Annex – Recommendations to Governments for Preventing and Suppressing Piracy footnote and Armed Robbery footnote Against Ships
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Statutory Documents - IMO Publications and Documents - Circulars - Maritime Safety Committee - MSC.1/Circular.1333/Rev.1 – Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships – (12 June 2015) Recommendations to Governments for preventing and suppressing piracy and armed robbery against ships - Annex – Recommendations to Governments for Preventing and Suppressing Piracy1 and Armed Robbery1 Against Ships

Annex – Recommendations to Governments for Preventing and Suppressing Piracy footnote and Armed Robbery footnote Against Ships

 Piracy and armed robbery against ships

1 Before embarking on any set of measures or recommendations, it is imperative for governmental or other agencies concerned to gather accurate statistics of the incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships, to collate these statistics under both type and area and to assess the nature of the attacks with special emphasis on types of attack, accurate geographical location and modus operandi of the wrongdoers and to disseminate or publish these statistics to all interested parties in a format that is understandable and usable. Advanced intelligence could also prove useful in obtaining information to Governments in order to be able to act in a coordinated manner even before an attack occurs. Based on the statistics of the incidents and any intelligence of piracy and armed robbery against ships Governments should issue to ships entitled to fly their flag, as necessary, advice and guidance on any appropriate additional precautionary measures ships may need to put in place to protect themselves from attack. Governments should involve representatives of shipowners and seafarers in developing these measures to prevent and suppress piracy and armed robbery against ships.

2 In any ongoing campaign against piracy and armed robbery, it is necessary, wherever possible, to neutralize the activities of pirates and armed robbers. As these people are criminals under both international law and most national laws, this task will generally fall to the security forces of the States involved. Governments should avoid engaging in negotiations with these criminals and seek to bring perpetrators of piracy and armed robbery against ships to justice. Negotiating with criminals in a case regarding hijacking of a ship may encourage potential perpetrators to seek economic revenue through piracy.


3 Ships can and should take measures to protect themselves from pirates and armed robbers. These measures are recommended in MSC.1/Circ.1334. While security forces can often advise on these measures, and flag States are required to take such measures as are necessary to ensure that owners and masters accept their responsibility, ultimately it is the responsibility of owners, companies, ship operators and masters to take seamanlike precautions when their ships navigate in areas where the threat of piracy and armed robbery exists. Flag States should make shipowners/companies aware of any United Nations Security Council, International Maritime Organization (IMO), or any other United Nations resolutions on piracy and any recommendations therein relevant for the shipowner, ship operator, the master and crew when operating in areas where piracy or armed robbery against ships occur.

4 With respect to the carriage of firearms on board, the flag State should be aware that merchant ships and fishing vessels entering the territorial sea and/or ports of another State are subject to that State's legislation. It should be borne in mind that importation of firearms is subject to port and coastal State regulations. It should also be borne in mind that carrying firearms may pose an even greater danger if the ship is carrying flammable cargo or similar types of dangerous goods.

 Non-arming of seafarers

5 For legal and safety reasons, flag States should strongly discourage the carrying and use of firearms by seafarers for personal protection or for the protection of a ship. Seafarers are civilians and the use of firearms requires special training and aptitudes and the risk of accidents with firearms carried on board ship is great. Carriage of arms on board ships may encourage attackers to carry firearms or even more dangerous weapons, thereby escalating an already dangerous situation. Any firearm on board may itself become an attractive target for an attacker.

 Use of unarmed security personnel

6 The use of unarmed security personnel is a matter for individual shipowners, companies, and ship operators to decide. It should be fully acceptable to provide an enhanced lookout capability this way.

 Use of privately contracted armed security personnel

7 The use of privately contracted armed security personnel on board ships may lead to an escalation of violence. The carriage of such personnel and their weapons is subject to flag State legislation and policies and is a matter for flag States to determine in consultation with shipowners, companies, and ship operators, if and under which conditions this will be allowed. Flag States should take into account the possible escalation of violence which could result from carriage of armed personnel on board merchant ships, when deciding on its policy.

 Military teams or law enforcement officers duly authorized by Government

8 The use of military, or law enforcement officers duly authorized by the Government of the flag State to carry firearms for the security of the ship is a matter for the flag State to authorize in consultation with shipowners, companies, and ship operators. Flag States should provide clarity of their policy on the use of such teams on board vessels entitled to fly their flag.

 Action plans

9 The coastal State/port State should develop action plans detailing how to prevent such an attack in the first place and actions to take in case of an attack. Coastal States should consider their obligations under SOLAS regulation XI-2/7 on Threats to ships which requires, inter alia, where a risk of attack has been identified, the Contracting Government concerned shall advise the ships concerned and their Administrations of:

  • .1 the current security level;

  • .2 any security measures that should be put in place by the ships concerned to protect themselves from attack, in accordance with the provisions of part A of the ISPS Code; and

  • .3 security measures that the coastal State has decided to put in place, as appropriate.

Also, due to the possibility of collision or grounding of a ship as a result of an attack, the coastal State/port State will need to coordinate these action plans with existing plans to counter any subsequent oil spills or leakages of hazardous substances that the ship or ships may be carrying. This is especially important in areas of restricted navigation. The coastal State/port State should acquire the necessary equipment to ensure safety in waters under their jurisdiction.

10 Flag States should develop action plans detailing the response to be taken on the receipt of a report of an attack and how to assist the owners, companiesfootnote, managers and operators of a ship in case of a hijacking. A point of contact through which the ships entitled to fly their flag may request advice or assistance when sailing in waters deemed to present a heightened threat and to which such ships can report any security concerns about other ships, movements or communications in the area, should be provided.

11 All national agencies involved in preventing and suppressing piracy and armed robbery against ships should take appropriate measures for the purpose of maximizing efficiency and effectiveness and, at the same time, minimizing any relevant adversity. The coastal State/port State should also establish the necessary infrastructure and operational arrangements for the purpose of preventing and suppressing piracy and armed robbery against ships.

12 States and relevant international organizations are encouraged to support capacity-building in areas or regions where piracy and armed robbery against ships is known to occur.footnote

13 Where ships are employed by a United Nations (UN) humanitarian programme for the delivery of humanitarian aid into areas at heightened threat, where such ships are to be escorted by warships or military aircraft, or other ships or aircraft clearly marked and identifiable as being on Government service, such escorts should be implemented in conformity with international law and United Nations resolutions. The flag State of the ship being escorted should endeavour to conclude any necessary agreements in respect of such ships entitled to fly their flag with the State(s) providing the escorts.

14 Article 100 of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) requires all States to cooperate to the fullest possible extent in the repression of piracy. In this regard, States interested in the security of maritime activities should take an active part in repression of and fight against piracy, particularly in areas where the United Nations Security Council expresses concern about the imminent threat of attacks by pirates and calls upon States to do so. This could be done by prosecuting suspected pirates, contributing to capacity building efforts and by deploying naval vessels and aircraft in accordance with international law to patrol the affected areas.

15 On communication and cooperation between various agencies, and the response time after an incident has been reported to the coastal State:

  • .1 an incident command system for tactical as well as operational response should be adopted in each country concerned to provide a common terminology; integrated communications; a unified command structure; consolidated action plans; a manageable span of control; designated incident facilities; and comprehensive resource management;

  • .2 existing mechanisms for dealing with other maritime security matters, e.g. smuggling, drug-trafficking and terrorism, should be incorporated into the incident command system in order to allow for efficient use of limited resources;

  • .3 procedures for rapidly relaying alerts received by communication centres to the entity responsible for action should be developed or, if existing, kept under review; and

  • .4 Governments should by bilateral or multilateral agreements cooperate in establishing, when appropriate, a single point of contact for ships to report piracy threats or activities in specific high threat areas.

16 It is imperative that all attacks, or threats of attacks, are reported immediately to the nearest RCCfootnote or coast radio station to alert the coastal State/port State and followed up by a more detailed written report.footnote On receipt of radio reports of an attack or post attack reports, the RCC or other agency involved must take immediate action to:

  • .1 inform the local security authorities so that contingency plans (counter action) may be implemented;

  • .2 alert other ships in the area to the incident utilizing any appropriate communication means available to it, in order to create or increase their awareness; and

  • .3 inform the adjacent RCCs when appropriate.footnote

17 The report received by maritime Administrations may be used in any diplomatic approaches made by the flag State to the Government of the coastal State in which the incident occurred. This will also provide the basis for the report to IMO.

18 Coastal States/port States should report to IMO any act of armed robbery in their waters or acts of piracy close to their waters which have been reported to them or, if such a report has not been made, where they have information of an incident because of the geographical proximity to the incident or due to the participation in the apprehension of the perpetrators. The format presently used for reports to IMO is attached at appendix 5.

19 The recording and initial examination of reports is best done, wherever possible, by a central agency possessing the necessary skills and resources. In order to maintain the required credibility, both from Government and commercial sectors, such an agency must be accurate, authoritative, efficient and impartial in both its product and its dealings with others. It is judged that the Organization best suited to this role continues to be IMO itself, although the use of IMB's Piracy Reporting Centre in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the ReCAAP Information Sharing Centre (ISC) in Singapore, the Maritime Security Centre Horn of Africa or similar arrangement, as a satellite for dissemination of information should also be considered.

20 The detailed work of assessment should be carried out by the security forces of the coastal State concerned who will probably have access to further information to complete the picture and background of the attacks and those persons responsible.

21 It is important that, once the collection and collation stages have been completed, the product be distributed to all agencies requiring that information. These agencies include the Governments of coastal States for dissemination of the information, the Governments of flag States for distributing it through maritime Administrations to shipowners/company, ship operators, to other interested Government departments and other interested agencies and relevant international organizations such as ReCAAP ISC. See appendices to this circular regarding the information sharing and incident reporting process.

22 To encourage masters to report all incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships, coastal States/port States should make every endeavour to ensure that these masters and their ships will not be unduly delayed that the ship will not be burdened with additional costs related to such reporting, and the welfare of the crew will be taken into account.

  23 Flag, port and coastal States are encouraged to enter into bilateral or multilateral agreementsfootnote to facilitate the investigation of acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships. States should cooperate to investigate fully all acts or attempted acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships entitled to fly their flag. Flag, port and coastal States are encouraged to inform other States and organizations of any relevant experience they may have obtained during the investigation, which other States may benefit from. States should implement the Code of Practice for Investigation of Crimes of Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships, IMO resolution A.922(22) or subsequent resolutions.

24 On investigation into reported incidents and prosecution of pirates and armed robbers when caught:

  • .1 it should be firmly established which entity in each country has responsibility and legal authority for carrying out post-attack investigations, since lack of clarity during the hours after an incident may result in missed investigative opportunities and loss or deterioration of evidence;

  • .2 the appointed investigation agency should have personnel trained in standard investigative techniques and who are familiar with the legal requirements of the courts of their countries, as it is widely assumed that prosecution, conviction and confiscation of assets of offenders are the most effective means of discouraging would-be offenders;

  • .3 as offenders may be involved in other kinds of offences, piracy and armed robbery against ships should not be viewed in isolation and useful information should, therefore, be sought in existing criminal records; and

  • .4 systems should be in place to ensure that potentially useful information is disseminated to all appropriate parties, including investigators.

25 IMO regularly sends to coastal States reports of armed robbery stated to have been committed in their territorial waters, requesting information on the result of any investigations they have conducted. Coastal States are requested to respond to these inquiries even when they are unable to conduct an inquiry either because the incident was not reported or was reported too late for an investigation to be conducted. Any such responses should continue to be circulated to the sessions of the Committee.

 National point of contact for communication of information on piracy and armed robbery to the Organization

26 Member States should communicate to the Organization the name and contact details of a national point of contact (NPoC) to interface with the Organization for piracy and armed robbery matters.

 Criminal jurisdiction

27 A person apprehended at sea outside the territorial sea of any State for committing acts of piracy or armed robbery against ships, should be prosecuted under the laws of the investigating State by mutual agreement with other substantially interested States.

  • Substantially interested State means a State:

  • .1 which is the flag State of a ship that is the subject of an investigation; or

  • .2 in whose territorial sea an incident has occurred; or

  • .3 where an incident caused, or threatened, serious harm to the environment of that State, or within those areas over which the State is entitled to exercise jurisdiction as recognized under international law; or

  • .4 where the consequences of an incident caused, or threatened, serious harm to that State or to artificial islands, installations or structures over which it is entitled to exercise jurisdiction; or

  • .5 where, as a result of an incident, nationals of that State lost their lives or received serious injuries; or

  • .6 that has at its disposal important information that may be of use to the investigation; or

  • .7 that, for some other reason, establishes an interest that is considered significant by the lead investigating State; or

  • .8 that was requested by another State to assist in the repression of violence against crews, passengers, ships and cargoes or the collection of evidence; or

  • .9 that intervened under UNCLOS article 100, exercised its right of visit, under UNCLOS article 110, or effected the seizure of a pirate/armed robber, ship or aircraft under UNCLOS article 105 or in port or on land.

28 States are recommended to take such measures as may be necessary to establish their jurisdiction over the offences of piracy and armed robbery at sea, including adjustment of their legislation, if necessary, to enable those States to apprehend and prosecute persons committing such offences.

29 For visits to ports in certain countries, ships need to carry amounts of money in cash to cover disbursements and other requirements. Cash on board a ship acts as a magnet for attackers. Where the carriage of large sums of cash is necessary because of exchange control restrictions in some States, these States are urged to take a more flexible approach.

30 Flag States should require all ships operating in waters where attacks occur to have measures to prevent attacks and attempted attacks of piracy and armed robbery against ships and on how to act if such an attack or attempted attack occurs, as part of the emergency response procedures in the safety management system, or part of the ship security plan. Such measures should include a full spectrum of appropriate passive and active security measures. The ship security plan and emergency response plans should be based on a risk assessment which take into account the basic parameters of the operation including:

  • .1 the risks that may be faced;

  • .2 the ship's actual size, freeboard, maximum speed and the type of cargo, which is being transported;

  • .3 the number of crew members available, their capability and training;

  • .4 the ability to establish secure areas on board ship; and

  • .5 the equipment on board, including any surveillance and detection equipment that has been provided.

Ships not covered by the ISM Code or the ISPS Code should be required to take similar precautionary measures.

  31 Bearing in mind that ships already have in their procedures the ability to take preventive measures, Governments should use caution when considering the use of security levels 1, 2 and 3 in the ISPS Code for piracy and armed robbery situations.

  32 If at all possible, ships should be routed away from areas where attacks are known to have taken place and, in particular, seek to avoid bottlenecks. If ships are approaching ports where attacks have taken place on ships at anchor, rather than on ships underway, and it is known that the ship will have to anchor off port for some time, consideration should be given to delaying anchoring by slow steaming or longer routeing to remain well off shore thereby reducing the period during which the ship will be at risk. Such action should not affect the ship's berthing priority. Charter party agreements should recognize that ships may need to deviate away from areas where attacks occur and that ships may need to delay arrival at such ports, either when no berth is available for the ship, or offshore loading or unloading will be delayed for a protracted period.

  33 Coastal States situated in areas affected by piracy and armed robbery

  • .1 in order to be able to respond, as quickly as possible, to any report from ships on piracy and armed robbery attacks, every piracy or armed robbery threat area should be adequately covered by Coast Earth Stations which are continuously operational, and which preferably are situated in the littoral State responsible for the area or in neighbouring States;

  • .2 neighbouring countries having common borders in areas which can be characterized as piracy and armed robbery threat areas should establish cooperation agreements with respect to preventing and suppressing piracy and armed robberyfootnote. Such agreements should include the coordination of patrol activities in such areas. An example of a model agreement is attached as appendix 6;

  • .3 on further development of regional cooperation, a regional agreement to facilitate coordinated response at the tactical as well as the operational level should be concluded between the countries concerned:

    • .3.1 such an agreement should specify how information would be disseminated; establish joint command and control procedures (a regional incident command system); ensure efficient communications; set policies for joint operations and entry and pursuit; establish the links between entities involved in all maritime security matters; establish joint specialized training of and the exchange of views between investigators; and establish joint exercises between tactical and operational entities; and

    • .3.2 that existing agreements, bilateral or regional, be reviewed, if necessary, to allow for the extension of entry and pursuit into the territorial sea of the State(s) with which the agreement has been made and practical operational procedures which will ensure the granting of permission to extend pursuit into another jurisdiction being received by the pursuing vessel at very short notice;

  • .4 as piracy and armed robbery against ships is not only a regional but a global problem, the established regional cooperation forums should ensure cooperation amongst themselves and the IMO in order to draw on the different experiences gained;

  • .5 every country is recommended to ensure that each national RCC, which may be contacted by RCCs from other countries, is capable at all times of communicating in English. Thus, at least one person with a satisfactory knowledge of the English language - both written and spoken - should always be on duty;

  • .6 in order to minimize coordination problems and possible delays in cases when distress/safety messages related to a specific area are received by Coast Earth Stations and RCCs in other countries, it is recommended to arrange common meetings/seminars for key personnel from both areas for the exchange of views and to establish suitable procedures and actions in different types of situations. Consideration should also be given to arranging common exercises to verify that procedures and actions are effective;

  • .7 if an attack is reported in an area covered by NAVTEX transmissions, a piracy/armed robbery attack warning with category "Important" or "Vital", as appropriate, should be transmitted whenever such warnings can be transmitted sufficiently early to enable ships to take precautions appropriate to preventing attacks. If an attack is reported in an area which is not covered by NAVTEX transmissions, a piracy/armed robbery attack warning should be transmitted as an EGC SafetyNET message through the INMARSAT system. In this respect, relevant authorities are recommended to make arrangements with one or more Coast Earth Station(s) covering relevant areas, so as to be registered as "information providers"; and

  • .8 those countries that have established, or which plan to establish, radar surveillance systems, are recommended to investigate the potential suitability of such facilities for anti-piracy/armed robbery purposes. If such facilities are judged to be suitable for such purposes, the facilities and procedures necessary for their rapid and efficient use should be established.

  34 Governments should coordinate with the shipowner or the company and the coastal State when receiving a ship security alert. It is important that any response to an incident is well planned and executed, and emphasizes the safety of the crew. Those involved should be as familiar as possible with a ship environment. Therefore, those responsible for responding to acts of piracy or armed robbery of ships, whether at sea or in port, should be trained in the general layout and features of the types of ship most likely to be encountered. Shipowners should be encouraged to cooperate with the security forces by providing access to their ships for the necessary familiarization.

  35 Coastal States should consider the use of suitably equipped helicopters and other suitable means in countering acts of piracy and armed robbery. Security forces should consider the use of modern night vision equipment and other applicable modern technology.

  36 A local rule of the road amendment allowing ships under attack to flash or occult their “not under command” lights should be authorized in areas where pirate/armed robbery attacks are more common.

  37 States with adjacent coastal waters affected by pirates and armed robbers should develop or maintain coordinated patrols by both ships and aircraft.

  38 Security forces and Governments should maintain close liaison with their counterparts in neighbouring States to facilitate the apprehension and prosecution of criminals involved in such unlawful acts. Some countries have already a well-established coordination which is also used for preventing and suppressing piracy and armed robbery.

  39 RCC personnel should be instructed on the most efficient means of communicating reports on piracy and armed robbery, which they receive. Depending on the circumstances, this may require forwarding the reports to another RCC or coast radio station, notifying security forces or patrol craft in the area and taking steps to have a broadcast warning issued or other suitable action taken.

  40 RCCs should be encouraged to forward all received reports of piracy and armed robbery to IMO. States are encouraged to share any information with IMB's Piracy Reporting Centre and the ReCAAP Focal Points.

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