Annex C: Common understanding

It is important to have a common understanding when reporting attacks and suspicious activity.

The following are guidelines to assist in assessing what is an attack or what constitutes suspicious activity.


  • The use of violence against the ship, its crew or cargo, or any attempt to use violence.
  • Unauthorised attempts to board the ship where the Master suspects the persons are pirates or other unauthorised persons.
  • If weapons or RPGs are fired.
  • Attempts to place a WBIED against the hull.
  • Sighting of missile firing.
  • An actual boarding, whether successful in gaining control of the ship or not.
  • Attempts to overcome the SPM using:
    • Ladders.
    • Grappling hooks.
    • Weapons deliberately used against or at the ship.

Suspicious activity

  • The number of crew onboard relative to its size.
  • The Closest Point of Approach.
  • The existence of unusual and non-fishing equipment onboard, e.g. ladders, climbing hooks or large amounts of fuel.
  • One vessel towing multiple skiffs or has skiffs onboard.
  • The type of vessel is unusual for the current location.
  • Small boats operating at high speed.
  • If a vessel appears unmanned.
  • The vessel is not transmitting on AIS.
  • The vessel is not flying a Flag.
  • Vessel is flying two or more flags simultaneously.
  • Skiffs operating far from the coast.
  • Vessels fishing outside of normal fishing zones.
  • Windows of vessel covered or blanked out.
  • Dhows/skiffs rafted up.
  • No lights during hours of darkness.
  • Skiffs with two or more outboard motors.
  • Dhows/skiffs stopped in the water, no evidence of fishing.
  • Vessels loitering East of Socotra, South of the Makran Coast or in the vicinity of Zanzibar, Dar es Salaam, Pemba, Salalah, Ras Fartek or the IRTC.
  • Packages hanging outboard of a vessel.
  • Excessive communications antennas.

This is not an exhaustive list. Other events, activity and vessels may be deemed suspicious by the Master of a merchant ship having due regard to their own seagoing experiences within the region and information shared amongst the maritime community.

If in doubt, report and contact UKMTO.