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Piracy Preparedness: A Seafarer's Guide

Piracy remains a significant threat to maritime security, particularly in strategic and busy waterways like the Red Sea. The cost of piracy to the global economy is a steep one. A 2013 World Bank study, still widelt cited today, estimated that piracy cost the global economy around $18 billion annually. Seafarers traveling through this region encounter various security threats, including piracy, armed robbery, and the deliberate targeting of ships by extremist groups. The situation is further complicated by regional instability, which introduces collateral damage arising from conflicts. Given these risks, it's crucial for seafarers and maritime operators to adopt comprehensive protection and preventive measures.

Understanding the Threats

Piracy in the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Indian Ocean, and Arabian Sea poses a constant threat. Despite efforts to suppress piracy, particularly Somali piracy, it has not been eradicated and remains a significant danger. Regional instability has also led to other forms of maritime security threats, including attacks by extremist groups and collateral damage from regional conflicts​ (International Chamber of Shipping)​​ (Dryad Global)​.

Protection Measures

The Best Management Practices 5 (BMP5) offers guidelines designed to help ships plan their voyages and to detect, avoid, deter, delay, and report attacks. These practices have proven effective in enhancing the safety of seafarers. Key recommendations from BMP5 include understanding the threat through current information for risk assessment, conducting risk assessments to identify ship protection measures, implementing these measures (such as hardening the ship and training the crew), reporting any incidents and suspicious activities, and cooperating with other shipping and military forces​ (International Chamber of Shipping)​​ (SAFETY4SEA)​.


  • Pre-voyage Briefings: Actively participate and ask questions during these sessions to understand the specific piracy threats and the measures in place for your route.

  • Simulated Training: Engage fully in drills that simulate piracy attacks to build confidence in your ability to respond effectively under stress.

  • Relaxation Techniques: Learn and practice specific techniques such as progressive muscle relaxation or guided imagery to calm your mind and reduce anxiety.

  • Physical Activity: Schedule regular exercise sessions on board, such as jogging on the deck or using any available gym equipment, to help manage stress.

  • Social Support: Create a buddy system among crew members where you can share concerns and provide mutual support.

  • Present Focus: Practice mindfulness or other techniques that encourage living in the moment, rather than worrying about potential future events.

  • Security Protocols: Familiarize yourself with all safety and security measures on board; knowing what to do can reduce anxiety.

  • Open Communication: Arrange regular check-ins with family before the voyage to ensure emotional support. Consider email or scheduled calls if possible.

  • Professional Support: Be open to seeking support from a mental health professional, especially if stress becomes overwhelming. Some ships offer telehealth services for this purpose.



Managing mental health issues caused by the fear of piracy involves a comprehensive approach focusing on support, training, and communication. Shipping companies should provide seafarers with training on coping mechanisms for stress and anxiety related to piracy threats. Regular communication with family and access to mental health professionals, either onboard or via telehealth services, can also help mitigate stress. Establishing a supportive onboard community where seafarers feel comfortable discussing their fears and experiences is crucial. Encouraging seafarers to maintain regular physical activity and practice relaxation techniques can also help manage emotions and stress effectively.



Piracy off the coast of Somalia had been on the decline in recent years after peaking in 2011 when Somali pirates launched 212 attacks. The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) passed seven resolutions targeting Somalia piracy between December 2010 and March 2022, permitting foreign naval and air forces to enter and patrol Somali waters and authorizing the European Union Naval Force Operation Atalanta, working with a U.S.-led task force, to use “all necessary means to repress piracy and armed robbery at sea.” According to the UNSC, the anti-piracy measures in place to enforce the freedom of navigation off the coast of Somalia expired quietly after its last renewal for three months after December 3, 2021.


Since last November, merchant vessels have been the target of about 20% of Somali piracy-related incidents, according to Dan Mueller, lead analyst for the Middle Eastern Region for maritime security firm Ambrey. On December 14, The International Chamber of Shipping reported the hijacking of a Handymax bulk carrier, the first successful hijacking of a vessel off the coast of Somalia since 2017. The pirates have also been attacking fishing vessels, mostly Iranian, as well as many other small boats such as skiffs. Ocean piracy is rising across the world Data from 2023 shows that by many key measures, piracy is on the rise in key global shipping lanes. There were 120 incidents of maritime piracy and armed robbery against ships reported in 2023, compared to 115 in 2022, according to the annual Piracy and Armed Robbery Report of the ICC International Maritime Bureau (IMB). The IMB also found increased threats to crew safety, with the number of crews taken hostage rising from 41 to 73 in 2023, and crews kidnapped from two to 14. A spokesperson for the International Maritime Organization (IMO) which represents the seafarer spokesperson stressed to CNBC in an email, “The entire world depends on international shipping and seafarers, and therefore ships and cargoes should not be the subject of any type of attacks. The safety of seafarers are paramount - they are innocent victims who are simply doing their jobs in very harsh conditions.” The U.S Mission to the UN said in a statement to CNBC that the UN Security Council is not currently engaged in piracy off the coast of Somalia. However, a spokeswoman wrote that United States remains committed to strengthening the skills of partners to disrupt arms smuggling and associated maritime crimes in the Horn of Africa and Gulf of Aden, and with U.S. government funding, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime implemented a roughly $4 million project to improve investigations of maritime-based crimes in East and Southern Africa through training and mentorship. The IMO said it is working very closely with countries in the region through the Djibouti Code of Conduct to address piracy and avoid any escalation, through capacity-building, national legislation, information sharing and regional coordination.


1 Comment

I would like to know what to do if noone is preparing us and telling us how to manage a trip like that

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