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Many of us thought up until recently stories of ship piracy belonged to the pages of history books or fairy tales. Piracy is a real problem however, with the International Maritime Bureau reporting that 78 ships were victims of piracy this year alone. In addition, 75 vessels came under fire, 31 vessels were hijacked and 561 crew members were taken hostage. And these figures only reflect incidents of piracy in the Gulf of Aden and the East Coast of Africa. What is even more shocking is that not all ships report attempted acts of piracy to the authorities. Marine piracy is a major problem and the occurrence of these attacks is on the rise.

According to IMB Live Piracy Maps, not all piracy is reported because seamen only report an attack if cargo is damaged or one or more of their members are hurt.

Cargo ships are particularly vulnerable to piracy as pirates find them easy to overcome by force. They then take the ship’s crew hostage and demand a ransom.

There are various high risk areas where IMB warns seamen to be on highest alert. These areas include: Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malacca Straits, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore Straits, Vietnam, Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania, and the Gulf of Aden. It is very common for pirates to attack a ship that is about to anchor or has just done so, as the crew is preoccupied and vulnerable.

MSCHOA (Maritime Security Centre for the Horn Of Africa), a branch of the EU Naval Force , has dedicated itself to the protection of ships who are passing the Horn of Africa, the Gulf of Aden and the Somalia Basin. They are determined to prevent all acts of shipping piracy and their website provides up-to-date alerts, as well as the opportunity to report any attacks or suspicious vessels.

Many clearing agents that transport cargo have taken a stand and set up security measures on their vessels to prevent any type of attack. These measures include placing barbed wire around the ship’s lowest point of access, positioning dummies as deterrents and acquiring additional night vision equipment. It is recommended that skipper’s alter their ship navigation and stay at least 600 nautical metres from the shore to avoid becoming victims of ship piracy.

Work continues with every officer / crew member working in shifts (watches as we call them). You are free to go ashore once you have completed your watch but don’t forget that you have to come back from your shore leave and work again. So, you either sleep or you go ashore. Work on a ship, never stops. As long as the ship is doing something – sailing, loading / discharging cargo, it’s making money for the ship owner.Bangladesh cargo
Port stays have gone down considerably so the ship is in port for a short time. Of course, this depends on the type of ship you are on. Container ships are in port for a few hours (YES few hours), oil tankers for 24 hrs, cargo ships and bulk carriers stay longer in port. Watches in port are usually on a 6 on 6 off basis, 6 hours on duty, 6 hours off duty, and then you are back to work. Hence you cannot go ashore in every port because you need to rest sometime. The ship owner is paying you to stay on board, not to go ashore! Its not all bad news, you do get to go ashore and do some shopping and ma
ybe sight seeing. Ports are normally far away from civilization. Travelling to and fro takes up time and is not cheap.

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