Friday, August 10, 2012

Pirates of the Arabian Sea

Check out the markers on the map below indicating actual (in red) and attempted (in yellow) pirate attacks off the coast of Oman in 2012. Oman is in a high risk zone of pirate activity.
2012 Attacks: Source:

Samho Jewelry in Port Sultan Qaboos
The map above shows all piracy and armed robbery incidents reported to the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre during 2012. One may note a fair share of vessels have been attacked off the Omani coast.

Last year, South Korean press took over the Muttrah Cornish internet cafe by giving the owner a 'gratuity' to stay open during the afternoon 'siesta' period in order to report on the successful military operation of the South Korea navy to retake and rescue the hostages of the Korean ship Samho Jewelry. The ship was docked in the Muttrah port near Muscat after being saved. 

'In most incidents as soon as the pirates / armed robbers know that they have been spotted or feel the vessel has been secured and is a difficult target they will abandon the attack. However Somali and Nigerian pirates tend to be more aggressive in their attacks and hence additional precautions have to be taken.'

Most attacks in the Arabian Sea are perpetrated by Somali pirates and any ship seems to be prey from large oil tankers to fishermen navigating traditional dhow. To deal with pirates attacks, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has put together a bulletin of guidance on preventing and suppressing acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships. 
Dhow hijacked off the cost of Oman Jun 20 / 2012.
NATO rescue ship in background

According to the Best Management Practices for Protection against Somalia Based Piracy bulletin, one of the most effect measures against being boarded is maintaining a nautical speed of 18 knots (which converts to about 32 km land speed) or above despite having machine gun fired or grenades flung on board to slow you down. Another is to hire private security contractor as no ship with hired 'security' has been successfully hijacked so far. Of course, being vigilant and fortifying the ship also helps. Basically, being boarded is bad and anything done to prevent that is helpful in thwarting an attack. 

'The average length of a hijacking of vessel and her crew is over 7 months.'

The motivation of the pirates is mainly money as there is often a ransom demand, but other motivations could be for revenge or pride. Some pirate groups calls themselves the Somali Coast Guard formed by fishermen touting the rational that they were protecting their seas from toxic waste being dumped in their waters by 'greedy' companies looking to dump cheaply and from over fishing of their waters by poachers.

Collecting ransoms may be seen as a form of remuneration for the pirates from being shafted in regard to their natural resources. This reasoning does not 'hold water' for some on the brutal attacks on private yachtsmen and their families including children. It is reported the pirates enjoy local support and encouragement from a majority of fellow Somalians. The pirate groups are known to coordinate and share in the booty. Pirating is a low overhead but high return endeavour for the Somali young men.

To engage in a 'pirate' attack it must be done in international waters; if perpetrated in a countries territorial waters, it is considered theft of a ship in addition to any other crimes which would have taken place during the attack.

IMO Reporting Centre:
Modern Day Pirates Tales / Blog:
The Pirates of Somalia / Book:

Some news articles relating to attacks near Oman:


Source BPM4 guide: Barbwire fortification to deter pirates

Source BPM4 guide: Water hosing to deter pirates

Pirate boats 'skiffs' 
Military boarding 

LNG tanker shot at by pirates

Article101 - United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982

Definition of piracy
Piracy consists of any of the following acts:
(a) any illegal acts of violence or detention, or any act of depredation, committed for private ends by the crew or the passengers of a private ship or a private aircraft, and directed:
(i) on the high seas, against another ship or aircraft, or against persons or property on board such ship or aircraft;
(ii) against a ship, aircraft, persons or property in a place outside the jurisdiction of any State;
(b) any act of voluntary participation in the operation of a ship or of an aircraft with knowledge of facts making it a pirate ship or aircraft;
(c) any act of inciting or of intentionally facilitating an act described in subparagraph (a) or (b).

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