New ISAF warning on Somali pirates - Simply Don't Go!

Somali pirates
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This Warning Notice is intended for Yacht Skippers considering a passage through the Gulf of Aden, its approaches and the Indian Ocean north of 12 degrees south and west of 78 degrees east. It is the third such notice to be published on this subject and reflects the latest situation as at June 2011.

It has been prepared by a Working Party staffed by experienced small boat sailors representing the following organisations: the Royal Yachting Association, the Cruising Association; the Ocean Cruising Club; the Royal Cruising Club and the World Cruising Club.

The Working Party has drawn on information and advice provided by the Maritime Security Centre – Horn of Africa (MSCHOA), an initiative established by EU NAVFOR (EU naval force) Operation.

While ISAF recognises that the final decision on whether to enter any area where pirates operate and how to conduct a vessel in those waters remains entirely the responsibility of the master of each vessel, the current advice from the military is simple:

Do not sail in the western Indian Ocean, Arabian Sea, Somali Basin and Gulf of Aden.

ISAF robustly endorses this position. It considers that sailing in these waters is highly irresponsible and strongly urges all yacht skippers intent on sailing anywhere in the area to reconsider the necessity of their plans and to seek an alternative.

Background to this advice:

Live Piracy Map 2011
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The affected waters consist of 2.6 million square miles of sea (an area greater than the size of Europe) and there are only 30 warships available at any one time. Some of these are necessarily in port and some are escorting world food aid programme shipping; all of which reduces assets for patrolling the area yet further.

Approximately 95% of EU trade (by volume) and 20% of Global Trade transported by sea passes through the Gulf of Aden (GoA) on passage between Europe and Asia. Protecting this traffic and ships carrying aid to the Horn of Africa are the main priorities of the naval forces deployed in the area.

Piracy has become big business and the pirates, originally Somali fishermen no longer able to earn a livelihood from fishing, now include criminal elements from many nations.

Attacks have increased in numbers and the area affected has increased as pirate tactics have evolved. Year on year the numbers of attacks are up some 90% from 2010 to 2011.

However, as deterrence and defensive measures on merchant shipping improves, the success rate has reduced to about 1 in 5, particularly in the Gulf of Aden (GoA). This has caused the pirates to adapt their methods of operation and to range widely over the Somali Basin and far into the Indian Ocean, reaching as far south as the northern end of the Mozambique Channel. More recently activity has also been reported in the southern end of the Red Sea/Bab Al Mandeb area.

No part of this huge area can be considered safe.

It is quite clear that the situation is now something of a strategic stalemate. Somalia is a failed state and the naval force is merely tackling the symptoms of the problem, A solution to the root cause that spawns piracy will require political intervention if it is to be resolved; yet there appears to be no international appetite for this.

With the limited resources at their disposal, the combined effort of naval forces in the region is failing to deter, disrupt and suppress piracy in order to support UNSCR resolutions, protect global maritime commerce, enhance maritime security and secure freedom of navigation.

For the complete warning notice, along with detailed background on how the pirates operate, go Noonsite's publication of same, by clicking here.

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