BIMCO position statement 06: Piracy, Armed Robbery and Other Violent Criminal Acts at Sea


BIMCO's position has been approved by the BIMCO Board of Directors.


The framework for the repression of piracy under international law is mainly set out in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which came into force in 1994. According to UNCLOS, states have an obligation to cooperate in the repression of piracy to the fullest possible extent. In international waters (i.e. outside the territorial waters) all states have universal jurisdiction (ie all states can act) to seize pirate ships, or a ship taken by piracy and under the control of pirates, and arrest the persons on board. Thus, these states’ rights apply in all coastal states’ Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) and on the high seas.

Effective implementation of UNCLOS in national law is key to reduce acts of piracy and other violent criminal acts at sea. Per definition, armed robbery can occur in internal waters and within the limit of the territorial sea (ie up to 12 nautical miles from the base line) of a coastal state and in such cases the primary responsibility for enforcement normally falls on the coastal state.

The piracy threat is the combination of pirates’ opportunity, capability and intent to attack shipping. In the past, the shipping industry designated a piracy High Risk Area (HRA) for Somali piracy because at the time the threat was sufficiently high to warrant it. However, with the Somali piracy threat now diminished to a low level, it was decided to remove the Somali piracy HRA per 1 January 2023. Although the threat from Nigerian pirates has for a long time been high enough to warrant definition of an HRA, the shipping industry has abstained from doing so for political reasons.

BIMCO’s strategic aim is to see the eradication of piracy and armed robbery at sea. Only then will seafarers’ safety and freedom of navigation be assured, without the need for self-protection measures and additional insurance premiums.

BIMCO’s position

  • Lack of uniform implementation and effective enforcement by coastal states of their responsibilities according to UNCLOS undermines the effect of various initiatives aimed at combatting piracy and other violent criminal acts at sea. In threat regions, coastal states are encouraged to strengthen multilateral cooperation to maximise counter-piracy impact, eg by means of external naval forces working effectively in parallel with regional state navies. BIMCO recognises that in recent years, some coastal states have taken noticeable steps forward with regard to improving maritime security. Others have mainly launched more short-sighted solutions which appear poorly governed and not sustainable.
  • BIMCO encourages support and recognition of those Gulf of Guinea (GoG) coastal states taking an active role against piracy.
  • The relationship and strong cooperation between navies, maritime law enforcement agencies and the shipping industry is vital to deter and defeat piracy globally.
  • BIMCO actively promotes a comprehensive approach to combating Nigerian based piracy in the GoG as outlined in the Gulf of Guinea Declaration on Suppression of Piracy.
  • The institutionalised involvement of law enforcement agencies or officials (including recently retired senior officials) in commercial protection business can lead to a conflict of interest between business and law enforcement efforts and should thus be avoided.
  • Other conflicts of interest may arise if disproportionate payments are required by authorities in connection with the regulation of commercial protection business.
  • According to UNCLOS, counter piracy is a government’s responsibility. Requests to the shipping industry to make financial contributions to governments for counter-piracy initiatives are not supported.
  • Paying ransom for the release of crew and ship is the right of owners, and their responsibility to protect seafarers should not be hindered.
  • BIMCO believes that the Eastern GoG is currently a High Threat Area and will work together with other industry associations to develop a concept which provides reliable threat guidance to shipowners on the security threat in Eastern GoG as well as other areas around the globe.
  • When it makes sense from a law enforcement resource perspective, BIMCO supports the establishment of safe anchorage areas by coastal states. To avoid such an area becoming a lucrative source of income and thereby a disincentive to effective law enforcement by the coastal state, the use of such areas should ideally be free of charge, and as a minimum any charges should be proportionate to the cost endured by the coastal state.
  • BIMCO supports the use of private maritime security companies (PMSCs) when required. PMSCs providing onboard teams should be ISO28007 certified and operate legitimately, as a supplement to other self-defence measures and the efforts by the naval forces.
  • BIMCO strongly recommends the use of GUARDCON when placing private security guards on board ships and SEV GUARDCON when engaging security escort vessels.
  • BIMCO supports the idea of a single set of standard definitions for security incident classification and reporting.
Jakob Paaske Larsen
in Copenhagen, DK

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