April 10, 2013
Piracy at sea is a worldwide phenomenon which has affected not only the coasts of Africa, but also Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Yemen, and Venezuela. U.S. citizens considering travel by sea should exercise caution when near and within these coastal areas.
EAST AFRICA AND MIDDLE EAST
Gulf of Aden
The number of pirate attacks in the Gulf of Aden has risen significantly. Hijackings in the Gulf of Aden tend to occur primarily off the coast of Somalia. In some instances attacks have occurred as far as 300 nautical miles out in international waters. Most of the attacks in the Gulf of Aden have been directed against cargo vessels.
Attacks against cruise ships are rare but do occur. The Department of State is aware of two such attacks and one attempt in 2008. There have also been several attacks against private vessels such as yachts. The Department is unaware of any injuries or fatalities involving U.S. citizens resulting from these attacks.
Recent incidents in the region include an attack on Oceania Cruises' premium cruise ship, the Nautica, in the Maritime Safety Protection Area in the Gulf of Aden; an attempted attack on Transocean Tour's cruise ship MS Astor in the Gulf of Oman; the hijacking of a 50-foot yacht resulting in the kidnapping of the two French citizens aboard; and the seizure of a French luxury yacht and its 30 crew members.
U.S. citizens transiting the Gulf of Aden should consult with their cruise ship company regarding precautions that will be taken to avoid hijacking incidents. The Department of Transportation Maritime Administration (MARAD) provides detailed piracy countermeasures for vessels transiting the Gulf of Aden on their Maritime Administration Advisories page. MARAD recommends that vessels add additional security, transit at the highest practicable speed, and change course repeatedly if under attack and unable to outrun the pirate vessel.
Incidents of piracy off the coast of Venezuela are a serious concern. Violent attacks on private vessels over recent years include the severe beating of a U.S. citizen, the fatal shooting of an Italian citizen, and a machete attack on a U.S. citizen. A November 2008 attack resulted in the death of one U.S. citizen and injury to another when pirates boarded their private boat.
U.S. citizens sailing yachts in the region have been advised to exercise a heightened level of caution in Venezuelan waters.
ASIA AND PACIFIC
Straits of Malacca
The Straits of Malacca (SOM), situated between Indonesia and Malaysia, was long considered the world's most dangerous waters for pirate attacks. Pirate activity in the region, however, has declined significantly since 2005 due to increased military patrols and vessel security. The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) reported 25 pirate attacks in the Straits of Malacca in 2004, 10 in 2005, and only two through the third quarter of 2008. Fourth quarter statistics are not yet available.
Although the waters off Tioman Island, located on the east coast of Malaysia, are not historically known for piracy, there were four attacks in 2008. The IMB issued an alert to all ships transiting the South China Sea off Tioman Island after pirates armed with guns and machetes robbed three vessels and hijacked a tugboat and barge. Ships have been advised to maintain a strict watch in this area.
BEFORE YOU GO
Review the Worldwide Caution, Country Specific Information, and Travel Warnings or Travel Alerts for all countries that you plan to visit. When travelling by sea, either privately or by commercial shipping, review the information available from the International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Centre and the Department of Transportation's Maritime Administration Advisories.
If you are going to live or travel overseas, please take the time to tell us about your trip by enrolling in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). If you enroll, we can keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements. It will also help your friends and family get in touch with you in an emergency. You should remember to keep all of your information in STEP up to date. It is important during enrollment or updating of information to include your current phone number and current email address where you can be reached in case of an emergency.
U.S. citizens are strongly encouraged to maintain a high level of vigilance, be aware of local events, and take the appropriate steps to bolster their personal security. For additional information, please refer to While Abroad.
U.S. Government facilities worldwide remain at a heightened state of alert. These facilities may temporarily close or periodically suspend public services to assess their security posture. In those instances, U.S. embassies and consulates will make every effort to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens. U.S. citizens abroad are urged to monitor the local news and maintain contact with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
As the Department of State continues to develop information on any potential security threats to U.S. citizens overseas, it shares credible threat information through this site. In addition to information on the Internet, travelers may obtain up-to-date information on security conditions by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the U.S. and Canada or, outside the U.S. and Canada on a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm Monday through Friday, eastern time (except U.S. federal holidays).