There are high levels of piracy in in both coastal and international waters, particularly near Somalia and Yemen in the Horn of Africa, the Gulf of Guinea and Southeast Asia.
Piracy takes many forms. It may include armed robbery, kidnapping for ransom and murder, as well as crimes of opportunity such as unlawful requests for payments for anchorage.
All forms of shipping are attractive targets for pirates, including commercial vessels, pleasure craft (such as yachts) and luxury cruise liners.
According to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), worldwide there were 264 incidents of piracy and armed robbery against vessels and a total of12 vessels hijacked in 2013.
Particular areas of concern
Whether travelling by commercial vessel or private yacht, you should be aware of the risk of piracy that exists in the parts of the world listed below. If you need to pass through these waters, you should exercise extreme caution, consider additional security arrangements and have in place contingency plans. If you are part of a cruise, you should feel comfortable asking about the company's security measures and its procedures in the event of a crisis.
The Horn of Africa including the Gulf of Aden and Yemen
We strongly advise Australians to avoid travelling to the coastal waters of Somalia and Yemen in the Indian Ocean. This covers the area bounded by the following latitude and longitude: 15° north in the Red Sea, 23° north in the Arabian Sea, 78° east and 15° south in the Indian Ocean.
While attacks by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean have fallen to their lowest level since 2009, these waters are still extremely high-risk.
Pirates have reportedly attacked shipping further than 1,500 nautical miles (2778 km) from the coast of Somalia. Pirate attacks have been reported near the west coast of India, western Maldives, and Madagascar. They have also occurred in the territorial waters of Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Madagascar and Seychelles.
Vessels, crew members and passengers hijacked in waters off Somalia have been held for long periods by pirates demanding ransoms. As at 1 September 2014, approximately 40 seafarers remain in captivity. For more information about kidnapping, see our advice about avoiding kidnapping.
The Maritime Security Centre Horn of Africa website provides information to mariners in the Gulf of Aden and off the coast of Somalia such as news, alerts and ship protection measures (requires registration).
The Gulf of Guinea
The Gulf of Guinea extends from Liberia to Gabon in West Africa. The rapid growth of the oil and gas industry in the region has contributed to an increase of piracy incidents in the Gulf of Guinea since 2012. Hijackings and cargo theft are a security concern for coastal West African States.
Piracy is prevalent in a number of Southeast Asian waters. In 2014, attacks were reported on vessels in the Straits of Malacca, the Singapore Straits, near Penang (Malaysia), Bintan (Indonesia) and Phuket (Thailand), and close to the coast of Sabah and Sarawak in Malaysia. Attacks have also been reported in the Sulu Sea between Palawan and Mindanao in the Philippines and Kalimantan in Indonesia.
Other areas of concern include the the South China Sea in the vicinity of Anambas, Natuna, Mangkai Islands and Subi Besar area, the Vung Tau area of Vietnam, and several areas in Indonesia (namely Tanjung Priok - Jakarta/Dumai, Belawan, Taboneo, Muara Jawa).
Other piracy prone regions include:
- East Africa, particularly Tanzania and Kenya.
- South America, particularly Peru, Venezuela and Brazil.
- the Caribbean and Central America, especially in anchorage areas in Port Au Prince, Haiti.
We advise you to monitor closely our destination-specific travel advisories for areas close to waters through which you intend travelling. You can also see our travelling by boat page.
The IMB runs a global 24-hour Piracy Reporting Centre based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, which issues daily reports broadcast to all shipping on the Safety Net service of Inmarsat-C and reports on its website. The services of the centre are free and are available to all ships, irrespective of their flag. The 24-hour Anti-Piracy HELPLINE can be contacted on telephone (60 3) 20310014; facsimile (60 3) 20785769; telex MA34199 IMBPCI; and email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The IMB recommends the installation of Shiploc, an on-board satellite tracking system that can help locate hijacked vessels. Secure-Ship, a non-lethal, electrifying fence which surrounds the whole ship, is also recommended by the International Maritime Bureau.
The following websites also contain useful information about piracy:
Where to get help
You can obtain consular assistance from the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. In a consular emergency if you are unable to contact an Australian diplomatic mission, you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305, SMS +61 421 269 080 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.
Whatever the reason you are travelling and however long you'll be overseas, we encourage you to register your travel plans with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. This includes Australians on cruises.