Advice To Masters

General advice to Masters transiting thru / calling at ports of piratical / armed robbery:

The best form of defence is to ensure that a threat of an attack is detected at an early stage - hence a proper all round lookout using all available means is of vital importance.

In most of the incidents as soon as the pirates / armed robbers know that they have been spotted they will abandon the attack

  • Follow company and ship specific procedures
  • Follow advice in IMO circular MSC.1/Circ.1334 (23 June 2009)
  • While transiting waters affected by Somali pirates follow BMP3

In Addition:

  • Be aware of the sea areas / and ports affected by piracy and armed robbery (the PRC broadcasts regularly to ships in the IOR and AOR regions. See Live Piracy Map)
  • Brief crew: Inform them to be vigilant and inform bridge / duty officer of anything suspicious not normal
  • The attitude “this will not happen to me” should be strongly discouraged
  • Conduct a drill prior to entering a high risk area. This will ensure emergency communication procedures are tested and contact information is readily available
  • Ensure all crew are fully aware of alarm procedures and muster stations
  • Keeping in mind multinational crews - all internal communications should be carried out in the working language of the ship
  • Master to adjust ship routines prior to entering high risk area to ensure well rested and additional crew on watch at all times
  • Ensure blind spots and dark areas are lit up (ensure lighting does not hamper safe navigation and lookout duties)
  • Ensure the deck watch work in pairs at all times
  • Ensure rounds on deck are taken at irregular intervals
  • Reporting from deck to bridge at regular intervals (if reporting not done it is the first indication that there is something wrong)
  • Be especially vigilant during watch change over times
  • Keeping in mind watchkeepers on deck - access into the accommodation, bridge, steering gear room and engine room to be secured.
  • Rig and pressurize fire hoses prior to entry into high risk areas
  • Depending on ship type - engine room to be manned
  • Keep security / urgency messages ready to transmit while transiting high-risk areas
  • Keep important telephone numbers ready at hand especially those of CSO, Flag State and PRC
  • Have a designated communications officer (this will ensure the master is able to concentrate and deal with the situation rather than being distracted by communication procedures)
  • If applicable keep emergency checklist ready at hand
  • Test the SSAS as required by manufacturer
  • It is vital that all incidents are reported to the PRC (actual, attempted, suspicious)
  • Masters should evaluate the situation and report the incident as soon as it develops, this will ensure that there is time for assistance to be made available.

In the event of attack:

  1. Raise Alarm, Muster Crew
  2. Increase Speed
  3. Commence evasive manoeuvres and use bow wave and stern wash to prevent the small boats approaching close to the ship
  4. Identify the mother vessel and move away from it (if there is one)
  5. Steam away from land
  6. Head into the sea and swell: this makes it more difficult for boats to come alongside

In the event of pirates boarding and gaining control of the bridge it is essential to try to keep calm and follow the instructions of the pirates in order to avoid physical confrontation. The master should at all times endeavour to keep the vessel in command to prevent collision / grounding etc.

Other Procedures

Keeping in mind ship speed, freeboard, amount of time vessel will spend in the high risk area the company / master may consider a structured and layered defence to ensure the pirates cannot get access into the accommodation, engine room and bridge areas.
Some thought should be given to the layered defence structure and the strengths of the ship should be used as the most effective tool in hardening the ship.

These could include but by no means are limited to

  1. Proper and efficient lookouts to get early warning of threat.
  2. Increasing speed and manoeuvring the vessels
  3. Communicate and broadcast the attack to the appropriate organizations which will be able to effectively alert authorities and law enforcement for assistance
  4. With crew safety in mind - the use of razor wires around the accessible parts of the ship e.g. stern, parallel body, companion ways and other vulnerable parts of the ship
  5. Temporary extension on the width of the gunwale / fishplate
  6. Trailing mooring ropes / cargo nets which could foul approaching small boat propellers
  7. Dunnage, empty 200 ltr oil drums, wooden pallets have been used by masters in the past to aid in preventing successful boardings.
  8. Locking down all access points into the accommodation, bridge and engine room.

There are various options available to the ship owner to secure his ship please see below two systems to locate a vessel and secure it

1. Secure-Ship

This is an effective innovation in the fight against piracy. It is a non-lethal, electrifying fence surrounding the whole ship, which has been specially adapted for maritime use. The fence uses 9,000-volt pulse to deter boarding attempts. An intruder coming in contact with the fence will receive an unpleasant non-lethal shock that will result in the intruder abandoning the attempted boarding. At the same time an alarm will go off, activating floodlights and a very loud siren The owner has the option of a message being relayed directly to the IMB – PRC. The IMB strongly recommends ship owners to install this device on board their ships. Further details can be obtained at

2. ShipLoc

Advice To Masters

There are a number of reliable ship tracking devices available on the market today based upon Inmarsat and other satellite systems. The IMB endorses ShipLoc, an inexpensive satellite tracking system, which allows shipping companies, armed only with a personal computer with Internet access, to monitor the exact location of their vessels. In addition to anti-hijacking role, ShipLoc facilitates independent and precise location of ships at regular intervals. ShipLoc is fully compliant with the IMO Regulation SOLAS XI-2/6 adopted during the diplomatic conference in December 2002, concerning a Ship Security Alert System. The ship security alert system regulation requires ships of over 500 GT to be equipped with an alarm system in order to reinforce ship security. The system allows the crew, in case of danger, to activate an alarm button that automatically sends a message to the ship owner and to competent authorities. The message is sent without being able to be detected by someone on-board or by other ships in the vicinity. ShipLoc is contained in a small, discrete waterproof unit, which includes: an Argos transmitter, a GPS receiver, a battery pack in case of main power failure, and a flat antenna. ShipLoc is one of the most reliable systems available today. For more information, please visit

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