Earthwatch Institute, Oxford, UK, November, 2009 - This advisory primarily addresses incidents of the hijacking of vessels by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean, in an area between the Somalian coast and the Seychelles, including the exclusive economic zone waters of the Seychelles. The Seychelles is the site of Earthwatch’s Coral and Coastal Ecology of the Seychelles project. Currently we are planning to field all currently scheduled teams, with the next one due to field in January 2010. This is under constant review.
The Seychelles form an archipelago of 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean, approximately 1,000 miles east of the African mainland. It lies north-north-east of the island of Madagascar.
Research will be conducted off the islands surrounding Praslin Island, which is located at 4° 31’36.77”S 55° 33’36.37”S
Recent attacks by pirates have occurred outside the current piracy activity area which is bordered by 60 East and 10 South. A number of vessels have recently been attacked by Somali pirates in the Seychelles exclusive economic zone (EEZ) waters. The latest of these attacks took place 60 miles (approx.) from the main island of Mahe. International maritime forces and the Seychelles Coast Guard are operating in the area to counter the threat. The Seychelles has also stationed small units of its Defence Force to the outer islands and some remote inner islands.
EU NAVAL units can pursue, arrest and detain Somali hijackers in the Seychelles region under an accord the EU has signed with the island government.
The Status of Forces Agreement followed a spate of attacks outside the 600 n-mile zone around Somali, imposed by multinational forces in August to stem hijackings.
There was a notable decrease in vessel attacks and hijacks by Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean between May and August, but that has changed with the end of the south-west (summer) monsoon season. The incidence of hijacks and attacks has increased in September and throughout October as calmer seas have encouraged pirates to return to the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean. The large number of patrols makes it very difficult for the pirates to hijack ships, so they have moved farther north-east to the Seychelles. Although pirates tend to target commercial vessels, recent hijacks also involved a leisure craft and a research ship.
Earthwatch is aware and will act on any recommendations from maritime agencies regarding operating in Seychelles waters. On land the advice is to avoid walking alone in remote areas and on deserted beaches
Earthwatch is monitoring security advice from the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office, the US State Department and the Australia Department of Foreign Affairs and security risk organizations.
Earthwatch takes the safety of its volunteers, staff and scientists very seriously and we would not field any team unless we were confident that all reasonable precautions were in place to ensure their security. However, Earthwatch cannot guarantee anyone’s safety completely. Natural and political disasters can, and do, happen without warning. Volunteers should read Project Briefings thoroughly and think carefully about their personal comfort level with the field conditions of the project, the volunteer tasks and their own physical and mental capabilities. We encourage volunteers to educate themselves about current conditions in the Seychelles by consulting the following resources:
United States State Department: Seychelles
United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Seychelles
Australia Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade: Seychelles
http://www.internationalsos.com/en/index.htm - Member Login: 14ACPA000075, select “Security Online” from the drop-down menu.
If you are scheduled to field on an Earthwatch expedition and would like to speak to a volunteer advisor please call 1-800-776-0188 in the US or +44 (0) 1865 318831 in Europe.