Caution for Anyone Considering a Gulf of Aden Passage
Published: 2010-03-01 21:51:24
See below for comments received following publication.
One year ago, January 2009, my boat was in Singapore as I tried to gauge whether or not it was a good time to make a passage across the Indian Ocean, Gulf of Aden, the Red Sea and through the Suez canal to the Mediterranean.
Through your website I obtained a contact at MARLO, a US military command in Bahrain that works with the Coalition Navies lead by the British (UKMTO). My contact was Capt. Thomas Hastings, USCG, assigned to serve with the US Navy, MARLO. Through emails Capt. Hastings said that it had been relatively quiet in Pirate Alley and that if I was going to try the passage, it was a reasonably good time. I assembled a crew (my wife opted out) and prepared for the trip.
Although the weather was not conducive to sailing and the ports en-route were not set-up to serve recreational sailboats, we were able to safely transit the area. I was in frequent contact with Capt. Hastings both before and during my transit. He coached me on a passage strategy which proved successful.
I have remained in contact with Capt. Hastings through the year. His recent emails indicate a much different situation now existing in that area. With his permission, I am forwarding some sections of his recent emails to you so that you may share the information with the cruising community. In short, the recommendation for recreational yachts is to stay out of those waters, in fact, to go no further west than 70 East longitude when north of 10S latitude - now that's a wide berth!
S/V "Glass Slipper"
Capt. Hastings Email - dated 1 January 2010
The bottom line: The historic gathering of naval ships from 20+ countries in the Gulf of Aden can not protect all of the vessels from being hijacked. The assets in place are best used to provide a degree of protection for international commerce using the Gulf of Aden.
Any vessel travelling at less than 10 knots and/or a freeboard of less than 3 meters is consider EXTREMELY vulnerable.
Passage through the Gulf of Aden for private yachts is not recommended.
I personally recommend that each master of each yacht ask themselves the following questions:
1) Do I have access to $2 million US that I can have someone use to pay my ransom and take care of the logistics involved with a vessel release?
2) Once in captivity, whose name and phone number will I give the kidnappers when asked who will negotiate my release?
3) Am I comfortable with the idea of being held captive for 2-6 months?
If yachts insist on going through, they should all be registered with the Maritime Security Centre Horn of Africa (MSCHOA) www.mschoa.org and the yachts should position keep with the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Organisation (UKMTO) email@example.com. In the event of an attack, someone should call UKMTO at +971-50-552-3215.
To my knowledge, private yachts have not been escorted by any warships. There are several private security firms that ride on commercial vessels. Some of those firms may consider providing security for private yachts.
Feel free to email or call for additional information.
CAPT, U.S. Coast Guard
Maritime Liaison Office
Kingdom of Bahrain
Comment received 1 February 2010
I am a delivery skipper,and have been through the Gulf of Aden a few times. In the past I have used the UKMTO for guidance. I have recently contacted them for the same reason, to pass through the Gulf. This time the information was different as they strongly recommended not to use this route. So to the Cape I go.