Convoys in the Indian Ocean and Red Sea
Tom Sampson, who organised a 27 boat convoy in January 2010 through GOA, sent noonsite the following comment following publication of ISAF's June 2011 Guidelines for yachts intending on passage through the Southern Red Sea, Gulf of Aden and off Somalia.
I, like the rest of the sailing fraternity have been following the piracy developments in the Indian Ocean and Red Sea. You may recall that I wrote "notes on organising a convoy" after we had had transited the pirate area in 2010. Since then the situation has changed dramatically and has been duly recognised by the latest information published by ISAF for yachts considering sailing in the Indian Ocean and Red Sea.
Whilst the large convoy concept may have been considered a valid option in 2010, I no longer believe that it is so now. The area of operations that the pirates are operating in is so large that a convoy would have to travel upwards of 1200nms whilst in formation and I don't believe that is possible.
The pirates are now using mother ships which could, as a result, make a convoy more dangerous than a yacht travelling alone. The pirates are keen to take hostages and a large convoy with perhaps 50 crew in total could all be accomodated on a mother ship, whilst the yachts would be abandoned.
The area that the coalition forces have to cover now is such that they cannot adequately protect merchant shipping and so yachts in convoy or alone cannot reasonably expect any assistance.
In short, forming a convoy to sail through the pirate infested areas of the Indian Ocean and Red Sea is no longer, in my opinion, a good idea and might even make the yachts more vunerable.
There may be a number of yachts who have seen the apparent success of the convoys of 2010 and wish to emulate them. I would strongly argue that they should not do so. Moreover, having made the passage and discussed the past and current situation with many others who have done so, I support the ISAF stand. I do not believe that it is safe for any yacht to make the passage; the risks are far greater than they have ever been and the chances of capture will only increase as the pirate numbers also increase.