Piracy and armed robbery against ships

Introduction
Acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships are of tremendous concern to IMO and to shipping in general. The fight to prevent and suppress these acts is linked to the measures to improve security on ships and in port faciltiies, adopted in December 2002.

The following definition of piracy is contained in article 101 of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS):

“Piracy consists of any of the following acts:

(a) any illegal acts of violence or detention, or any act of depredation, committed for private ends by the crew or the passengers of a private ship or a private aircraft, and directed:
  (i) on the high seas, against another ship or aircraft, or against persons or property on board such ship
or aircraft;
  (ii) against a ship, aircraft, persons or property in a place outside the jurisdiction of any State;
(b) any act of voluntary participation in the operation of a ship or of an aircraft with knowledge of facts
making it a pirate ship or aircraft;
(c) any act inciting or of intentionally facilitating an act described in sub-paragraph (a) or (b).”

Initiatives to counter piracy and armed robbery at sea
IMO is implementing an anti-piracy project, a long-term project which began in 1998. Phase one consisted of a number of regional seminars and workshops attended by Government representatives from countries in piracy-infested areas of the world; while phase two consisted of a number of evaluation and assessment missions to different regions. IMO's aim has been to foster the development of regional agreements on implementation of counter piracy measures.

Regional cooperation among States has an important role to play in solving the problem of piracy and armed robbery against ships, as evidenced by the success of the regional anti-piracy operation in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore. The Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against ships in Asia (RECAAP), which was concluded in November 2004 by 16 countries in Asia, and includes the RECAAP Information Sharing Centre (ISC) for facilitating the sharing of piracy-related information, is a good example of successful regional cooperation which IMO seeks to replicate elsewhere.

Today, the deteriorating security situation in the seas off war-torn Somalia and the Gulf of Aden (and in the increasingly volatile Gulf of Guinea) are at the heart of the problem.

In January 2009, an important regional agreement was adopted in Djibouti by States in the region, at a high-level meeting convened by IMO. The Code of Conduct concerning the Repression of Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in the Western Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden recognizes the extent of the problem of piracy and armed robbery against ships in the region and, in it, the signatories declare their intention to co operate to the fullest possible extent, and in a manner consistent with international law, in the repression of piracy and armed robbery against ships.

The signatories commit themselves towards sharing and reporting relevant information through a system of national focal points and information centres; interdicting ships suspected of engaging in acts of piracy or armed robbery against ships; ensuring that persons committing or attempting to commit acts of piracy or armed robbery against ships are apprehended and prosecuted; and facilitating proper care, treatment, and repatriation for seafarers, fishermen, other shipboard personnel and passengers subject to acts of piracy or armed robbery against ships, particularly those who have been subjected to violence.

To assist in anti-piracy measures, IMO issues reports on piracy and armed robbery against ships submitted by Member Governments and international organizations. The reports, which include names and descriptions of ships attacked, position and time of attack, consequences to the crew, ship or cargo and actions taken by the crew and coastal authorities, are now circulated monthly, with quarterly and annual summaries.

IMO has issued the following circulars:

  • MSC.1/Circ.1333 Recommendations to Governments for preventing and suppressing piracy and armed robbery against ships suggests possible counter-measures that could be employed by Rescue Co-ordination Centres and security forces. Now also includes draft Regional agreement on co-operation in preventing and suppressing acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships.
  • MSC.1/Circ.1334 Guidance to shipowners and ship operators, shipmasters and crews on preventing and suppressing acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships contains comprehensive advice on measures that can be taken onboard to prevent attacks or, when they occur, to minimize the danger to the crew and ship.

Directives for Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centres (MRCCs) on Acts of Violence against Ships (MSC/Circ.1073).

Additional guidance on ship security alert systems and other security alerts has been issued as:

- Guidance on Provision of Ship Security Alert Systems (MSC/Circ.1072);
- False security alerts and distress/security double alerts (MSC/Circ.1109/Rev.1); and
- Guidance on the message priority and the testing of ship security alert systems (MSC/Circ.1155).

In November 2001, the IMO Assembly adopted the Code of Practice for the Investigation of the Crimes of Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships (resolution A.922(22)) as well as Measures to prevent the registration of phantom ships (resolution A.923(22)).

Piracy and armed robbery against ships is dealt with by the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) as well as by the Facilitation Committee.

Further information

Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Maritime Navigation, 1988

Information resources on piracy and armed robbery at sea

Information resources on maritime security

Information Resources on Current Topics

Statistics
Reports on Piracy and Armed Robbery

Web links
Other web sites (choose topic piracy)

 

 

 

 

 

 


Facilitation
Piracy and Armed Robbery
Piracy in waters off the coast of Somalia
Reports on piracy and armed robbery against ships
Maritime security