MSCHOA and Maritime Domain Awareness. How?


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This information flow diagram has 2 aims:

  1. To give the reader an understanding of the information flow when a piracy incident occurs.
  2. Show how MERCURY is the coordination tool that allows the different stakeholders to exchange and act upon information received.





Mercury is the tool for sharing information and the mechanism for counter-piracy responders to coordinate any activity based on the information.  There are two principle outputs from Mercury.

 1.- Naval Forces respond to an incident.

 2.- Information is shared to the mariner through a recognised and internationally accepted format of Maritime Safety Information (MSI).



Mariners are comfortable with process driven procedures in a recognised format

BMP5 provides the mariner with shipping industry approved response procedures that are trusted, giving that person making the call confidence that something will happen.

Sources of information:

The slide shows the 4 main sources of information. These are UKMTO, the IMB, SSAS alerts, MRCC / Coast Guards and VHF ch16 (Please see below for a detailed explanation of each).  Each of these organisations has direct access to Mercury which allows them post real time information that they have received, and monitor the response from Naval Forces.


The military commands for counter-piracy forces monitor Mercury 24/7.  They will respond to the information posted whilst informing other naval responders of the specific actions they are taking.

The mariner is informed of a piracy incident via a Navigation Warning.  The Master and CSO will also receive piracy alerts from MSCHOA.


A MV is planning on transiting the VRA depicted on chart Q6099. The vessel is registered with MSCHOA which has allowed a vulnerability profile of the vessel to be made and shared to CP forces and the ability to receive MSCHOA piracy alerts.  The master and crew are briefed on the emergency contact procedures which are available in BMP and on the security chart Q6099.

The vessel is attacked by a PAG. 

The master calls UKMTO. UKMTO are the bridge to bridge single point of contact, they are trained to take the required details from the master and post the information in Mercury.  UKMTO will remain as the liaison for information until the incident is closed.  To prevent multiple organisations contacting the master on the bridge UKMTO will contact the master on behalf of other CP organisations to gather any specific request.

The master also presses the SSAS alert.  In normal circumstances the only recipients of an SSAS alert are the CSO and the Flag State.  However via the SSRS system when a vessel enters the VRA all SSAS alerts are also sent MSCHOA. This saves valuable time in informing the military responders via Mercury.

A DSC alert was also raised and received by regional MRCC. Regional MRCC and Coast guards monitor Mercury.

The VHF channel 16 distress call was made. This was intercepted by a CP warship and posted in Mercury.

Based on the information posted in Mercury (from either of the sources just mentioned)  two responses happen.

 1.- A navigation warning is immediately issued in order to warn other vessels in the region that a PAG is active in a given location. The vessels registered with MSCHOA will also be updated via MSCHOA piracy alerts. 

 2.- The military commands direct their assets to disrupt the PAG and detain the pirates for onward legal finish.


MSCHOA vessel movement registration specifically enables merchant ships to provide NAVAL FORCES operating off Somalia with a vulnerability profile of the vessel specific to the transit, this  includes dimensions of the ship, cargo , crew numbers and nationalities, security SPMs, and security personnel armed and or unarmed. All this information is fed into a risk matrix formula producing a Vulnerable Risk Category for each vessel and disseminated daily to Task Force Partners on the shared communications system. This information is also fused on the common operational picture used by the Battle Watch Watchkeeping Personnel. This information is used by warships and aircraft across the Voluntary Reporting Area. Vessels register their movement only once upon entering the VRA as set out in BMP. The data provided is collated and trends are analysed over months and years to support improvements and revisions to BMP and other counter piracy advice to Industry Organizations. This information is vital in communicating to Governments the existing and future threat to shipping from piracy.



UKMTO is the Position Reporting and Emergency Incident Response Interface with the Merchant Ships at sea. They have specific responsibilities in coordinating all communications verbally with the Bridge in an emergency in order to make this procedure clear and easy for the Master and Crew. This direct verbal communication enables a quick and accurate assessment of the classification of the incident which is then disseminated immediately on the shared communications systems which ALL Counter Piracy Naval Operations operating off Somalia monitor. Despite some of the automated location positions currently employed on MVs, this system remains the only way a vessel can ensure that naval forces know they are there. This is essential for incident response but is vital in order to track the quantity of traffic and incidents in the VRA. The staff at UKMTO are well trained in providing the appropriate guidance, information and support to the Master and or crew in the event of any piracy related incident. Vessels report daily to UKMTO with position related information.



Based on a political statement supported by 9 European countries, the mission is to "concretely provide Maritime Situation Awareness and Surveillance" in the Gulf and Arabian Sea. EMASoH aims to foster de-escalation and to complement vital diplomatic efforts aiming at ensuring increased stability and an inclusive regional dialogue in a critical context. EMASoH constitutes a useful instrument in safeguarding the freedom of navigation by ensuring adequate coordination and information sharing mechanisms with all partners operating in the area, including the maritime industry. The Headquarters located in the area, provides practical security advice to mariners. Ships entering or leaving the Voluntary Reporting Area (VRA) are encouraged to report to EMASoH . Ships that are reporting will be prioritised for possible reassuring manoeuvres calls with naval and aerial assets.









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