Piracy Against Yachts

Piracy is a problem that inflicts huge expenses and losses, billions of dollars a year. Most of the targets are commercial shipping, but the threat to yachts is real, and there are regions where the threat to commerce and yacht traffic overlap. Reported incidents have increased in the last year.

The Maritime Global Net, which operates a web site for commercial shipping, says, “The first quarter of 2003 saw 103 pirate attacks worldwide, up from 87 during the same period in 2002.” Indonesian waters were the most dangerous (continuing a past pattern), MGN reports, with 28 attacks in the quarter. Then came Bangladesh, India and Nigeria. For yachts, Indonesia and India have also proved to be among the most risky waters, plus Japan and Central American mainland stretches of the Caribbean. SAIL contributor Colleen Ryan became familiar with the issues while transiting the Red Sea early in 2003. She wrote: “Sensible precautions include sailing in close company with other yachts, sometimes running without lights, minimizing use of the VHF and using it on low power only, and giving positions in relation to an agreed waypoint. But, as these Red Sea attacks seem to be chance encounters, and these pirates are heavily armed, these measures offer no guarantee of a safe passage. Red Sea Pilot updates can be found at www.imray.com.” We have more on the issues below . . .

Resources for tracking/understanding yacht piracy

The International Sailing Federation (ISAF) urges sailors to report piracy encounters. ISAF passes any information it receives to the International Maritime Organization, which maintains a data base of incidents. Details are placed on IMO.org under the Safety heading. Click on ‘Circulars’ and then on ‘reports on piracy’. Or go direct: International Maritime Organization Reports on Piracy.

Reports should cover all incidents of piracy or of robbery wherever they occur, in which the perpetrators are armed. The word “armed” should not be restricted to firearms but includes any weapon which is used to assist in the crime. Reports should include the following information:
Name of yacht, owner, nationality of vessel and registration details
Location date and time of incident
Short summary of the attack
Details of all reports made to other authorities Reports should be sent to ISAF’s dedicated Piracy email address: piracy@isaf.co.uk
OR, direct to the ISAF Secretariat at:
ISAF UK, Ariadne House, Town Quay, Southampton, Hampshire, SO14 2AQ, UK.

The cruisers’ site Noonsite.com maintains a Piracy Page listing recent attacks, useful contacts in dangerous areas, and recommended procedures much like those listed by Colleen Ryan, closing with this advice: “If the worst comes to the worst, do not resist the attackers, keep calm, hand over all valuables and follow their instructions. In all known recent cases, the pirates appeared satisfied with just robbing the boat and its crew, but refrained from killing anyone.”

Yacht Piracy.com, is maintained by Klaus Hympendahl and dedicated to providing up to date information. You can find it at Yacht Piracy. Hympendahl wrote a book in German, to be released in English in the fall of 2003 by Sheridan House, New York, called Yacht Piracy: The New Peril.

Heartsong III is a Hylas 54 being circumnavigated by Liza and Alan (they’re coy about the last name), who had a brush in the Gulf of Aden with boats carrying tarps over their bows to hide identifying numbers. Now their web site carries firsthand reports and updates from dangerous areas.

Dangerous Waters is a book by former UPI reporter John S. Burnett, who had an experience with pirates that inspired him to research and write. The promo for the book says: “Today’s breed of pirates have little in common with the romantic rum-swilling rogues and colorful cutthroats of Hollywood or our imagination. They can be local seamen looking for a quick score, highly-trained guerillas, rogue military units, or former seafarers recruited by sophisticated crime organizations. Armed with machetes, assault rifles and grenade launchers, they steal out in speedboats and fishing boats in search of supertankers, cargo ships, passenger ferries, cruise ships, and yachts. They attack in port, on the open seas, and in international waters. Entire ships, cargo, and crews simply vanish, hijacked by pirates working for multi-national crime syndicates; these modern-day ghost ships turn up later running drugs or carting illegal immigrants to the United States.” Burnett’s web site is dedicated to the book.

The International Chamber of Commerce maintains a site for commercial shipping, possibly a reference point for yachts, at Weekly Piracy Report.

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