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Pirates Onboard!

When I lived on a 42-foot motorsailer called the “Hardtack,” we traveled the east coast from Annapolis to Key west. Neither my husband nor I had the sailing experience to venture farther away at sea, but we were learning.

Many times we anchored in remote, lonely places with no one and no house in sight. We were vulnerable to an attack, but never encountered a dicey or threatening situation. Once, when we anchored on the Potomac River off downtown Washington, D.C., very nice people in the marina where we tied our dinghy to go ashore told us they were watching out for our boat.

Recently the news covered the concern for an elderly couple who disappeared off their sailboat in the Caribbean. Their boat was discovered abandoned, but the couple have still not been found and are feared dead, murdered by three fugitives who had escaped from prison.

If you want to read about pirates attacking pleasure boats, try Pirates Aboard! by Klaus Hympendahl. The author interviewed the victims of over 40 cases of piracy. He asked them what lessons they learned from the attack and what they woould suggest others do differently to avoid or survive similar incidents. He also appraises which areas in the world are the most dangerous. It was published in 2003.


Maritime Reports of Piracy

According to the International Maritime Bureau, there were 120 pirate attacks on shipping in 2023. Mariners are advised to be cautious, take precautionary measures and follow all recommended guidelines, when their vessel is in the areas listed below. Cruise ships go everywhere these days, so just in case you aren’t worried enough, I thought I’d provide the following precautions listed on the website of the International Maritime Bureau.

Red Sea / Gulf of Aden / Somalia / Arabian Sea / Indian Ocean:

One recent reported piracy attack and hijacking occurred east of Bossaso, Somalia. The incident on Dec. 14,.2023 is the first successful hijacking incident by Somali pirates after 6 years. Last hijacked ship due to Somali piracy was recorded in 2017.There were also several suspicious reports. The opportunity for incidents has been reduced, but the Somali pirates continue to be able to carry out attacks.

Bangladesh: Robbers normally target ships at anchor. Most incidents reported are at Chittagong anchorages and approaches. Incidents in Bangladesh have fallen significantly over the past few years because of the efforts by the Bangladesh authorities.

Indonesia: Belawan and Dumai/Lubuk Gaung and surrounding waters. Pirates / robbers are normally armed with guns / knives and / or machetes. Generally, be vigilant in other areas. Many incidents may have gone unreported. Pirates / robbers normally approach vessels during the night. When spotted and alarm is sounded, the pirates / robbers usually escape without confronting the crew. A strict anti-piracy watch is recommended.


WEST AFRICA (Gulf of Guinea)

All crews should keep a vigilant lookout using all available means. Ships advised to adjust ETA for direct berthing or wait / drift / transit more than 300 nm from the coast, if appropriate and agreed by all in venture. Incidents reported up to 300 nm from the coast.

Angola (Luanda): Incidents of robberies reported.

Benin (Cotonou): No recent incidents reported. Past incidents reported in / off Benin. Vessels attacked and crews kidnapped. The pirates / robbers in the area are well armed and violent. Pirates robbed vessels and kidnapped crews for ransom. In the past, tankers were hijacked, and part cargo stolen (gas, oil).

Cameroon (Douala): Recent incidents including vessels fired upon at anchor and kidnapping of crew. Be vigilant.

Equatorial Guinea: Past incidents off Bioko Island and off Bata. One past incident involved kidnapping and the other fired upon at 87nm off Bata.

Gabon (Port Gentil / Owendo anchorage): Incidents stopped. Past incidents / kidnapping of crews occurred more than 70nm offshore.

Ghana (Takoradi): Incidents reported at Takoradi anchorages.

Guinea (Conakry): Incidents dropped. Past incidents involving robberies reported at anchorages.

Ivory Coast (Abidjan): Incidents dropped but remains risky.

Nigeria (Lagos / Apapa, Off Bayelsa / Brass / Bonny Island / Port Harcourt): Pirates / robbers are often well armed, violent and have attacked and hijacked / robbed ships / kidnapped crews along or far from the coast, rivers, anchorages, ports, and surrounding waters. Incidents have also been reported up to about 300 nm from the coast. Generally, all waters in / off Nigeria remain highly risky. Vessels are advised to be vigilant as many incidents may also have gone unreported. Kidnapping for ransom remains the biggest risk for crews. Vessels are advised to take additional measures in these high-risk waters. In the past, tankers were also hijacked, and part cargo stolen (gas oil).

Incidents dropped drastically for Nigeria, but vessels are advised to be vigilant as waters remain risky.

Togo (Lome): Incidents appear to have stopped. Past attacks reported at anchorage / in / off Togo. Vessels robbed and crews kidnapped. In the past, tankers were also hijacked, and part cargo stolen (gas oil).

The Congo: Incidents reported off Pointe Noire.

Sao Tome & Principe: No recent reported incidents. Past incidents showed vessels hijacked / attacked, and



Brazil (Macapa): Incidents have dropped. Waters remain risky. Stay vigilant.

Colombia (Cartagena): Incidents have dropped. Past incidents reported at anchorages, river passage and pilot boarding ground. Stay vigilant.

Ecuador (Guayaquil): Incidents have stopped. Past incidents reported at anchorage / river passage with pilot. Robbers well-armed. Fired upon.

Haiti (Port Au Prince/Lafiteau): Incidents dropped. Advised to continue maintaining watch and to stay vigilant.

Mexico (Puerto Dos Bocas): Incidents dropped. Past reported incidents - pirates / robbers in this area armed with guns.

Peru (Callao): Incidents are continuing. Maintain vigilant watch and employ anti-piracy measures.

Venezuela (Puerto La Cruz / Puerto Jose / Guanta): Although incidents have stopped, vessels are still reminded to maintain strict anti-piracy watch and measures especially at anchor.


Not piracy related: Ukraine and Russia conflict: Stay clear of Ukrainian coast. Mines reported in the Black Sea.


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