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Somali piracy

Since 2008 there has been a significant increase in the number of attacks by Somali pirates on merchant ships transiting the Gulf of Aden. These attacks have spread in recent years and now affect international shipping throughout the North-West Indian Ocean.

Somali piracy is a threat not only to international trade and shipping, but also to the lives of innocent seafarers and to the peace and security of the region.  Its roots stem from on land in Somalia, where a lack of effective governance and the rule of law have allowed this situation to flourish. The Government has responded actively, working with the Somali authorities, regional partners and the wider international community to provide a lasting solution.

The Royal Navy has deployed warships to the Horn of Africa to deter and disrupt piracy and protect merchant shipping. They are also at the forefront of the European Union’s counter-piracy operation Atalanta, providing the operation’s Commander and Headquarters in Northwood, near London.

Government Departments including the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Ministry of Defence, Cabinet Office, Department for Transport, the Department for International Development, Home Office, Treasury and Ministry of Justice are working to ensure pirates can be detained and prosecuted, that the proceeds from piracy are pursued and stopped, and that the shipping industry is able to conduct its business as safely as possible.

The waters in the Gulf of Aden and North-West Indian Ocean are dangerous for mariners, especially those in yachts and leisure craft. See here for the FCO’s latest travel advice for the region.

Find out more about the international military, political and industry responses to piracy below:

Naval Operations

NATO, the European Union and the Combined Maritime Forces have all launched counter-piracy operations.  A number of other nations have also deployed their navies in response to this threat.

The Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia

Bringing together governments, the military, international organisations and the shipping industry to discuss the most effective response to piracy.

The Shipping Industry

Working closely with the Government to provide advice and guidance to Shipping Companies and Mariners to enable them to take all necessary precautions against pirate attack.  Adherence by merchant shipping to Best Management Practice remains the first line of defence against hijack – virtually all hijacks involve ships that have not mounted watches, maintained good speed, put up physical barriers, or kept themselves up to date with latest threats/where pirates are active. 

Naval operations

Naval operations to counter piracy and armed robbery off the coast of Somalia

International response

More information on the groups and organisations working against piracy


The UK has an agreement with Kenya to enable apprehended pirates to be prosecuted regionally.

OCIMF: Piracy - The East Africa/Somalia Situation

Practical guide for setting out the basics of actions that should be considered by all vessels preparing for and carrying out a transit through the high risk area