Pirate Action Groups (PAG) operating in and around the Horn of Africa and the Somali Basin are once again back in the spotlight following recent incidents such as the hijacking of the MV RUEN, the unlawful boarding of the MV Lila Norfolk, and the confirmed hijacking/seizures of other vessels in the region. Though CRIMARIO offers no silver bullet, it has in recent years supported coastal States enhance maritime situational awareness by providing IORIS, a neutral and secure EU funded common operational platform for the exchange of sensitive information amongst regional maritime enforcement agencies and the coordination of operations as the following case study depicts.


On 22 November 2023, a pirate action group (PAG) hijacked the fishing dhow ALMERAJ1 when sailing off the Somali coast of Somalia, some 90 nautical miles northeast of Eyl. The information was relayed to the Puntland Maritime Police Force (PMPF) through IORIS after being received by the Somali Maritime Authority through Somali Police Force Department of Coast Guard in Mogadishu. PMPF thereafter sought the assistance of EUNAVFOR Atalanta, again through IORIS, where further intervention was requested upon agreement by the Federal Government of Somalia,[1] through its Bossaso based Maritime Operations Center (MOC). EUNAVFOR Atalanta, monitored the movements using aerial assets (drones), reporting movements back to PMPF again through IORIS, until the dhow proceeded back out of Somali waters after a period of surveillance. The suspicious vessel movements are still under investigation and could be related to MV RUEN.

During the entire ALMERAJ1 operation, IORIS was the primary communication tool used throughout, allowing the Mogadishu-based maritime agencies including the Ministry of Fisheries and Blue Economy, and the Somali Police Force Department of Coast Guard (SPF-DCG) to be kept abreast in real-time of ongoing actions.

IORIS Regional Uptake

Serious CRIMARIO engagements in the region commenced in January 2023 when IORIS training was provided to five regional authorities in Djibouti, these including the Djibouti Coast Guard, Somalia Maritime Authority, Somaliland Coast Guard, the Puntland Maritime Police Force and the Yemen Maritime Affairs Authority. In March 2023, a first historic tabletop exercise (TTX) was organised in Djibouti, where students from the afore-mentioned agencies coordinated joint maritime interdiction for the first time, albeit in a simulated manner. European Union Naval Force Operation ATALANTA, operating in the Gulf of Aden, also participated in the IORIS based exercises.

In following months, CRIMARIO organised more activities including an IORIS-based Search and Rescue (SAR) planning course in Kenya, focused on enhancing interagency and interregional information sharing.

IORIS Somali Maritime Agency Uptake

At the beginning of November 2023, CRIMARIO provided focused IORIS training to the Somaliland Coast Guard, training seventeen officials on how to use IORIS to communicate with other entities, exchange documents, use dedicated mapping features and AIS data, and other basic principles of the platform, to support the decision-making process.

And at the end of November 2023, CRIMARIO trained the Somali Police Force Department of the Coast Guard, the Somali Navy and Coast Guard and the Ministry of Fisheries and Blue Economy on the IORIS platform, in coordination with EU Capacity Building Mission to Somalia (EUCAP SOMALIA).

At the course closing ceremony, Andrew Lyttle, IORIS Instructor concluded: “To partake in this training, the participants were required to develop many vital competencies which EUCAP and other Somali and international agencies have supported. The success of having staff members and officers directly benefit from this type of technology, which requires pre-entry knowledge of maritime matters, speaks well on collective development. I see this course also beneficial for the European Union, since enhancing safety and security in the busy waters of Somalia region provides direct mutual gain for all”. 

In response to a request from the PMPF, CRIMARIO trained the Maritime Operations Centre based in Bossaso Puntland between the 28th January and the 1st February 2024, and, in the not-too-distant future, CRIMARIO intends facilitating an interagency Standard Operating Procedure workshop through which all Somali maritime safety and security authorities and agencies will define harmonised procedures for exchanging information.

CRIMARIO further supports EUNAVFOR in its Local Maritime Capacity Building (LMCB) activities specifically using IORIS as the communication tool via TTX to exercise maritime safety and security scenarios. Such an exercise (supported by EUCAP) was most recently undertaken on the 6th February 2024, between EUNAVFOR ES Victoria and the PMPF MOC which used the case of the AMERAJ1 as a exercise example.

Since the ever-growing IORIS network is beginning to push CRIMARIO resources to their limit, CRIMARIO is now providing Train-the-Trainer courses so that nationals can begin to teach themselves without direct CRIMARIO support, and such a course in the country is planned in the spring.

Virtual Community Areas

Through IORIS, all six maritime enforcement and safety agencies mentioned above are now interconnected through IORIS 24/7. This is through the creation of a nationally administered virtual national Community Area called SOMSEA, allowing for the coordination of maritime operations up to the outer perimeter of their Exclusive Economic Zone. Beyond this, authorities can connect with neighbouring countries through the Red Sea, Gulf of Oman, Horn of Africa, Gulf of Aden (ROHA) Community Area.

In the words of Colonel Mohamed Jama, Head of Puntland Maritime Operation Centre: “Since CRIMARIO initiated its engagement with PMPF to provide capacity-building training related to IORIS, there has been a significant improvement in PMPF’s knowledge and understanding of the maritime domain. This training has enhanced our capabilities and facilitated information sharing and exchange with other maritime stakeholders in the region. Thanks to the implementation of the IORIS system, PMPF is now able to track the movements of hijacked boats and report local maritime incidents to other maritime security stakeholders and neighbouring countries. Furthermore, PMPF has established effective connections, communication, and collaboration with Somali Maritime authorities, the Somali Maritime Administration, and EUNAVFOR ATALANTA operations in the regional sea.”

According to Mr. Yonis Adan, Senior Maritime Advisor to the Federal Government of Somali GS Ministry of Ports and Marine Transport recognises the importance of IORIS: “The platform helps on different levels; it allows individuals, organisations, and coastal communities within the federal government of Somalia to share their knowledge and expertise with others. It enables the transfer of valuable insights, experiences, and best practices, fostering continuous learning and improvement. At the same time, IORIS facilitates collaboration and networking among users who have similar interests or goals. It brings together diverse perspectives, encourages discussions, and promotes the exchange of ideas, paving the way for innovation, problem-solving, and new opportunities.

Moreover, through the platform, you get access to up-to-date information: in the virtual IORIS National Community SOMSEA, where there is the need to rapidly exchange information, IORIS ensures that all users have access to the most current and relevant data. It enables users to stay updated on the latest incidents in the region and beyond. One last point I’d like to make is related to empowerment and inclusivity: I believe IORIS provides an opportunity for everyone to share and access information freely. IORIS instructors empower individuals, coastal communities, and maritime administration staff, regardless of their background or location, to participate actively in discussions, contribute with their perspective, to gain valuable insight”. 

Concluding Remarks

Working with officials from the various authorities and agencies has indeed been a rewarding experience for CRIMARIO given that many operators are some of the most active IORIS users in the Indo-Pacific region. This besides the fact that the Horn of Africa and its approaches is probably the region which requires IORIS the most at this moment in time.

[1] The Federal Government of Somalia via the Somali Maritime Administration has a key role in ensuring these permissions considered issues related to the Territorial Waters (TTW) to agree the assistance of EUNAVFOR.