Maritime Security

Monsoon season is over prompting Somali pirates to gear up and prepare to send out their attack teams but the Volvo Ocean Race is re routed to avoid potential attacks.

The monsoon season is now over resulting in a much calmer sea allowing Somali pirates to attack with ease.  Unfortunately the end of the monsoon season also ties in with the time of year that pleasure sailors like to take a gamble with their safety, crossing the Indian Ocean.

On The 8th September pirates off the coast of Yemen hijacked a French catamaran SY TRIBAL KAT.  The alarm was raised with a mayday call but unfortunately when help arrived the yacht was deserted.  There were bullet holes and bloodstains, which showed that a struggle had taken, place onboard.

On the 10th September EUNAVFOR Spanish warship SPS Galacia with the support of FS SURCOUF raided a pirate skiff and arrested seven pirates unharmed.  Evelyne Colombo one of the crewmembers missing was rescued during the operation.  Tragically her husband Christian Colombo was killed during the initial yacht hijack and his body was believed to have been, thrown overboard.

Somalia and the Gulf of Aden are hot spots for pirate attacks.  Ships are hijacked and people are being taken hostage for large ransoms.  Usually yachts with low decks accompanied by a small crew (typically unarmed) are easy prey for them.

Interestingly pirates tend to settle ransoms and release boats towards the end of the monsoon season to free up their resources for future attacks.

Yachts are urged to avoid this area or at least travel in groups rather than in isolation thus exposing them to a potential attack.

The threat posed from piracy has resulted in the 2011-2012 Volvo Ocean Race (VOR) a 39,000 nautical-mile sail around the world being rerouted for its second and third legs.  This is under the advice of the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) and marine intelligence experts Dryad Maritime Intelligence.  The risks were believed to be too high to gamble with the lives of those involved.

Leg 2 from Cape Town, South Africa to Abu Dhabi, UAE would involve the yachts crossing the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea.  Earlier this year a number of successful attacks took place around the Arabian Sea as pirates operated from motherships.  The VOR race organisers have decided to race from Cape Town to a ‘safe haven’ from where the yachts will be shipped to an undisclosed destination from where the yachts will conduct a sprint to Abu Dhabi.

Leg 3 from Abu Dhabi to Sena in China will see a repeat of the process where the yachts will race to a safe haven then be shipped to a safe port to continue the race to Sena, China.  By introducing these measures the race organisors have minimized the risk to the VOR sailors and allowed the race to proceed.