Section 1: Introduction

Seafarers have encountered different security threats when operating ships in the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea.
The purpose of this publication is to help ships plan their voyage and to detect, avoid, deter, delay and report attacks. Experience has shown application of the recommendations in this publication makes a significant difference to the safety of seafarers.
Piracy-specific Best Management Practice (BMP), international navies and capacity building ashore have helped to suppress piracy. However, Somali piracy has not been eradicated and remains a threat.
The BMP contained in this publication mitigates the risk from piracy and other maritime security threats.
Regional instability has introduced other maritime security threats, including:

  • Deliberate targeting of ships by extremist groups.
  • Collateral damage arising from regional conflict.

BMP piracy measures are effective, but differences in attack methods from other threats may require other forms of mitigation. For example, attacks carried out by extremists may be more determined, as they may be willing to risk their lives.
The consequences of not adopting effective security measures can be severe. Some pirates have subjected hostages to violence and other ill treatment and periods of captivity for some hijacked seafarers have lasted for several years. Other attacks have demonstrated an intent to damage ships and endanger life.
The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations ( and Maritime Security Centre – Horn of Africa ( websites should be consulted for advice. See annex A for contact details.

Nothing in this BMP detracts from the Master’s overriding authority and responsibility to protect their crew, ship and cargo.

This BMP complements piracy guidance in the latest International Maritime Organization (IMO) MSC Circulars (see and advice on the Maritime Security Transit Corridor.

Geographical area

The geography of the region is diverse and ranges from narrow choke points such as the Bab el Mandeb (BAM) Straits and the Strait of Hormuz to the wide- open ocean of the Somali basin. Each area presents different challenges and threats will vary.
Attacks on ships and seafarers have taken place throughout the region. Threats are dynamic; information should be sought from the organisations listed in annex A.

Voluntary Reporting Area

The UKMTO Voluntary Reporting Area (VRA) is identified on maritime security charts such as UKHO Q6099. Ships entering and operating within the VRA are encouraged to register with the UKMTO. Registration establishes direct contact between the reporting ship and UKMTO.

MSCHOA vessel registration area

The MSCHOA vessel registration area is designed to inform military counter piracy forces of the transit of merchant ships in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden. The MSCHOA vessel registration area is defined on maritime security chart Q6099.

High Risk Area

A High Risk Area (HRA) is an industry defined area within the VRA where it is considered that a higher risk of attack exists, and additional security
requirements may be necessary. The HRA is outlined on maritime security chart Q6099. It is important the latest information on current threats is used when planning routes through the HRA. Ships should be prepared to deviate from their planned route at short notice to avoid threats highlighted by navigation warnings or by military forces.

Maritime Security Transit Corridor

The Maritime Security Transit Corridor (MSTC) is a military established corridor upon which naval forces focus their presence and surveillance efforts. The MSTC is shown on maritime security chart Q6099 and consists of:

  • The Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor (IRTC).
    • The IRTC is not a Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS) but an established transit corridor in the Gulf of Aden where naval forces focus their counter piracy patrols. Within the IRTC, group transits and national convoys may be offered.
  • The BAM TSS and the TSS West of the Hanish Islands.
  • A two-way route directly connecting the IRTC and the BAM TSS.

It is recommended that ships use the MSTC to benefit from the military presence and surveillance.

Joint War Committee listed area

The insurance community may list an area of perceived enhanced risk in the region. Ships entering the area would need to notify their insurers and additional insurance premiums may apply. The Joint War Committee (JWC) comprises underwriting representatives from both Lloyd’s and the International Underwriting Association representing the interests of those who write marine hull war business in the London market. The geographic limits of the JWC listed area can be found on their website: