Annex H: Definitions and abbreviations


The following definitions to term and categorise attacks and suspicious incidents that are reported from shipping inside the VRA may help. This ensures the consistent identification of patterns and trends.

Armed robbery

The Code of Practice for the Investigation of the Crimes of Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships, highlights armed robbery against ships consists of:

  • Any illegal act of violence or detention or any act of depredation, or threat thereof, other than an act of piracy, committed for private ends and directed against a ship or against persons or property on board such a ship, within a State’s internal waters, archipelagic waters and territorial sea.
  • Any act of inciting or of intentionally facilitating an act described above.


An attack, as opposed to an approach, is where a ship has been subjected to an aggressive approach by an unidentified craft AND weapons have been discharged.


A hijack is where attackers have illegally boarded and taken control of a ship against the crew’s will. Hijackers will not always have the same objective (armed robbery, cargo theft or kidnapping).

Illegal boarding

An illegal boarding is where attackers have boarded a ship but HAVE NOT taken control. Command remains with the Master. The most obvious example of this is the citadel scenario.


Piracy is defined in the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) (article 101). However, for the purposes of these BMP, it is important to provide clear, practical, working guidance to the industry to enable accurate and consistent assessment of suspicious activity and piracy attacks.

The following may assist in assessing what is a piracy attack. A piracy attack may include but is not limited to:

  • The use of violence against the ship or its personnel, or any attempt to use violence.
  • Attempt(s) to illegally board the ship where the Master suspects the persons are pirates.
  • An actual boarding whether successful in gaining control of the ship or not.
  • Attempts to overcome the SPM by the use of:
    • Ladders.
    • Grappling hooks.
    • Weapons deliberately used against or at the ship.

Suspicious or aggressive approach

Action taken by another craft may be deemed suspicious if any of the following occur (the list is not exhaustive):

  • A definite course alteration towards a ship associated with a rapid increase in speed by the suspected craft, which cannot be accounted for by the prevailing conditions.
  • Small craft sailing on the same course and speed for an uncommon period and distance, not in keeping with normal fishing or other circumstances prevailing in the area.
  • Sudden changes in course towards the ship and aggressive behaviour.


AIS Automatic Identification System

BAM Bab el Mandeb

CMF Combined Maritime Forces

CSO Chief Security Officer

DSC Digital Selective Calling

EU NAVFOR European Union Naval Force

HRA High Risk Area

IMB International Maritime Bureau

IMO International Maritime Organization

IRTA Industry Releasable Threat Assessment

IRTB Industry Releasable Threat Bulletin

IRTC Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor

JWC Joint War Committee

MSC Maritime Safety Committee

MSCHOA Maritime Security Centre – Horn of Africa

MSTC Maritime Security Transit Corridor

NATO North Atlantic Treaty Organisation

PAG Pirate Action Group

PCASP Privately Contracted Armed Security Personnel

PMSC Private Maritime Security Company

RECAAP Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia

RPG Rocket Propelled Grenade

RUF Rules for the Use of Force

SPM Ship Protection Measures

SSA Ship Security Assessment

SSAS Ship Security Alert System

SSP Ship Security Plan

TSS Traffic Separation Scheme

UKMTO United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations

VDR Vessel Data Recorder

VHP Vessel Hardening Plan

VMS Vessel Monitoring System

VPD Vessel Protection Detachment

VRA Voluntary Reporting Area

WBIED Water-Borne Improvised Explosive Devices