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, with 6 reported incidents occurring between December 2015 and March 2018.

In mid-April of 2019 a Piracy attempt was made by 8 men in a pirogue against a yacht transiting from Trinidad to Grenada, with shots fired at the crew and yacht, damaging the yacht. The captain and crew were not injured.

The CSSN Piracy in Trinidad/Grenada – ZOOM-TAP interactive infographic displays the locations and the details of the 7 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 and other contraband 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 sometimes unmarked and the crew may not be in uniform, so it is difficult for the cruiser to determine their intentions. Legitimate law enforcement vessels will observe proper radio protocol should they wish to board/inspect and will display (only) flashing blue lights. In early 2019 Suspicious Activity by imposters displaying flashing red and blue lights was reported in waters offshore the east coast of Grenada.

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 or transit this route should consider every possible precaution.

As a result of the April 2019 piracy attempt the Trinidad/Tobago Coast Guard, (TTCG) in conjunction with North Post Radio (NPR) have instituted escorted convoys for groups of yachts (estimated group size 10) wishing to make passage between Trinidad and Grenada, and vice versa. Facilitated by Yacht Services Association Trinidad and Tobago (YSATT) and Jesse James they have defined protocols for routing and communications while underway, and 3 forms (convoy request, convoy leader, convoy participant) that should be used to arrange this valuable service.

Yachts wishing to transit independently, can of course continue to do so, and TTCG continues to advise that float plans be filed using this form (all float plans will be acknowledged) and that yachts operate with proper lighting at all times, and use AIS transmit when that capability is possible. You can solicit current advice on best routing options from TTCG when filing the float plan. North Post Radio maintains 24/7 AIS tracking and radio monitoring of VHF 16 with a coverage area that extends to the southern coast of Grenada, and includes Trinidad and its surrounding waters. North Post Radio also monitors HF 2182 kHz.

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. Pre-program your HF radio with the distress frequencies monitored by USCG and other authorities.

The USCG distress voice frequencies are 4125, 6215, 8291, or 12290 kHz voice. However, (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 May 2019). The Maritime Mobile Service Network, 14300 kHz is monitored nearly 24/7 and can be used by anyone during an emergency.

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, or relay your emergency communications to authorities. If you have DSC activated, that signal will extend to the limit of your VHF range and automatically include your GPS location if you have enabled that function.

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: +1 868-634-1476, ttcgops@gmail.com (CSSN Verified May 2019)
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.

North Post Radio
Telephone +1 868-637-9023 (CSSN Verified May 2019), northpostradio9yl@yahoo.com

Grenada Coast Guard
Telephone: 1 473 444 1931 | FAX 1 473 444 2839 (CSSN verified May 2019)
The Grenada Coast Guard is responsible for the coordination of Search and Rescue operations. MRSC Grenada is also the National Emergency Relief Organization 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. TTCG can advise current best routing options when filing your float plan.
  • 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 do not always generate reliable RADAR returns. DO NOT STOP OR SLOW for any unknown vessel that does not utilize proper radio protocol and display legitimate law enforcement lights (flashing blue ONLY).
  • Consider traveling in a group, or escorted convoy, 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. When possible, utilize your VHF MMSI capability to establish private communications when travelling in a group.
  • 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.
Report Incidents to the Caribbean Safety and Security Net
Report Incidents to the Caribbean Safety and Security Net

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