Avoiding Pirates and Storms – Notes From A Weather Router

Looking at the piracy chart for 2008 got me reminiscing about recommending routes through the eastern Arabian Sea , Somalia coast, and Gulf of Aden.

Our directive was to work with the Captain to assure a safe voyage. However, like the Captain, we had no way of knowing whether a pirate attack would occur during a voyage. The coast of Somalia has been a high risk area for piracy as long as I can remember. So, even without a weather-related reason, we often would acknowledge a Master’s intended route which remained well off the coast and added sometimes hundreds of miles. Many times, these routes would travel east and north of the island of Socotra.

There was an exception — the summer months and the Southwest Monsoon. During projected gale and storm sw-lies in the western and central Arabian Sea, recommended routes going westbound from the Indian Ocean toward the Suez Canal would remain south of the monsoon core and the highest waves in the central Arabian Sea. However, this route presents a navigational issue (mostly piracy-related) once the route nears the coast of Somalia.

Captain’s choice during the summer: Do I want to avoid the coast of Somalia (potential pirates) and face more rolling on a more northern route? Another problem… If the vessel passes east of Socotra, will the Captain be able to safely steer the vessel west-bound into the Gulf of Aden during a monsoon event?

In this case, strange as it may sound, heavy weather might be working in the Captain’s favor. Are the pirates desparate enough to try and board a moving merchant vessel during gale or storm conditions?

Many Captains chose the improved weather to the south during the summer, passed near the eastern coast of Somalia, then adjusting heading to sail well off the nothern coast of Somalia after passing Cape Guadafui.

Have any gCaptain readers out there has faced similar choices?

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This Post was written by Brad Snook, Meteorologist. Brad spent 13 years recommending routes and forecasting seas and swells for merchant ships around the world. He know lives with his family near gCaptain Headquarters in Morro Bay California. You can read his previous articles HERE.