The recent hijacking of a US-bound oil tanker off the coast of Oman is a reminder that piracy is a persistent threat in this region; a symptom of the instability that exists in Somalia.

Three naval task forces led by Combined Maritime Forces, NATO, and the EU, together with warships from other nations, continue to have success in preventing pirate attacks. However, due to the sheer size of the sea area it cannot be guaranteed that a warship will be nearby to intervene in every case.

Updated guidelines to the commercial shipping industry have been published to highlight the very real threat from pirate attacks, as well as advice on how best to protect their vessels transiting the Gulf of Aden, Somali Basin and Indian Ocean – a sea area the size of Western Europe.

It is estimated that more than 22,000 ships transit the Gulf of Aden each year and many of these now use Best Management Practices Version 3, such as travelling at high speed through the area, placing barbed wire around the ship and the use of water cannons to ward off an imminent attack.

The UN’s International Maritime Organization recently launched an action plan to orchestrate an international response to this persistent threat, recognizing that naval forces alone will not solve the problem.