Armed With Information
Pirate attacks spur Coast Guard team to ramp up
data dissemination about high-risk waters, trouble spots
By JOHN C. MARCARIO, Assistant Editor
efficiently and effectively collect,
package and disseminate information about potential hot spots on
the high seas.
While several areas of the world
have the team’s attention, Boone
said most of his time and resources
are spent monitoring the Horn of
Africa because of the volume of
activity and requests for data from
vessels in the area.
“Many states look to the
[United States] to be a leader, as far
as safety and security of shipping,
and we have disseminated all of
our information that we have given
to the U.S.-flag fleet to anyone who
wants to look at it,” Boone said.
Merchant mariners can find information regarding
pirate activity through the Coast Guard Homeport, the
U.S. Maritime Administration and the European Naval
Forces’ Maritime Security Center-Horn of Africa Web
sites. For instance, vessels are encouraged to contact
the Maritime Security Center-Horn of Africa if they are
in that region.
For vessels traveling in the Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden
and Persian Gulf areas, the Coast Guard suggests they
contact the Maritime Liaison Office, which is based in
Bahrain and facilitates the exchange of information
between the U.S. Navy, Combined Maritime Forces and
the commercial maritime community in the U.S. Central
Command’s area of responsibility. Ships sailing in the
Asian region are advised to contact the Regional
Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed
Robbery against ships in Asia, based in Singapore.
“They are essentially information-sharing centers.
They are where reports go of piracy events and information is disseminated to interested commercial skippers in the area,” Boone said.
The Horn of Africa center is the most robust, he said.
Making sure vessel information is disseminated quickly and accurately is a priority for ships traveling in high-risk areas.
■ The Gulf of Aden and Horn of Africa are the two most dangerous
areas today for commercial and private vessels due to increased
■ The Coast Guard’s anti-piracy efforts began shortly after the MV
Maersk Alabama was attacked off Somalia last April.
■ Mariners can find information regarding pirate activity in the
Horn of Africa through the Coast Guard Homeport, Maritime
Administration and the Maritime Security Center-Horn of Africa
For vessels about to travel into areas considered high risk due to the threat of piracy or other dan- gers, information about other vessels in the area
and past pirate or terrorist activity are vital to safe passage.
The U.S. Coast Guard is one of several federal and
international agencies and organizations tasked with
monitoring high-risk areas and disseminating such data
to vessels in those regions. The service’s anti-piracy efforts
were prompted by the attack on the U.S.-flag container
ship MV Maersk Alabama in the Indian Ocean last April.
In that hijacking attempt, four Somali men in a small
boat attacked the ship off the coast of Somalia and the
ship’s master, Capt. Richard Phillips, was taken hostage
after the crew fended off the assault. The four-day
ordeal ended with Navy SEALs killing the three men
holding Phillips and rescuing the captain. The fourth
alleged pirate was taken into custody.
Cmdr. Lee Boone, chief of the Domestic Vessel
Compliance Division at Coast Guard Headquarters in
Washington, and others who had worked together on
vessel-tracking issues, decided to combine their talents
to form what they call the “piracy action team” to more