The hijacking of the yacht Quest, and the taking of four Americans as hostage has once again raised the issue of yachting and pirates.
NATO Shipping Centre advises yachts not to sail through the Gulf of Aden and the Somali Basin. Several international authorities and The International Sailing Federation have also warned about the danger of piracy in the Gulf of Aden, Yemeni and Somali waters.
There appears to be a false perception amongst the yachting community that these areas are safe to sail, and as a result of this NATO has re-iterated that coalition counter-piracy forces are not in a position to afford dedicated protection for these vessels. To reiterate the scale of the threat the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office states the following, “We advise against all but essential travel by yacht and leisure craft on the high seas (more than 12 nautical miles from shore) in the Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea and part of the Indian Ocean bounded by the following latitude and longitude: 15°N in the Red Sea, 23°N in the Arabian Sea, 78°E and 15°S in the Indian Ocean.”
The advice to the yachting community also stresses that for a normal merchant vessel following BMPs to deter piracy, there will be a relatively long reaction time from the pirates start an attack until a possible boarding. However, with a low freeboard and low speed yachts are especially vulnerable to pirate attacks and the reaction time from the pirate start an attack until they are onboard will be a few minutes.
There is simply not the time to react, or to gain assistance. Any yachts already in the vicinity or intending to travel in this area, despite our advice not to go there, should inform Maritime Security Centre – Horn of Africa MSC(HOA) by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, with the subject line “Yacht Vessel Movement” and read the guidance on the Maritime Security Centre – Horn of Africa homepage www.mschoa.org, and the NATO Shipping Centre homepage: www.shipping.nato.int