9.1 If the crew of a vessel suspects that it is coming under a pirate attack there are specific actions that are recommended to be taken during the approach stage and the attack stage. It should be noted that the pirates generally do not use weapons until they are within two cables of a vessel, therefore any period up until this stage can be considered as ‘approach’, and gives a vessel valuable time in which to activate her defences and make it clear to pirates that they have been seen and the vessel is prepared and will resist.
9.2 Approach Stage
If not already at full speed, increase to maximum to open the CPA. Try to steer a straight course to maintain a maximum speed.
Initiate the ship’s pre-prepared emergency procedures.
Activate the Emergency Communication Plan
- Sound the emergency alarm and make a ‘Pirate Attack’ announcement in accordance with the Ship’s Emergency Plan.
- Report the attack immediately to UKMTO (+44 (0) 239 2222 060) or (+971 505 523 215). UKMTO is the primary point of contact during an attack but MSCHOA acts as a back-up contact point. Once established, maintain communication with UKMTO. Please report attack to UKMTO even if part of a national convoy so other merchant ships can be warned.
- Activate the Ship Security Alert System (SSAS), which will alert your Company Security Officer and Flag State. Make a ‘Mayday’ call on VHF Ch.16 (and backup Ch.08, which is monitored by naval units).
- Send a distress message via the Digital Selective Calling system (DSC) and Inmarsat-C, as applicable.
- Ensure that the Automatic Identification System (AIS) is switched ON.
All crew, except those required on the bridge or in the engine room, should muster at the Safe Muster Point or Citadel if constructed, so that the crew are given as much ballistic protection as possible should the pirates get close enough to use weapons.
Where possible, alter course away from the approaching skiffs and/or Motherships. When sea conditions allow, consider altering course to increase an approaching skiff’s exposure to wind/waves.
Activate water spray and other appropriate self-defensive measures.
Ensure that all external doors and, where possible, internal public rooms and cabins, are fully secured.
In addition to the emergency alarms and announcements for the benefit of the vessel’s crew sound the ship’s whistle/ foghorn continuously to demonstrate to any potential attacker that the ship is aware of the attack and is reacting to it.
9.3 Attack stage
Reconfirm that all ship’s personnel are in a position of safety.
As the pirates close in on the vessel, Masters should commence small alterations of helm whilst maintaining speed to deter skiffs from lying alongside the vessel in preparation for a boarding attempt. These manoeuvres will create additional wash to impede the operation of the skiffs.
Substantial amounts of helm are not recommended, as these are likely to significantly reduce a vessel’s speed.