to boarding whilst the vessel is
possible responses to them and the need to stationary (either in port or at anchorage),
report attacks, both successful and whilst vessels in the waters off the North East
unsuccessful, to the authorities of the relevant coast of Somalia and in the Red Sea/Gulf of
coastal State and to the ship's own maritime Aden are at risk of hijack (whilst underway)
administration. with vessels and crews being held to ransom by
armed militia. South America, and notably the
2. Since the last issue of this Guidance Note in port of Santos in Brazil, has witnessed a
June 1998 there has been a noticeable increase in reduction in the number of incidents.
the number and severity of reported incidents.
As at the end of June 2002 the greatest incidence 3. There appears to be a growing trend towards
of armed robberies and attacks against ships threats of unprovoked violence, although the
continued to occur in South East Asia, and in incidence of death or injury to crews has

reduced. Many attacks involve the use of knives the boarding ramp (gangway) between ship
and/or firearms resulting, in some cases, in and shore/ship to ship, or by climbing mooring
death and injury to crewmembers. The majority ropes or anchor chains.
of deaths resulting from piracy and armed
robbery over the last 18 months have resulted Attacks when Underway
from attacks on indigenous vessels and crews
from criminals operating in the nearby vicinity. 6. Attacks on ships whilst underway are
The updating and re-issue of this Guidance particularly prevalent in South East Asian
Note is therefore a timely reminder to seafarers waters. A large proportion of attacks in this area
about the measures that can be put in place to have occurred in the Selat Phillip (Phillip
deter and deal with piracy and armed attacks. Channel) and other Channels used by vessels
Details of such attacks are regularly reported in making passage via the Malacca Straits. Other
Lloyd's List and up to date information can be attacks have taken place in the South China Sea
obtained from the Piracy Reporting Centre in and in waters adjacent to the Philippines. East
Kuala Lumpur and through Travel Advice Africa has recently seen a dramatic increase in
Notices issued by the FCO - see paragraphs 87 attacks on ships, especially off the coast of
to 89 below. Somalia in the Gulf of Aden, and the Red Sea.
Attacks can take place in either international
waters as piracy or, more commonly, as armed
LOCATIONS AND METHODS OF ATTACK robbery in territorial waters of a coastal state.
Recent evidence indicates that it is not safe to
Attacks at Anchor Within port limits or at assume that they are not carrying firearms.
7. Under cover of darkness, again most often
4. A ship at anchor, but not tied alongside is between dusk and dawn, high speed, low
usually boarded from a small boat under the profile craft come alongside the intended target
cover of darkness. Most attacks occur between usually approaching from the stern but also the
2200 and 0600 hrs and the attackers primarily sides if the ship has a low freeboard. It should
board the vessel from the stern or by climbing be noted that vessels travelling at slow speeds,
the anchor chain. Often the raiders will try not especially if this is combined with a low
to alert the crew though they may take and freeboard, are more vulnerable to attack. Access
threaten a crew member hostage either to gain to the ship will often be by climbing up poles or
information or to intimidate and gain control by utilising grappling irons hooked on to the
over the Master or other crew members, or to ship's rail. Attackers have shown considerable
gain access to the crews' quarters. skill and daring and have boarded ships
Communication equipment may be destroyed travelling in excess of 17 knots and with high
to prevent or delay the alarm being raised; freeboards. They have demonstrated
crews' quarters may be raided for portable knowledge of ship's procedures, often seeking
personal possessions; the Master's safe may be to board when bridge and engine room
opened and any cash stolen and there may personnel are fully engaged in navigating
either alternatively or simultaneously be some through congested or restricted waters, and
opening of containers or holds. There is some knowledge of the general layout of the ships
evidence of selective opening of containers or they have attacked. The small craft used by the
holds with high value cargoes implying prior attackers may come from adjacent coastlines or
knowledge of the cargo manifest. The attackers be launched from "mother" ships - larger vessels
may also steal any movable ship's stores. running without lights have occasionally been
Having removed what they can carry, the reported in the vicinity of ships which have
raiders depart. There is some evidence that been attacked.
members of boarding parties have been
recognised as previously having had access to 8. Attackers have boarded ships, made their way
the ship as employees of shore based cleaning to the Master's cabin and intimidated
or other contractors. crewmembers by threats or assault, into
opening the safe. They have then departed
Attacks when tied alongside taking what they can with them without
alerting any other members of the crew. There
5. A ship tied alongside either the quay wall or have also been incidents of crew members being
another vessel is usually boarded by utilising seized and threatened to secure the crew's

compliance. In a number of hijack incidents the previously been paid (e.g. Somalia). If a ship is
entire crew has been seized and locked up. Such hijacked, it is imperative that crewmembers
vessels are often under the control of pirates for adopt an acquiescent attitude and comply with
a considerable period with few, if any, qualified the hijackers demands. Crewmembers should
mariners, themselves under great stress, sailing seek to avoid any actions which may
the vessel. This can lead to a significant risk of antagonise further what are likely to be already
collision or grounding with accompanying loss agitated attackers.
of life or, if an oil tanker or chemical carrier,
major pollution. To mitigate the possibility of attack,
crewmembers should remain vigilant at all
9. Most thefts of ships stores and equipment are times, particularly in remote areas or areas with
carried out on an opportunity basis, a high number of incidents.
particularly when crews appear to be
complacent in their surroundings and less alert.
More professional criminal gangs, including FACTORS ENCOURAGING OR FAVOURING
pirates in South East Asian waters, will target ATTACKERS
high value goods such as cash and valuables in
the ship's safe, crew possessions and any 12. There are two factors which encourage or favour
portable ship's equipment. Such gangs have attackers and on which action should be taken.
also stolen less valuable items in the past,
including paint and mooring lines. Where Cash in the Ship's Safe
there is evidence of tampering with containers
it has been suggested that the raiders may 13. The belief that large sums of cash are carried in
initially have gained access when the ship was the Master's safe attracts attackers. On several
berthed in port and then gone over the side, occasions this belief has been justified and
with what they could carry, when the ship was substantial sums have been stolen. While
underway to be picked up by their accomplices. carrying cash may sometimes be necessary to
In recent cases, when this was suggested, it had meet operational needs and crew requirements
been found that compartments on the ship may and to overcome exchange control restrictions
not have been searched or secure before the in some States, it acts as a magnet for attackers
ship left port. and they will intimidate the Master or other
crew members to open the safe. Even if the cash
Other Attacks is dispersed throughout the ship the attackers
may intimidate crewmembers until the
10. Attacks by pirates or armed robbers have taken locations have been revealed. Ship owners
place outside of the geographical areas should consider ways of eliminating the need to
mentioned above but at a significantly lower carry large sums of cash on board ship. When
frequency. Though the vast majority of attacks this need arises because of exchange control
are to secure cash and steal crew possessions or restrictions imposed by States the matter
portable equipment there are still cases of ships should be referred to the ship's maritime
and their cargoes being seized and the entire administration to consider if representations
cargo, and occasionally the ship, being should be made to encourage a more flexible
disposed of by the attackers. approach as part of the international response
to eliminate attacks by pirates and armed
11. There has also been a recent increase in the robbers. If large sums of money must be carried
number of hijackings and subsequent ransom it is advisable to secrete safes in less obvious
demands, particularly in East African waters. In locations, i.e. not in the Masters cabin, or to
these and other unspecified areas attackers may have a number of safes each with a smaller
seek to hold the crew captive in order to secure amount of money. In either case it may be
a ransom payment, rather than actually steal advantageous to limit the number of people
money, cargo or equipment from the vessel with knowledge of the safes location(s) to the
itself. Some of these demands have been met minimum required for operational purposes.
and this previous success may fuel future Consideration could also be given to alarming
attacks of this type. Therefore, it is important the safes to indicate tampering.
that Masters and crew should be aware of the
increased possibility of this type of attack when Although the incidence of cruise ships being
sailing in areas where ransom demands have targeted by pirates or terrorists is extremely

low, these vessels are attractive to those groups The Anti-Attack Plan
set on unlawful activity due to the money and
valuables carried by their passengers. As the 17. All ships operating in waters where attacks
attackers develop more sophisticated tactics occur should have an anti-attack plan. The anti-
and employ increasingly sophisticated attack plan should be prepared having regard
equipment, so the threat of an attack on a cruise to the risks that may be faced, the crew
ship increases. By virtue of their size (deck numbers available, their capability and
height) and the size of their crews, these ships training, the ability to establish secure areas on
are currently less susceptible to attack whilst board the ship and the surveillance and
underway than most other vessels. However, detection equipment that has been provided.
extra vigilance should be maintained when The plan should, inter alia, cover:
these ships are in port (tied alongside).
the need for enhanced watch keeping, and the
Smaller Crews use of lighting and surveillance, detection or
perimeter protection equipment;
14. The smaller crew numbers found on board
crew responses if a potential attack is detected
most ships also favour the attacker. A small
or an attack is underway;
crew engaged in ensuring the safe navigation of
their ship through congested or confined the radio and alarm procedures to be followed,
waters will have the additional onerous task of and
maintaining high levels of security surveillance the reports that should be made after an attack,
for prolonged periods. Ship owners should or an attempted attack.
ensure that security watches are enhanced if
their vessel is in waters, or at anchor off ports, 18. Anti-attack plans should ensure that Masters
where attacks occur. Ship owners should also and crews are made fully aware of the risks
consider providing appropriate surveillance involved during attacks by pirates or armed
and detection equipment to aid their crews and robbers. In particular it should address the
protect their ships. The provision of piracy dangers that may arise if a crew adopts an
alarm systems on bridge wings and other aggressive response to an attack. Early
vulnerable/lookout positions should be detection of a possible attack is the most
considered. Ship owners should also consider effective deterrent. Aggressive responses once
whether there is a need for additional security an attack is underway, and in particular once
personnel to be carried in areas of high risk. If the attackers have boarded the ship, could
such a decision is taken, companies should seek significantly increase the risk to the ship and
to verify the bona fides of any security those on board.
personnel they may engage locally.
Routing and Delaying Anchoring
RECOMMENDED PRACTICES 19. If at all possible ships should be routed away
from areas where attacks are known to take
15. The recommended practices outlined below are place and in particular seek to avoid bottle
based on reports of incidents, advice published necks. If ships are approaching ports where
by commercial interests and organisations and attacks have taken place on ships at anchor,
measures developed to enhance ship security. rather than on vessels underway, and it is
The extent to which the recommendations are known that the ship will have to anchor off port
followed or applied are matters solely for the for some time, consideration should be given to
owners or Masters of vessels operating in areas delaying anchoring by slow steaming or longer
where attacks may occur. routing to remain well off shore thereby
reducing the period during which the ship will
16. If possible appropriate risk assessments should be at risk. Charter party agreements should
be conducted by the owners or Master, prior to recognise that ships may need to delay arrival
a vessel entering areas of high incidence, to at ports where attacks occur, either when no
determine whether additional security berth is available for the ship, or off shore
personnel and/or measures are required. loading or unloading will be delayed for a
protracted period.

Prior to Entering Areas where Attacks Occur to prevent a potential attacker from establishing
a routine which can then be exploited.
20. Prior to the ship entering an area where attacks
have occurred the ship's crew should have 24. Given that attackers may use knowledge of
practised and perfected the procedures set cargo manifests to select their targets every
down in the ship's anti-attack plan. Alarm effort should be made to limit the circulation of
signals and procedures should have been documents which give information on the
thoroughly practised. If instructions are to be cargoes on board or their location on the ship.
given over the ship's address systems or
personal radios they must be clearly 25. Prior to leaving port the ship should be
understood by those who may not have fully thoroughly searched and all doors or access
mastered the language in which the points secured or controlled. This is particularly
instructions will be given. To this end, code important in the case of the bridge, engine
words could be employed to simplify the room, steering space and other vulnerable
issuing of instructions, and the initiation of pre- areas. Doors and access points should be
rehearsed responses regularly checked thereafter. The means of
controlling doors or access points which would
21. It cannot be emphasised enough that all need to be used in the event of an on board
possible access points to the ship and any emergency will need careful consideration.
secure and key areas on it must be secured or Ship or crew safety should not be
controlled in port, at anchor and when the compromised.
vessel is underway (but see also paragraphs 25
and 48). Crews should be trained in the use of Watchkeeping and Vigilance
any additional surveillance or detection
equipment installed on the vessel. Planning and 26. Maintaining vigilance is essential. All too often
training must be on the basis that an attack will the first indication of an attack has been when
take place and not in the belief that with some the attackers appear on the bridge or in the
luck it will not happen. Indications to attackers Master's cabin. Advance warning of a possible
that the ship has an alert and trained crew attack will give the opportunity to sound
implementing an anti-attack plan could help alarms, alert other ships and the coastal
deter them from attacking the ship. authorities, illuminate the suspect craft or
undertake evasive manoeuvring or initiate
At Anchor or in Port other response procedures. Signs that the ship is
aware it is being approached can deter attackers.
22. In areas where attacks occur it is important to
limit, record and control those who are allowed 27. When ships are in, or approaching, areas where
access to a ship when it is in port or at anchor. attacks take place bridge watches and look outs
Photographing those who board the ship can be should be doubled. Additional watches on the
a useful deterrent or assist the identification of stern or covering radar "blind spots" should be
attackers who may have had access to the ship considered. Companies should consider
prior to their attack. Film need only be investing in low light binoculars for bridge staff
developed in the event of a subsequent attack. and look-outs. Radar stations should be
It may also be beneficial to site CCTV constantly manned, although it may be difficult
equipment in such a way as to ensure coverage to detect low profile fast moving craft on a
of areas vulnerable to infiltration e.g. the stern, ship's radar. A yacht radar mounted on the
low freeboards, the hawse pipe/hole and the stern may provide additional radar cover
chain locker (see paragraphs 45 and 46). capable of detecting small craft approaching
from astern when the vessel is underway. Use
23. In high-risk areas, it is recommended that the of an appropriately positioned yacht radar
Master organises a system of regular deck when the vessel is at anchor may also provide
patrols, and that they be conducted by a warning of the close approach of small craft.
sufficient number of crew to ensure personal
safety. The crewmembers conducting the patrol 28. It is particularly important to maintain a radar
should be suitably equipped with two-way and visual watch for craft which may be trailing
radios to ensure instant communication with the vessel when underway, but which could
the bridge, concentrate on vulnerable areas of close with the vessel quickly when mounting an
the vessel and be staggered (irregular intervals) attack. Small craft which appear to be matching

the speed of the vessel on a parallel or use on Digital Selective Calling (DSC)
following course should always be treated with equipment. Where practicable and appropriate,
suspicion. When a suspect craft has been DSC equipment should be modified to
noticed it is important that an effective all incorporate this facility. Masters should ensure
round watch is maintained in case the obvious that all procedures to generate a distress alert
craft is a decoy. A decoy could be used to divert on any communications equipment are clearly
the attention of the ships crew away from a marked on, or near, the equipment and all
second craft, which could then be used to board appropriate crewmembers briefed on their
the ship unobtrusively. operation.

29. Companies owning ships that frequently visit 32. Masters should bear in mind the possibility that
areas where attacks occur should consider the attackers are monitoring ship to shore
purchase and use of more sophisticated visual communications and using intercepted
and electronic devices in order to augment both information to select their targets. Caution
radar and visual watch capability against should, therefore, be exercised when
attackers' craft at night, thereby improving the transmitting information on cargo or valuables
prospects of obtaining an early warning of a on board by radio in areas where attacks occur.
possible attack. Additional advice on more
sophisticated equipment appropriate for use on
British ships will be provided on request
through the Department for Transport, Great Radio Watchkeeping and Responses
Minster House, 76 Marsham Street, London
SW1P 4DR. 33. A constant radio watch should be maintained
with the appropriate shore or naval authorities
Radio Procedures when in areas where attacks have occurred.
Continuous watch should also be maintained
30. A suitably qualified Radio Operator should be on all distress and safety frequencies,
on duty at all times when ships are in, or particularly VHF Channel 16 and 2182 kHz.
approaching, areas where attacks occur. This Ships should also ensure all maritime safety
duty should not be performed by the Master information broadcasts for the area are
though, on occasions, this may be unavoidable. monitored. As it is anticipated that
Since the mandatory introduction of GMDSS in INMARSAT's enhanced group calling system
February 1999, the Navigational Officer on (EGC) will normally be used for such
Watch (OOW) often carries out the duties of a broadcasts using the SafetyNET(SM) service,
Radio Operator. To ensure that a vessels bridge owners should ensure a suitably configured
is adequately manned when transiting EGC receiver is continuously available when in,
potentially hazardous waters, it is advisable or approaching, areas where there is a risk of
that a duly qualified, dedicated Radio Operator attack. Owners should also consider fitting a
perform Radio Watch duty. This contingency dedicated receiver for this purpose, i.e. one that
allows the OOW and the Master to concentrate is not incorporated into a ship earth station
on navigational duties and maintaining the used for commercial purposes, to ensure no
extra vigilance that is required when operating urgent broadcasts are missed.
in high-risk areas.
(Masters should note that as detailed in
31. Prior to entering areas where attacks have paragraph 87 of this Note, the IMB Piracy
occurred Radio Operators should practice and Reporting Centre broadcasts daily status
perfect all appropriate radio operational reports to ships in Indian, Atlantic and
procedures and ensure all transmitters, Pacific Ocean Regions on the SafetyNET
including satellite ship earth stations, are fully service of Inmarsat C at 0001 UTC each day).
operational and available for immediate use on
distress and safety frequencies. Where an 34. The International Maritime Organisation (IMO)
INMARSAT ship earth station is provided it recommends in MSC Circular 597, issued
may prove useful to draft and store "standard August 1992 and supplemented by an
messages" (see paragraph 40) for ready use in Addendum issued in May 1993, that reports
an emergency in either the equipment's concerning attacks by pirates or armed robbers
memory or on computer disk. A special code for should be made to the relevant Rescue Co-
'piracy/armed robbery attack' is available for ordination Centre (RCC) for the area.

Information on RCCs may be found in the longer necessary. This message of cancellation
Search and Rescue Section of volume 5 of the should likewise be addressed to "all stations".
Admiralty List of Radio Signals. MSC Circular
597 also recommends that governments should 38. Should an attack occur and, in the opinion of
arrange for the RCCs to be able to pass reports the Master, the ship or crew are in grave and
of attacks to the appropriate law enforcement imminent danger requiring immediate
agencies or naval authorities. The IMO assistance, he should immediately authorise the
subsequently published MSC Circular 622/Rev broadcast of a Distress message, preceded by
1 in June 1999. This circular gives detailed the appropriate distress alerts (MAYDAY, SOS,
recommendations to Governments to assist in DSC, etc), using the radio communication
the prevention and suppression of piracy and systems most appropriate for the area taking
armed robbery against ships. In May 2002 the into account its GMDSS designation; i.e. A1, A2,
IMO published MSC Circular 623/Rev 3 as A3 or A4. The appropriate RCC should
an equivalent guide to ship owners and acknowledge receipt and attempt to establish
ship operators communications. To minimise delay, if using a
ship earth station, ships should ensure the coast
35. In the event Masters are unable to contact the earth station associated with the RCC is used.
relevant RCC, it is recommended that they
report the incident to the IMB Piracy Reporting 39. Masters should bear in mind that the distress
Centre, which in turn, will pass the message to signal is provided for use only in case of
appropriate authorities. Contact details of the imminent danger and its use for less urgent
IMB Piracy Reporting Centre are listed in purposes might result in insufficient attention
paragraph 87. being paid to calls from ships really in need of
immediate assistance. Care and discretion must
36. If suspicious movements are identified which be employed in its use, to prevent its
may result in an imminent attack, the ship is devaluation in the future. Where the
advised to contact the relevant RCC. Where the transmission of the Distress signal is not fully
Master believes these movements could justified use should be made of the Urgency
constitute a direct danger to navigation, signal. The Urgency signal has priority over all
consideration should be given to broadcasting communications other than distress.
an "All Stations (CQ) "danger message"" as a
warning to other ships in the vicinity as well as Standard Message Formats
advising the appropriate RCC. A danger
message should be transmitted in plain 40. The standard formats for:
language on a VHF working frequency
following an announcement on VHF Channel initial messages - piracy attack alert, and
16, and/or transmission of a DSC call on VHF
piracy attack/sighting/suspicious act reports
Channel 70 using the "safety" priority. All such
which were agreed by the IMO Sub-Committee
messages shall be preceded by the safety
on Radio Communications in January 1993 and
signal (Securite).
updated by MSC Circular 622/Rev 1 published
in June 1999, are set out in Appendix 1.
37. When, in his opinion, there is conclusive
evidence that the safety of his ship is
In addition, guidance for the use of radio
threatened, the Master should immediately
signals by ships under attack or threat of attack
contact the relevant RCC and, if considered
from pirates or armed robbers is available in
appropriate, authorise broadcast of an "All
Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) Circular 805
Stations" "Urgency Message" on VHF Channel
published in June 1997. This circular
16, 2182 kHz, or any other radio
recommends that an "Piracy/Armed Robbery
communications service he considers
Attack Message" should be sent through
appropriate; e.g., INMARSAT. All such
INMARSAT-C or on an available DSC or other
messages shall be preceded by the appropriate
distress and safety frequency. Given that some
Urgency Signal (PAN PAN) and/or a DSC call
pirates may carry equipment capable of
on VHF Channel 70 and/or 2187.5 kHz using
detecting all radio signals, including satellite
the "all ships urgency" category. If the Urgency
communications, this circular also recommends
signal has been used and an attack does not, in
that communication should not be attempted if
fact, develop the ship should cancel the
a ship has been boarded and its crew
message as soon as it knows that action is no

specifically ordered to maintain radio silence. this end it is recommended that crews be
instructed on how to preserve and enhance
Secreted VHF Transceiver their night vision. Crewmembers can maximise
their visual acuity by the simple expedient of
41. As a result of communications equipment being not looking directly at the intended point. By
damaged in the past by attackers to prevent an focussing a few degrees (any direction) off the
early alarm being raised, particularly when target, peripheral vision is utilised, and this is
attacks have taken place off port, owners and better suited to both motion detection and night
Masters are recommended to secrete a VHF sight. Ensuring that crews are adequately
transceiver on the ship to allow contact to be briefed and trained is essential and thought
established with the shore authorities if the should be given on how to warn crewmembers
main communications equipment is put out of that light is about to be employed, without
action. Consideration could also be given to the forewarning the attackers.
installation of handheld iridium telephones.
These sets have a longer range than the At anchor
traditional VHF transceiver, and would allow
the ships Master to inform, and converse with, 44. The above lighting requirements under the
more distant authorities as well as the Collision Regulations are not applicable when
authorities in the region of the attack. vessels are at anchor or in port, and crews are at
liberty to light their ships as they see fit (as long
Lighting When underway as they do not dazzle other mariners).
However, many vessels are not adequately
42. Ships should use the maximum lighting fitted with deck lights and are thus poorly lit
available consistent with safe navigation, having even when all of them are switched on. To
regard in particular to the provisions of Rule reduce the number of areas vulnerable to night
20(b) of the 1972 Collision Regulations. Bow, and infiltration, it is recommended that the existing
overside lights should be left on if possible. number, or at least the placement, of deck lights
Ships must not keep on deck lights when is reconsidered. Lighting of vulnerable areas
underway as it may lead other ships to assume could be linked to an alarm system or
the ship is at anchor. Wide beam floods could detection/surveillance equipment.
illuminate the area astern of the ship. Signal
projector lights can be used systematically to
probe for suspect craft using radar guidance if CCTV
possible. So far as is practicable crew members
on duty outside the ship's secure areas when in 45. As an additional deterrent, deck lighting
port, or at anchor, should avail themselves of directed on vulnerable areas of the ships
shadow and avoid being silhouetted by deck superstructure, e.g. the stern, freeboards, the
lights, as this may make them targets for seizure hawse pipe/hole and the chain locker could be
by approaching attackers. augmented by effective CCTV coverage.

43. It has been suggested that ships should travel 46. Owners may also wish to consider providing
blacked out except for mandatory navigation closed-circuit television (CCTV) coverage, and
lights. This may prevent attackers establishing recording of, the main access points to the ships
points of reference when approaching a ship. In secure areas (see paragraphs 47-50), the
addition turning on the ship's lights as attackers corridors approaching the entrances to key
approach could alert them that they have been areas and the bridge. If possible the recording
seen, dazzle them, and encourage them to equipment should be housed in a secure
desist. It is difficult, however, to maintain full environment, or at least in an unintrusive place
blackout on a merchant ship. The effectiveness so that there is an increased chance of it
of this approach will ultimately depend in part surviving any attack on the vessel.
on the level of moonlight, but primarily on the
vigilance and light discipline (the control of Secure Areas
emitted light) of the ship's crew. While
suddenly turning on the ship's lights may 47. In accordance with the ship's anti-attack plan,
alarm or dazzle attackers it could also place the all doors allowing access to the bridge, engine
crew at a disadvantage at a crucial point room, steering gear compartments, officers'
through temporary loss of their night vision. To cabins and crew accommodation should be

secured and controlled at all times and should the point at which the attackers may board, or
be regularly inspected. The intention should be have boarded, may help crew members in
to establish secure areas which attackers will exposed locations select the most appropriate
find difficult to penetrate. Consideration route to return to a secure area.
should be given to the installation of special
access control systems to the ship's secure areas. Evasive Manoeuvring and Use of Hoses
Ports, scuttles and windows, which could
provide access to such secure areas should be 52. Provided that navigational safety allows,
securely closed and should have laminated Masters should consider "riding off" attackers
glass if possible. Deadlights should be shut and craft by heavy wheel movements as they
clipped tightly. The internal doors within approach. The effect of the bow wave and wash
secure areas which give immediate access to may deter would be attackers and make it
key areas such as the bridge, radio office, difficult for them to attach poles or grappling
engine room and Master's cabin should be irons to the ship. Manoeuvres of this kind
strengthened and have special access control should not be used in confined or congested
systems and automatic alarms. waters or close inshore or by vessels
constrained by their draught in the confined
48. Securing doors providing access to, and egress deep water routes found, for example in the
from, secure or key areas may give rise to Malacca and Singapore Straits.
concern over safety in the event of an accident.
In any situation where there is a conflict 53. The use of water hoses could also be considered
between safety and security, the safety though the use of such equipment may be
requirements should be paramount. inappropriate in regions that have a high
Nevertheless, attempts should be made to incidence of attackers employing firearms. It is
incorporate appropriate safety provisions while at the Masters discretion as to whether such a
allowing accesses and exits to be secured or defensive measure should be employed, and
controlled. careful consideration must pre-empt any such
order to crewmembers. Hoses may also be
49. To prevent seizure of individual crew members difficult to train on an approaching vessel if
by attackers - seizure and threatening a crew evasive manoeuvring is also taking place.
member is one of the more common means of However, water pressures of 80 lb per square
attackers gaining control over a ship - all crew inch and above have deterred and repulsed
members not engaged on essential outside attackers. Not only does the attacker have to
duties should remain within a secure area fight against the jet of water, but the flow may
during the hours of darkness. Those whose swamp their boat and damage engines and
duties necessarily involve working outside electrical systems. Special fittings for training
such areas at night should remain in constant hoses could be considered which would also
communication with the bridge and should provide protection for the hose operator. A
have practised using alternative routes to number of spare fire hoses could be rigged and
return to a secure area in the event of an attack. tied down at vulnerable areas of the ship e.g.
Crew members who fear they may not be able the stern whilst underway and anchor
to return to a secure area during an attack points/gangways whilst at anchor. These hoses
should select places in advance in which they could then be pressurised at short notice if a
can take temporary refuge. potential attack is detected.

50. There should be designated muster areas 54. Employing evasive manoeuvres and hoses must
within the ship's secure areas where the crew rest on a determination to successfully deter
can muster during an attack and communicate attackers or to delay their boarding long
their location and numbers to the bridge. enough to allow all crewmembers to gain the
sanctuary of secure areas. Continued heavy
Alarms wheel movements with attackers on board may
lessen their confidence that they will be able to
51. Alarm signals, including the ship's whistle, return safely to their craft and may persuade
should be sounded on the approach of them to disembark quickly. However, responses
attackers. Alarms and signs of response can of this kind could lead to reprisals by the
discourage attackers. Alarm signals or attackers if they seize crewmembers, and
announcements which provide an indication at should not be engaged in unless the Master is

confident that they can be used to advantage 58. When attackers are on board the actions of the
and without risk to those on board. They Master and crew should be aimed at:
should not be used if the attackers have already
seized crewmembers. securing the greatest level of safety for those on
board the vessel;
Use of Distress Flares
seeking to ensure that the crew remain in
control of the navigation of the vessel, and
55. The only flares authorised for carriage on board
ship are intended for use if the vessel is in securing the earliest possible departure of the
distress and is in need of immediate assistance. attackers from the vessel.
As with the unwarranted use of the Distress
signal on the radio (see paragraph 39 above) If the crew is able to maintain control of the
use of distress flares simply to alert shipping vessel it is advisable, when navigating in
rather than to indicate that the vessel is in grave confined waters, to reduce speed and/or head
and imminent danger may reduce their effect in for open waters if possible. This recourse may
the situations in which they are intended to be reduce the risk of grounding or collision if the
used and responded to. Radio transmissions attackers were to gain control of the vessel in
should be used to alert shipping of the risk of the future.
attacks rather than distress flares. Distress flares
should only be used when the Master considers 59. The options available to the Master and crew
that the attackers actions are putting his ship in will depend on the extent to which the attackers
imminent danger. have secured control of the vessel. If attackers
gain access to the bridge or engine room, or
Firearms seize crewmembers who they can threaten, the
Master or crew may be coerced into complying
56. The carrying and use of firearms for personal with their wishes. However, even if the crew
protection or protection of a ship is strongly are all safely within secure areas the Master will
discouraged and will not be authorised by the always have to consider the overall risk to the
Government of the United Kingdom. Carriage ship, and the damage the attackers could cause
of arms on board ship may also encourage outside those secure areas, e.g. by using
attackers to carry firearms, thereby escalating firebombs to start fires on a tanker or chemical
an already dangerous situation, and any carrier.
firearms on board may themselves become an
attractive target for an attacker. The use of 60. If the Master is certain that all his crew are
firearms requires special training and aptitudes within secure areas and that the attackers
and the risk of accidents with firearms carried cannot gain access, or by their actions outside
on board ship is great. In some jurisdictions the secure areas place the entire ship at
killing a national may have unforeseen imminent risk, then he may consider
consequences even for a person who believes undertaking evasive manoeuvres of the type
he has acted in self- defence. referred to in paragraph 52 (above) to
encourage the attackers to return to their craft.
If Attackers Board The possibility of a sortie by a well organised
crew has, in the past, successfully persuaded
57. Early detection of potential attacks must be the attackers to leave a ship but the use of this
first line of defence, action to prevent the tactic is only appropriate if it can be undertaken
attackers actually boarding the second, but at no risk to the crew.
there will be incidents when attackers succeed
in boarding a vessel. The majority of pirates 61. For an action like this to be attempted the
and armed robbers are opportunists seeking an Master must have clear knowledge of where the
easy target and time may not be on their side, attackers are on the ship, that they are not
particularly if the crew are aware they are carrying firearms or other potentially lethal
aboard and are raising the alarm. However, the weapons and that the number of crew involved
attackers may seek to compensate for the significantly outnumbers the attackers they will
pressure of time they face by escalating their face. If a sortie party can use water hoses they
threats or the violence they employ. stand an increased chance of success. The
intention should be to encourage the attackers
back to their craft. Crew members should not

seek to come between the attackers and their pirates/robbers may carry equipment capable
craft nor should they seek to capture attackers of detecting all radio signals, including satellite
as to do so may increase the resistance the communication.
attackers offer, which will in turn increase the
risk faced by members of the sortie party. Once Action After an Attack and Reporting Incidents
outside the secure area the sortie party should
always stay together. Pursuit of an individual 67. An immediate post attack report should be
attacker by a lone crew member should not be made to the relevant RCC and through them to
undertaken, as it may result in the crewmember the law enforcement agencies or naval
being isolated and seized by the attackers and authorities of the coastal State. As well as
the advantage turning to the attackers. information on the identity and location of the
Crewmembers should operate together and ship, any injuries to crew members or damage
remain in constant communication with the to the ship should be reported as should the
bridge and should be recalled if their line of direction in which the attackers departed
withdrawal to a secure area is threatened. together with brief details of their numbers
and, if possible, a description of their craft. If
62. If the crew do apprehend an attacker he should the crew have apprehended an attacker that
be placed in secure confinement and well cared should also be reported in this signal. (See
for. Arrangements should be made to transfer Appendix 1 for more structured guidance).
him to the custody of law enforcement officers
or naval authorities of a coastal State at the 68. If an attack has resulted in the death of or
earliest possible opportunity. Any evidence serious injury to any person on board the ship
relating to his activities should also be handed or serious damage to the ship itself, an
over to the authorities who take him into immediate signal should also be sent to the
custody. ship's maritime administration. There are, in
any event, statutory requirements covering the
If Attackers Gain Control duty to report deaths, serious injuries or serious
damage to a ship to the maritime
63. If the attackers have gained control of the administration. In any event a report of an
engine room or bridge, have seized crew attack is vital if follow up action is to be taken
members or pose an imminent threat to the by the ship's maritime administration.
safety of a ship, the Master or officer in charge
should remain calm and, if possible, seek to 69. Any CCTV or other recordings of the incident
negotiate with the attackers with the intention should be secured. If practicable, areas that
of maintaining the crew's control over the have been damaged or rifled should be secured
navigation of the ship, the safe return of any and remain untouched by crewmembers
hostages they may hold and the early departure pending possible forensic examination by the
of the attackers from the ship. There will be law enforcement agencies of a coastal State.
many circumstances when compliance with the Crewmembers who came in contact with the
attackers' demands will be the only safe attackers should be asked to prepare an
alternative and when resistance or obstruction individual report on their experience noting in
of any kind could be both futile and dangerous. particular any distinguishing features, which
could help subsequent identification of the
64. In the event of attackers gaining temporary attackers. A full inventory, including a
control of the vessel, crew members should, if it description of any personal possessions or
is safe and practicable, leave CCTV recorders equipment taken, with serial numbers when
running. known, should also be prepared.

65. As there have been occasions when entire crews 70. As soon as possible after the incident a fuller
have been locked up consideration should be report should be transmitted to the authorities
given to secreting equipment within areas in of the coastal State in whose waters the attack
which the crew could be detained to facilitate occurred, or if on the high seas to the
their early escape. authorities of the nearest coastal State. Due and
serious consideration should be given to
66. If ordered not to make any form of transmission complying with any request made by the
informing shore authorities of the attack, any competent authorities of the coastal State to
such order should be complied with as the allow law enforcement officers to board the

vessel, take statements from crew members and ship, its crew and its cargo and to then mitigate
undertake forensic and other investigations. the risks by the introduction of appropriate
Copies of any CCTV recordings, photographs, security measures.
etc should be provided if they are available.
76. As well as the possibility of engaging
71. Any report transmitted to a coastal state as additional crew to carry out specific security
recommended under paragraph 67 should also related duties mentioned in paragraph 14,
be transmitted to the ship's maritime owners or operators of vessels may also
administration at the earliest opportunity. A consider equipping their vessels with
complete report of the incident, including specialised passive security equipment, e.g.
details of any follow up action that was taken or thermal imagers and/or night scopes. This
difficulties that may have been experienced, equipment should be both commensurate with
should eventually be submitted to the ship's the size and type of vessel and the perceived
maritime administration. level of risk. We also recommend that all vessels
should be fitted with a Ship Tracking System
72. The reports received by maritime
administrations may be used in any diplomatic SUMMARY OF GENERAL PRECAUTIONS
approaches made by the Government of the
United Kingdom to the Government of the 77. For ease of reference a summary of the general
coastal State about the incident and will also precautions that may be taken are given in
provide the basis for the United Kingdom's Appendix 3.
report (through the Department for Transport
in London) to the IMO, required under the
relevant IMO Assembly Resolutions on piracy JURISDICTION AND INTERVENTION
and armed robbery at sea. The format required
for reports to the IMO is attached at Appendix Criminal Jurisdiction
2. Indeed, historically the lack of adequate and
accurate reporting of attacks (although there 78. Piracy is an offence committed on the high seas,
has been a gradual improvement) has directly or in a place outside the jurisdiction (territorial
affected the ability to secure governmental and sea) of any State. A person who has been
international action. Reports may also apprehended on the high seas for committing
contribute to future refining and updating of acts of piracy, robbery and/or other violent acts
the advice in this Marine Guidance Note. against merchant shipping, therefore should be
dealt with under the laws of the flag State of his
73. Reports to the RCC, coastal State and the ship's captors by mutual agreement with other
maritime administration should also be made if substantially interested States. (See MSC
an attack has been unsuccessful. Circular 622/Rev 1 for definitions and
additional information/guidance).
74. It is hoped that using RCCs as recommended
by the IMO in MSC Circular 597 (contact details 79. Within territorial waters, jurisdiction over
provided by Addendum 1 (May 1993) to the armed robbers or pirates rests solely with the
above Circular) will eliminate communication coastal State.
difficulties. However, if a British ship
experiences difficulties in establishing, or has Naval Intervention
been unable to establish, contact with the
authorities of the relevant coastal State a signal, 80. International law requires any warship or other
an Email or fax should be sent to the government vessel to repress piracy on the high
Department for Transport outlining the seas. Such vessels would be expected to take
difficulties experienced. action if they encountered pirates, or come to
Email: the aid of any vessel under attack by pirates, on
Fax: 0207 944 2174 the high seas. A naval vessel of any State can
pursue pirates on the high seas, but not into the
territorial waters of another State without that
SECURITY MEASURES State's prior consent.

75. It is the responsibility of the owner or the 81. Foreign naval vessels on innocent passage
operator of the vessel to ascertain the risk to the within the territorial waters of another State

cannot exercise any enforcement powers or 85. Ships entering such areas must be aware of the
pursue attackers without prior authorisation risk of attack and should take appropriate
from the coastal State. However, they may measures to increase the level of surveillance
render humanitarian assistance to a vessel in and security on board and to devise means of
danger or distress. responding to attacks if the opportunity arises.
A clearly drafted anti-attack plan and the
82. Ships from the Royal Navy will take all training of crews in security measures and
appropriate measures to respond to incidents of response techniques is essential. Without
piracy on the high seas, and to provide clearly defined and rigorously practised
humanitarian assistance to vessels attacked in procedures the risk of an uncoordinated
territorial waters, whenever they are on hand to response during the inevitable confusion of an
do so. However, the likelihood of a Royal Navy attack increases the danger faced by those on
vessel being nearby when an incident occurs, board the ship. While an anti-attack plan and
particularly in distant waters, will not be great. crew training may not prevent an attack they
British ships will therefore need to rely on their should help reduce the risks, variables and
own vigilance and resources to prevent attacks confusion when an attack is taking place.
and on the capability of coastal States to
suppress piracy or armed robbery. 86. By their nature, attacks by pirates or armed
robbers can pose an immediate threat to the
Role of the Coastal State safety of a ship or to individual crewmembers.
When preparing to respond, or when
83. The Government of the United Kingdom looks responding to attacks, Masters and crews
to the coastal State to ensure the safety and should seek to minimise the risk to those on
freedom from attack of ships exercising rights board and seek to maintain effective control
of innocent passage in the territorial sea of a over the safe navigation of the ship. In any
coastal State and in their ports. The balance that has to be struck between resistance
Government also looks to the coastal State to and safety, actions which secure the greatest
pursue, prosecute and punish pirates or armed level of safety must be preferred.
robbers who may operate, reside or have their
base of operations in their territory. The PIRACY REPORTING CENTRE
activities of pirates and armed robbers now
pose a real threat not only to those on board 87. The latest information on piracy attacks and the
ship, but also to the territory and interests of regions of greatest risk may be obtained free of
coastal States through the threat of a major charge from the ICC International Maritime
pollution incident following an attack. The Bureau's Piracy reporting Centre at Kuala
Government urges ship owners, Masters and Lumpur. The centre operates 24 hours a day
crews to co-operate to the greatest possible and can be contacted as follows:
extent with the authorities of coastal States in Tel ++ 60 3 2078 5763
their efforts to pursue and prosecute attackers. Fax ++ 60 3 2078 5769
Telex MA31880 IMBPCI
The Centre issues status reports and warning
84. Attacks by pirates and armed robbers are on the messages on the SafetyNET service of Inmarsat
increase. They pose a real threat not only to C at 0001 UTC each day.
those on board ship but also to the interests of
coastal States. Coastal States in whose waters The Centre also posts a weekly update of
armed robberies occur or in whose territory attacks on the Internet at This
pirates are based are taking action. However, it update posted every Tuesday is compiled from
is essential that the owners, Masters and crews the Centres daily status bulletins to ship at sea.
of vessels operating in waters where attacks
occur take appropriate measures themselves,
such as those outlined in this Marine Guidance TRAVEL ADVICE NOTICES
Notice, to guard against attack, to minimise the
risks if an attack takes place, to report attacks 88. Information on personal safety is available
and to co-operate in criminal investigations if through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office
requested to do so. (FCO) and can be obtained by contacting the

FCO or British Embassies, High Commissions
and Consulates in the area concerned.

89. The full range of notices is available on the

FCO's World Wide Web server on the internet.
The email address is
The Travel Advice Unit can also be contacted
direct Monday to Friday on 0207 008
0232/0233, between 0930 and 1600 hours UTC
(or between 0830 and 1500 from March to
October). Alternatively it can be faxed on:
0207 008 0155.


90. An Addendum to this Marine Guidance Note

will be issued, as required, advising of
significant changes in the locations and/or
patterns or methods of attack. The text of this
Marine Guidance Note may be amended to
reflect experience based on the reports
submitted to maritime administrations and also
on reports submitted to the IMO by other flag
States or by coastal States.

Maritime Branch
Transport Security Division (TRANSEC)
Department for Transport
Great Minster House,
76 Marsham Street,
London SW1P 4DR

Telephone: 0207 944 2845;

Fax: 0207 944 2174;
TRANSEC website:

File Ref: MSB5/13/02

November 2002
Crown copyright 2002

Safer Lives, Safer Ships, Cleaner Seas



1. Vessel's name and call sign/INMARSAT ID (plus ocean region code) IMO number and MMSI.



2. Vessel's position (and time of position UTC) including Course Speed

3. Nature of Event.

It is expected that this message will be a Distress Message because the vessel or persons will be in
grave or imminent danger when under attack. Where this is not the case, the word
MAYDAY/DISTRESS ALERT is to be omitted.

Use of distress priority (3) in the INMARSAT system will not require MAYDAY/DISTRESS ALERT to
be included.


1. Vessel's name call sign and IMO number.

2. Reference initial PIRACY/ARMED ROBBERY ALERT.

3. Position of incident.

4. Date/time of incident (UTC).

5. Details of incident, eg
Method of attack.
Description of suspect craft.
Number and brief description of pirates, including weapons carried and/or language spoken.
Injuries to crew.
Damage to ship.
Brief details of stolen property/cargo.

6. Last observed movements of pirate/suspect vessel, eg Date/time/course/position/speed.

7. Assistance required.

8. Preferred communications with reporting vessel, eg Appropriate Coast Radio Station. HF/MF/VHF.
INMARSAT ID (plus ocean region code), MMSI.

9. Date/time of report (UTC)




1. No.

2. Name/Type of ship/Flag/Gross tonnage

3. Date/Time

4. Position of the incident*

5. Details of the incident

6. Consequences for crew, ship, cargo

7. Action taken by the Master and the crew

8. Was incident reported to the coastal Authority? If so, to whom?

9. Reporting State or international organisation

10. Action taken by the coastal State

*The position given should be as accurate as possible including latitude and longitude co-ordinates or
as bearing and distance from a conspicuous landmark.



Be vigilant - the majority of attacks will be deterred if the robbers are aware that they have been observed,
and that the crew has been alerted and is prepared to resist attempts to board. Ensure that crew members
are seen to be constantly moving around the ship, making random rather than predictable patrols.

Maintain a 24 visual and security watch - including short range radar surveillance of the waters around
the ship. The use of a small yacht radar, fitted in such a way to ensure complete coverage of the stern,
unobscured by the radar shadow of the ship itself, should be considered. Keep a special look-out for small
boats and fishing boats that pirates often use because they are difficult to observe on radar. In piracy
"hotspots", discourage the crew from trading with locals using small craft which may approach the ship.

Strengthen night watches - especially around the rear of the vessel and anchor chains/mooring ropes
particularly between the hours of 0100 and 0600 when most attacks occur, with continuous patrols linked
by "walkie talkie" to the bridge. A drill should be established for regular two-way communication between
the watch and the bridge. If possible, an additional officer should assist the normal bridge watchkeepers
at night, in order to provide a dedicated radar and visual watch for small craft which might attempt to
manoeuvre alongside, and allow the watchkeepers to concentrate on normal navigational duties.

Seal off means of access to the ship - fit the hawse pipe plates, lock doors and hatches etc. While taking
due account of the need for escape in the event of fire or other emergency, so far as possible all means of
access to the accommodation should be sealed off and windows and doors of crew members quarters
should be kept locked at all times. Blocking access between the aft deck and the crewmembers quarters is
particularly important.

Establish radio contact - and agree emergency signals specifically for pirate attacks with crew, shore
authorities etc.

Provide adequate lighting - deck and over-side lights, particularly at the bow and stern, should be
provided to illuminate the deck and the waters beyond and to dazzle potential borders. Searchlights
should be available on the bridge wings, and torches should be carried by the security patrols to identify
suspicious craft. Such additional lighting should not however be so bright as to obscure navigation lights
or interfere with the safe navigation of other vessels.

Water hose and other equipment - which may be used to repel potential borders should be readily
available. Keep a constant supply of water provided to the hoses. In danger areas keep the deck wash
pump in operation at all times - spray water over the rear deck where it is easiest for the attackers to board.
Consider fitting or equipping the vessel with passive security/detection equipment e.g. Perimeter
Intruder Detection Systems, CCTV, Night Vision equipment and ensure that where possible, they are
linked to an alarm system. We recommend that a Ship Tracking System be installed to assist Coastal
Control Authorities and parent companies to monitor vessel movements and co-ordinate a response in the
event of an attack/vessel seizure.

Reduce opportunities for theft - remove all portable equipment from the deck, so far as is possible stow
containers containing valuables door-to-door and in tiers, seal off access to the accommodation.

Establish a secure area or areas - if large numbers of armed robbers succeed in boarding the ship, it may
be essential for crewmembers to retreat to a secure area or areas. Depending upon the construction of the
accommodation and the extent to which areas can be effectively sealed off, the secure area may be
established in the accommodation as a whole, or in more restricted parts around the bridge and inside the
engine room. Provision should be made, however, for escape during a fire or other emergency.

Inform crew members of the anti-attack plan - hold training exercises and ensure that they are fully
briefed on the actions to take in the event of an attack.

Published November 2002