IMO has been combating maritime piracy for some time and a series of measures, developed with the co-operation of the littoral States and the support of the industry, helped significantly reduce piracy in the hot spots of the late 1990s and the early 2000s: the South China Sea and the Straits of Malacca and Singapore.
However, the problem has lately manifested itself in other parts of the world, most notably – but not exclusively – off the coast of Somalia, in the Gulf of Aden and the wider Indian Ocean; as well as off the coasts of west and central Africa.
IMO's work to combat maritime piracy
MSC.1/Circ.1339 Best Management Practices for Protection against Somalia Based Piracy (BMP 4) i.
Link to guidance: http://www.imo.org/Documents/IMO_Piracy_Guidance.pdf
Use of privately contracted armed security personnel
MSC.1/Circ.1443 Interim guidance to private maritime security companies providing privately contracted armed security personnel on board ships in the High Risk Area
Download interim recommendations related to privately contracted armed security personnel
Responses received from port and coastal State requirements related to privately contracted armed security personnel (PCASP)
Djibouti Code of Conduct
The Code of Conduct concerning the Repression of Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in the Western Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden was signed on 29 January 2009.
Related press briefings
Maritime Knowledge Centre
Carriage of firearms
IMO does not endorse carriage of firearms by seafarers, or the use of privately contracted armed security personnel on board ships.
Current IMO guidance on:
Carriage of firearms on board merchant ships:
• Masters, shipowners and companies should be aware that ships entering the territorial sea and/or ports of a 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:
• The carrying and use of firearms by seafarers for personal protection or for the protection of a ship is strongly discouraged;
• Carriage of arms on board ship 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;
• It should also be borne in mind that shooting at suspected pirates may impose a legal risk for the master, shipowner or company, such as collateral damages. In some jurisdictions, killing a national may have unforeseen consequences even for a person who believes he or she has acted in self defence. Also the differing customs or security requirements for the carriage and importation of firearms should be considered, as taking a small handgun into the territory of some countries may be considered an offence.
Use of unarmed security personnel:
• The use of unarmed security personnel is a matter for individual shipowners, companies, and ship operators to decide;
• The use of unarmed security personnel to provide security advice and an enhanced lookout capability could be considered.
Use of privately contracted armed security personnel:
• The use of privately contracted armed security personnel (PCASP) on board merchant ships and fishing vessels is a matter for a flag State to determine in consultation with shipowners, operators and companies. Masters, shipowners, operators and companies should contact the flag State and seek clarity of the national policy with respect to the carriage of armed security personnel.
• All legal requirements of flag, port and coastal States should be met.
• If armed security personnel are allowed on board, the master, shipowner, operator and company should take into account the possible escalation of violence and other risks.
Interim Guidance and Recommendations on use of Privately Contracted Armed Security Personnel (PCASP)
• Newinterim recommendations and guidance (MSC.1/Circs. 1405 and 1406) do not change IMO’s position on the use of armed personnel – seafarers should not be armed and the carriage of PCASP remains a matter of decision for the ship owner, after a thorough risk assessment, to request and the Flag State to decide. Flag States should have a policy in place on whether or not the use of PCASP will be authorized and, if so, under what conditions.
• While providing guidance as to under which conditions PCASP can be contracted to prevent ships falling in the hands of pirates, IMO has clarified that it neither endorses nor institutionalizes the practice or the carriage of firearms on board merchant ships.
More information on IMO's work to combat piracy and armed robbery against ships.