Typical Pirate Attacks

4.1 Commonly, two small high speed (up to 25 knots) open boats or ‘skiffs’ are used in attacks, often approaching from either quarter or the stern. Skiffs are frequently fitted with 2 outboard engines or a larger single 60hp engine.

4.2 Pirate Action Groups operate in a number of different boat configurations. To date whatever the configuration the attack phase is carried out by skiffs. Pirate Action Group boat configurations include:

Skiffs only – usually two.

Open whalers carrying significant quantities of fuel often towing 2 or more attack skiffs.

Motherships which have included the very largest of merchant ships, fishing vessels and dhows. 

These Motherships have been taken by the pirates and usually have their own crew onboard as hostages. Motherships are used to carry pirates, stores, fuel and attack skiffs to enable pirates to operate over a much larger area and are significantly less affected by the weather. Attack skiffs are often towed behind the Motherships. Where the size of the Mothership allows it, skiffs are increasingly being carried onboard and camouflaged to reduce chances of interdiction by Naval/Military forces.

4.3 Increasingly, pirates use small arms fire and Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPGs) in an effort to intimidate Masters of ships to reduce speed and stop to allow the pirates to board. The use of these weapons is generally focused on the bridge and accommodation area. In what are difficult circumstances, it is very important to maintain Full Sea Speed, increasing speed where possible, and using careful manoeuvring to resist the attack.

4.4 Somali pirates seek to place their skiffs alongside the ship being attacked to enable one or more armed pirates to climb onboard. Pirates frequently use long lightweight ladders and ropes, or a long hooked pole with a knotted climbing rope to climb up the side of the vessel being attacked. Once onboard the pirate (or pirates) will generally make their way to the bridge to try to take control of the vessel. Once on the bridge the pirate/pirates will demand that the ship slows/stops to enable further pirates to board.

4.5 Attacks have taken place at most times of the day. However, many pirate attacks have taken place early in the morning, at first light. Attacks have occurred at night, particularly clear moonlit nights, but night time attacks are less common.

4.6 The majority of piracy attacks have been repelled by ship’s crew who have planned and trained in advance of the passage and applied the BMPs contained within this document.