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  • Writer's pictureShaun Robertson

What Happens In An Anti-Piracy Patrol?


The maritime industry today still faces challenges from piracy, particularly in South-East Asia and the Gulf of Guinea. Shipping companies are increasingly investing in various anti-piracy measures, including technological solutions and onboard security teams. But one crucial component remains as vital as ever: anti-piracy patrols carried out by navies and private security contractors, which have taken place for centuries. This article, backed by data and expert insights, delves into an average anti-piracy patrol covering the pre-deployment, deployment and post-deployment phases.

Pre-deployment Phase

Before embarking on an anti-piracy patrol, there is an intensive briefing session. According to a 2017 study published in the journal "Marine Policy," intelligence gathering is crucial in determining the operational areas, threat assessments, and the logistics involved. Agencies such as the Maritime Security Centre – Horn of Africa (MSCHOA) often provide threat updates to the patrols. Modern patrols are highly reliant on technology for surveillance and navigation. As such, satellites, drones, and radars are employed to view the operational area comprehensively. This ensures the utmost effectiveness of the patrol in spotting any potential threats. Furthermore, cooperation with other assets can widen the area which is being covered.

The Patrol Itself

An average patrol can last between 5 and 30 days, depending on the mandate and operational area. According to the International Maritime Bureau, patrols in the Gulf of Aden usually last about two weeks and can cover up to 1,500 nautical miles. Forces from Operation ATALANTA and CTF-151 carry out patrols in this area.

The average patrol vessel is generally manned by 20 to 30 personnel. This includes the ship's crew, intelligence officers, and often an onboard security team armed with semi-automatic weapons. Daily activies on the patrol include the following:

  1. Regular Scans: The patrol team conducts regular radar scans and uses AIS (Automatic Identification System) to identify vessels.

  2. Visual Surveillance: Binoculars and other visual aids are used to maintain a constant watch.

  3. Routine Checks: Patrols often involve boarding selected vessels for routine security checks. This is also a deterrent against potential piracy.

  4. Communication: The patrol maintains constant communication with the Maritime Operation Centers and other vessels in the area.

In case of an identified piracy threat, a rapid response is initiated. The typical steps include:

  1. Sending out a warning to other vessels in the area.

  2. Proceeding toward the suspicious vessel at maximum speed.

  3. Engaging, which can include verbal warnings, warning shots, and if necessary, disabling fire.


After the patrol, a debriefing is conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of the mission. All incidents are documented, and lessons learned are shared with other security agencies.

Comprehensive reports are prepared and shared with international bodies like the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and Interpol. These reports often become part of global piracy statistics and influence future patrol strategies.

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