Piracy Passage Precautions – Trinidad/Grenada

Piracy Passage Precautions – Trinidad/Grenada

In 2006 CSSN recorded its first piracy event (classified as attempted theft at that time) for the Trinidad/Grenada passage area. In 2008 to mid-2009, 4 additional piracy attempts were reported in that same area.

In December of 2009, the first successful piracy event for the passage was reported to CSSN. In late 2015, piracy events began to reoccur, and there have been 6 reported (in total) since that time. The Piracy in Trinidad/Grenada – ZOOM-TAP interactive infographic details the latest events.

Typical open fishing boat

The Trinidad Coast Guard advises that pirogues are active from the south coast of Grenada and moving out to the north and east of Tobago to move marijuana to Toco at the northeast corner of Trinidad. The pirogues are active around the gas drilling rigs as these are used as landmarks for boats without navigation equipment. However, the pirogues range all over the area, from the north coast of Venezuela to Tobago and to the south coast of Grenada.

TTCG Patrol Vessel

Efforts to interdict drugs are underway in this area and cruisers should be aware of the potential for running into smugglers and/or authorities who may mistake their innocent activities for something criminal. The area off the northeast coast of Trinidad is patrolled for fisheries protection and drug interdiction activities. These patrol vessels are often unmarked and the crew may not be in uniform, so it is difficult for the cruiser to determine their intentions.

Grenada CG Patrol Vessel

In view of the large numbers of yachts that make this passage each year, the chances of a piracy attempt are statistically small. However, those who do sail this route should take every possible precaution.

There are two gas drilling platforms in the area: Hibiscus at 11-08.8N 61.39.0W and Poinsettia at 11-13.9N 61-31.4W. Both monitor VHF 16 and have, in the past relayed calls to the Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard. These tips are taken from notes from cruisers and from the precautions page on this website and in some cases, the suggestions are in contradiction with each other: each vessel should make individual choices.

Hibiscus Gas Platform circled in red at top left.
Hibiscus Gas Platform circled in red at top left. (click on image to enlarge)

The Grenada Coast Guard and the Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard have discussed among themselves what support they can offer and have suggested that each yacht making this passage file a float plan. (they need to know boat name, number of persons on board, a brief description (monohull/catamaran, color, size), estimated departure date & time, estimated arrival date & time. The departure Coast Guard will alert their counterparts at your destination so they know to expect you.) Here is a float plan template provided by YSATT that can be downloaded, completed and then emailed as requested in the float plan form.

Always remember, neither your yacht nor your possessions are worth serious injuries or worse. But you must consider that anyone willing to randomly fire at your vessel may not leave you unharmed if they are allowed to board. You must consider how and whether, and be prepared, to provide resistance to boarders as you determine to be appropriate.

If your yacht is approached by a suspicious vessel, immediately activate DSC on your VHF and begin transmitting on VHF 16. (Trinidad/Tobago Coast Guard no longer lists channel 23 as distress contact channel)

Pre-program your HF radio with the distress frequencies monitored by USCG and other authorities.
As of July 2017 the USCG distress voice frequencies are 4125, 6215, 8291, or 12290 kHz voice. (Trinidad Tobago Coast Guard or North Post Radio (Trinidad 9YL) maintains a continuous listening watch on 2182 khz and VHF 16 for distress calls –(CSSN Verified February 2016) North Post Radio phone 00(8186) 637 9023 (CSSN Verified January 2016) *

Indicate that you feel you are in danger. Call out your yacht name and your location repeatedly until you get a response. If you are traveling in a group, one of those yachts will hear you, and if you are traveling alone, it is possible that another vessel in the area will hear you and come to assist. If you have DSC activated, that signal will extend a great distance.

Remember, CSSN partners with SSCA Radio Station “KPK” “Kilo Papa Kilo” on SSB 8104 at 12:15 UTC daily. Shore-based resources and emergency communication relays/contacts are available as are other resources. While it is unlikely you will experience an incident while KPK is actually on the air, KPK can be helpful in the aftermath of an incident or to engage SAR or other assistance.

Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard (TTCG):

Telephone: 1-800-TTCG | Alternate: 1-868-634-2727 ttcgops@gmail.com | Fax 1-868-634-4944

The TTCG is responsible for coordinating Search and Rescue operations. Vessels in distress should call or radio either the Coast Guard or North Post Radio (Trinidad 9YL) for assistance. North Post radio maintains a continuous listening watch on 2182 kHz and VHF 16 for distress calls.

Telephone 001(868) 637 9023 (CSSN Verified January 2016)

Grenada Coast Guard

Telephone: 1 473 444 1931 | FAX 1 473 444 2839

The Grenada Coast Guard is responsible for the coordination of Search and Rescue operations. MRSC Grenada is also the National Emergency Relief Organisation whose duties include the control of communications for any local major disaster.

Other Tips:

    • Know Before You Go! Use all the available CSSN resources. Subscribe to Alerts!, to stay up to date. Review the latest Piracy in Trinidad/Grenada – ZOOM-TAP interactive infographic, create and communicate your personal passage/float plan.
    • Store an electronic copy of all important materials where it can be accessed if your computer is stolen: your passports and boat documents, the contents of all wallets: credit cards (both sides), licenses, etc. and an up to date equipment list with serial numbers.
    • Separate and hide valuables in multiple unpredictable areas on board, including passports and boat papers. If possible, hide a spare GPS and handheld VHF radio as well as a smartphone, tablet or laptop with all your contacts and other important information in them. Have a “sacrificial stash” to surrender.
    • Don’t discuss your departure plans (time and destination) with strangers on shore. Don’t describe your yacht to strangers: current location, name, number of people on board, whether or not you are armed.
    • Sail as far east of the rhumb line as possible, away from the locations of the previous reports, although that route means there are fewer other vessels to come to your aid if you need help.
    • Since all the reports of boardings and attempted boardings have occurred during the day, travel at night. Some have suggested that you travel with no lights; however, that has its own inherent dangers. Your RADAR is of little use to detect these pirogues as they are usually wooden boats and will not show up on the RADAR.
    • Consider traveling in a group, maintaining VHF or SSB contact on a regular schedule throughout the trip. Use a VHF channel other than 16 for group check-ins, but monitor both that channel and channel 16.
Report Incidents to the Caribbean Safety and Security Net
Report Incidents to the Caribbean Safety and Security Net
  • Think about a response plan before it is needed, with the emphasis on scaring away intruders (and this is certainly appropriate for yachts at anchor as well as those underway). THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PREPARATION A CRUISER CAN MAKE. Think about evasive maneuvers, first aid kit for possible injuries, response to fire aboard (e.g. gas cans hit by gunfire), where is the crew to shelter, can / should any further resistance to boarding be made (flare guns, sprays, etc.), how to initiate a distress call, use of lights and flares, and communication with other vessels and/or law enforcement authorities.
  • If something happens to you or your vessel make a report to the authorities and make a report to CSSN to help other cruisers who will follow.

The Caribbean Safety and Security Net welcomes additional suggestions: e-mail to safetyandsecuritynet@gmail.com or use the CONTACT US page.

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