At midday on September 11, 2019, at position 12.3N 62.42W, approximately 42 miles west of the northern end of Grenada, a Grenadian fishing boat was approached and boarded by the occupants of a 35-40ft boat with 4 x 75HP Yamaha outboard engines. Eight (8) Spanish speaking men were onboard the suspect vessel, armed with automatic weapons.
Three (3) of the pirates boarded and robbed the 3 fishermen of mobile phones, food, batteries, fish and other supplies. No shots were fired, and no damage was done to the fishing vessel. There were no injuries and a full report was made to the Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF). No further investigation is planned by RGPF as this incident occurred outside territorial (jurisdictional) waters.
This location is off the usual north-south track for most island hopping yachts, but this area is crossed by yachts departing the Eastern Caribbean for points west and those that depart the Greater Antilles direct to Grenada.
Thankfully, relatively few violent and serious incidents were experienced by yachts in the Caribbean basin and reported to CSSN in 2018. Although it is not yet midyear, 2019 is looking quite different and more typical. Year-to-date Panama has had 2 armed boardings plus 1 attempted, with injuries to crew and the most recent case resulted in the tragic death of the captain. While Panamanian police were quick to arrest and charge 3 individuals in the latest case, little confirmed information about what occurred has been made public, and no arrests were made in the 2 earlier cases. Yachts transiting Nicaragua and the Trinidad/Grenada passage have also experienced serious piracy/piracy attempts.
Each of these low probability but high impact events left many wondering what could be done to prevent them, or avoid/minimize the risk of a repeat, or simply achieve a better outcome. The short answer – have a well thought out and agreed to plan that everyone on board understands and is prepared to implement. Being prepared and early warning and communications are key, and all benefit from a fact based understanding of what has happened in the past. Utilize CSSN resources to first understand the specifics that are known about previous events, and consider then how to apply your own risk profile, tolerance and crew/yacht capabilities.
The updates for the Trinidad/Grenada passage reflect the leadership and teamwork between stakeholders and officials in Trinidad who stepped up immediately to the recent problem there and have put escorted convoys in place to manage and mitigate risk for this relatively short passage. Links and Information about this new and valuable process are included in our update.
For remote or offshore areas, hard decisions must be made about routing and about response – acceptance of risk/loss of possessions made, and/or hardened security including impenetrable cabins. No plan is perfect, but every captain/crew should carefully consider a range of possible responses. The best predictor of a best possible outcome is having a well thought out, agreed upon, and then executed plan among the entire crew. CSSN’s suite of Precaution resources are provided as a tool for use by the community.
As always, we welcome your feedback. With your input CSSN informs, captains decide. Know Before You Go !
A recent attempt at piracy between Trinidad and Grenada has brought out the best in officials and stakeholders in Trinidad. Demonstrating their commitment to the yachting and cruising community’s safety and security they responded quickly and effectively. Organized escorted convoys with the Trinidad/Tobago Coast Guard (TTCG) along with radio monitoring by North Post Radio (NPR) for groups of 8-10 yachts wishing to make this passage are now available. Additional convoys are currently being organized after a few trial groups worked with stakeholders and officials to fine tune the process. Any yachts wishing to participate can initiate the process by utilizing this online form. Yachts that transit individually are reminded the TTCG advises you file a float plan, receive their most up-to-date routing advice, and use normal lighting at all times, and AIS when possible.
DATE: 2019-04-11 17:42 Country Name: Nicaragua Location Detail: Edinburgh channel, Nicaraguan banks EVENT: Piracy HAND: 1 Stolen Items: everything from deck, 12 scuba tanks, RIB dinghy, liferaft , all dive gear, stern anchor , all navigation electronics + SECURED: Not Locked DETAILS:
A Canadian flagged yacht with 4 persons onboard departed Roatan, Honduras for Isla Providencia, Colombia. At 1742 HRS, at a position of 14-50N, 82-47W, approximately 23 miles ESE of Cabo Gracias a Dios, they were approached by 2 local fishing boats (pangas) with about 10-12 men. Initially they asked for food and drink, which the crew provided. The 2 pangas drifted back a bit and were seen making calls on handheld VHF radios. Two (2) additional pangas then arrived, and all 4 (now 20-25 men in total) surrounded the yacht, and began ramming the yacht, damaging the stern ladder and swim platform, damaging the hull on both sides, and then began boarding the yacht.
The crew had begun MAYDAY calls on VHF and retreated and secured themselves safely below, protected by interior security bars that covered all hatches and companionways. Mayhem ensued topsides, as the pirates ransacked and destroyed sails, halyards, cushions, etc. The pirates used fishing knives and the yacht’s heavy winch handles to smash all port lights, the pilothouse windows, and the plexiglass hatch (which they then discovered was protected by interior security bars). The pirates proceeded to steal all electronic and navigation equipment, scuba tanks, scuba gear, the yachts RIB dinghy, liferaft and various other items.
The crew continued with VHF MAYDAY calls (no response) and activated DSC (no response). They activated the SOS function on their inReach satellite communicator and received prompt text replies, indicating the Nicaraguan Navy had been informed of the situation, but could not give a time of arrival on the scene. After about 40 minutes the pirates had seemingly exhausted themselves, and stolen, discarded overboard or destroyed almost everything within reach of the topsides.
The 4 pangas departed back toward the Nicaraguan coast. The yacht proceeded under power and set course directly away from the coast, to Providencia, and arrived there the next afternoon having had no contact from the Nicaraguan Navy. Reports were made to the Colombian Port Captain and Coast Guard. Some repairs were effected and the yacht will soon continue on to Panama, where further repairs will be made and a report will be made to Canadian consular officials.
CSSN News – September 24, 2017 Armed Boardings and Piracy reported off Dominica – UPDATED
Several sources in social media have reported that boats bringing relief supplies to hurricane ravaged Dominica have been boarded and robbed offshore by armed men in pirogues.
The situation in Dominica is evolving, and will be for some time. Without basic communications and no apparent command structure or coordination of emergency relief efforts in place, visiting, or even transiting in sight of Dominica by yacht should be very carefully considered. Unless you are expected and arrive under prearranged escort your efforts may create more chaos and endanger your vessel and crew.
Various groups experienced in relief efforts are beginning to lend much needed support, and there will be many opportunities to support Dominica and its people once these efforts take visible effect.
UPDATE: December 4, 2017
This News item when published clearly identified the nature of its source as social media. Because of the serious nature of the initial social media posts, the intent of the CSSN news item was to inform those considering visiting Dominica in the immediate aftermath of Maria to consider the decision carefully until it was clear that reasonable order prevailed there. At the time, the 2 principle sources who posted in social media were believed to be reliable and credible, both having previously demonstrated significant support for the people of Dominica and economic interests there.
Recently, commercial and governmental interests in Dominica have challenged the accuracy of the initial reports in social media. Specifically, they assert that NO piracy acts occurred. Subsequently, the original sources have deleted their posts from social media.
CSSN cannot factually ascertain the accuracy of claims made by any of the disputing parties. Consequently, CSSN as a matter of policy wants our readership to understand our obligation to inform our readers about this change in circumstance.