Earthwatch Institute, Oxford, UK, March, 2010 - 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. At the time of writing we are planning to field all currently scheduled teams, with the next one due to field in April 2010. This is under constant review.
Since the advisory was first issued in November, the overall level of the advice has not changed.
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
Piracy is a significant threat in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean and has occurred as far as 1000 nautical miles from the coast of Somalia. Attacks of piracy and armed robbery against vessels in and around the Gulf of Aden and Somali Basin continue to affect only a very small proportion of overall shipping, but are frequent and continuing, proving successful almost exclusively against shipping which has not complied with agreed shipping industry best practice on self-defence measures, including on routing.
Attacks by Somali pirates near the Horn of Africa are increasing in frequency and distance from the Somali coast. Recent attacks by pirates have occurred outside the current piracy activity area which is bordered by 60 East and 10 South and it is recommended that vessels navigate to the east and south of this border accordingly. A number of vessels have been attacked by Somali pirates in the Seychelles exclusive economic zone (EEZ) waters, including an attack 60 miles (approx.) from the main island of Mahe.
There have been no pirate attacks within the Inner Islands Group of the Seychelles.
International maritime forces and the Seychelles Coast Guard are operating in the area to counter the threat. 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 2009 to stem hijackings. The Seychelles has also stationed small units of its Defence Force to the outer islands and some remote inner islands.
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.