Indian Ocean Service

MAST's Counter Piracy Service provides physical protection, consulting and intelligence to safeguard your commercial vessels and super-yachts.

  • A truly global operational capability fully compliant with international industry & legal standards
  • Free security audit and on-board security & first-aid training conducted with every transit
  • Unique mix of service & pricing options and generous Loyalty Reward scheme
  • Bespoke technology enabled logistics management and named Transit Manager support
  • Optional Crisis Management & Kidnap & Ransom services

With zero security failures in over 5,000 transits managed, MAST?�consistently delivers the best customer outcomes

Standing Threat Assessment

The recent attacks on commercial vessels and trading dhows off the coast of Somalia has demonstrated that Somali piracy remains a threat to shipping. That this has come about should in many respects be no surprise, given that EUNAVFOR and Coalition Maritime Forces have consistently warned that Somali piracy had been suppressed, not defeated. Yet the re-emergence of Pirate Action Groups (PAGs) in the HRA has occurred because the Somali pirate investors financing the PAGs have interpreted the recent news of reductions in naval forces, and the routing of vessels close to the coast in contravention of BMP 4 advice, as an invitation to give their old business model a go. Sadly, these events represent a failure of deterrence and the erosion of the up until now largely successful security framework progressively put in place since 2008.

The Somali pirate kingpins are being aided in their quest for a new generation of pirate crews by the political and economic conditions in Somalia. While some progress has been made in Mogadishu and Puntland in developing political governance, and improving economic conditions, the area where piracy stems from, the Galmudgud, has been largely untouched by the capacity building efforts of the International Community. With former pirates being released from jail and returning to their old homes, and Islamist insurgency and famine in the background, plus a sense of grievance over fishing rights, the conditions are ripe for a return to piracy.

Of course, these events do have to be kept in perspective. The nature of recent activity – attacks against vessels close to the coast with Mogadishu business connections – has more in common with the activity levels of 2006 than it does with the wholesale break out of Somali piracy in 2008. However, during the recent attack on MV OS35 in the IRTC the Somali pirates came very close to a successful hijack of a major commercial vessel. Had they done so, this would have been a significant encouragement to generate more PAGs.

It would also have tested their ability to keep a vessel securely off the Galmudgud coast while a ransom was being negotiated. Despite some rhetoric by local authorities that the "coastguard" would prevent this happening, we believe that the conditions on the coast remain permissive to the kidnap and ransom business model they are attempting to resurrect.

Various reports indicate that the Somalis have financed several PAGs. We know some of these will have now collapsed, but it is possible that others remain active. During what remains of this current inter-monsoon period, May/June, it is likely that commercial vessels will continue to be scrutinised by skiffs in the IRTC and may be subjected to a more determined attack if those skiffs are supported by a Dhow mother vessel. Elsewhere in the HRA, especially around Socotra or in the Somali basin, there is a possibility that Somali PAGs will be active.

The piracy threat level in the HRA was previous low. This has been raised to moderate. Below details threat level definitions.
To mitigate the threat of Somali piracy in the HRA we strongly advise that each voyage is risk assessed. BMP 4 measures should be kept under review and where these have been allowed to lapse, considerations should be given to renewing them. The use of armed guards should be considered, especially when vessels speeds are less than 18 knots (or are required to come down below 18 knots during the passage) and the freeboard is less than 8 metres. The presence of armed guards also permits the vessel greater freedom over routing and speed, thus effectively saving on operating costs. It is however, important to ensure that the armed guards are well trained and equipped and in this respect, they should at least be ISO 28007 compliant.

All vessels should register with MSCHOA as this affords protection from the military authorities. In the event of an attack, if vessel details have already been supplied to the military, they will be able to react more quickly and effectively to save the vessel from capture. Where possible, optimise routing through the IRTC to conform with the EUNAVFOR Group Transit system. This will ensure that warships can be tasked to provide the best coverage possible.

MAST's standing advice for transiting through the Bab Al Mendeb (BaM) remains that vessels passaging the southern Red Sea, so far as TSS allow, keep to the south western side of the approaches to the BaM. Coalition naval forces should be informed of the vessel's presence in the area.

Threat level definitions

  • Low: An attack is unlikely.
  • Moderate: An attack is possible, but not likely.
  • Substantial: An attack is a strongly possibility.
  • Severe: An attack is highly likely.
  • Critical: An attack is expected imminently.

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