Jones Act – High-Risk Areas for Maritime Piracy

Pirates can attack anywhere at any time. However, through recent years, certain locales have lent themselves to higher incidences of maritime piracy than others. If your vessel is attacked by pirates and you are injured, you may be protected under U.S. and international maritime laws, such as the Jones Act and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

The best way to prevent injury from pirate attacks is to avoid locations where pirates have been known to attack. This is not always practical for those working on ships involved in global commerce. The IMB Reporting Center has identified several locations in which there exists a high concentration of maritime pirate activity and can provide advice on how to deter pirate attacks on your vessel. Here are the highest risk areas for piracy activity.

Southeast Asia and the Indian Subcontinents

Pirates in these areas tend to attack boats that are preparing to anchor or are at anchor. They are armed with guns and less-lethal weapons and have been known to kidnap mariners for ransom and have killed a number of U.S. citizens. Due to an increased involvement by local authorities, pirate activity in these areas has declined. However, areas of significant activities include:

  • Bangladesh
  • China
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Malacca Straits
  • Malaysia
  • Singapore Straits
  • South China Sea
  • Vietnam

Many pirate attacks go unreported, so it is difficult to put solid numbers on the pirate attack rates in these areas. Authorities recommend that any mariners traversing these waters prepare anti-piracy plans, which should include:

  • Careful watches
  • Alarms and other visible deterrents
  • Non-lethal weapons
  • Muster plans
  • Communications plans

Africa and the Red Sea

Africa, particularly Somalia and Nigeria, are known for frequent, aggressive and organized pirate activity. Attacks can occur far offshore, as these pirates typically have multiple boats and can launch skiffs from larger vessels to run greater distances. These pirates have been known to carry semi-automatic weapons and RPGs, which enable them to hijack large vessels, steal their cargo and kidnap and/or kill crew members.

Authorities advise all mariners traversing the waters adjacent to Nigeria and Somalia to adhere to the BMPs and ensure their vessels are hardened well before they enter into hazardous waters. In addition to these areas, pirates have also concentrated in these locales:

  • Benin
  • Guinea
  • Ivory Coast
  • The Congo
  • Togo
  • Red Sea/Golf of Aden
  • Arabian Sea
  • Indian Ocean

South America, Central America, and the Caribbean

Pirates are generally located in areas where poverty and corruption are high and vessels carrying valuable commodities are regularly available. While local authorities have made anti-piracy activities a priority, mariners are asked to be vigilant, particularly around Ecuador and Peru.

Preventing Maritime Pirate Attacks

Regardless of the location of your vessel, it is always a good idea to have an anti-pirate attack plan in place and to perform drills to prepare for a potential attack. Owners and operators of commercial vessels have a duty to ensure that crew are as safe and protected as possible. This means taking every reasonable precaution to protect against pirate attacks and avoiding areas of known concentrated pirate activities.

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