Citadels in Shipping: Definition & Meaning

Members who are contemplating the use of a ship citadel as a defensive measure against piracy should be aware of the following recommendations contained in BMP4:-

"If Citadels are to be employed, they should be complementary to, rather than a replacement for, all other Ship Protection Measures set out in BMP 4. The establishing of a Citadel may be beyond the capability of ship's staff alone, and may well require external technical advice and support.

What is a citadel on a ship?

A Ship Citadel is a designated pre-planned area purpose built into the ship where, in the event of imminent boarding by pirates, all crew will seek protection. A Citadel is designed and constructed to resist a determined pirate trying to gain entry for a fixed period of time. The details of the construction and operation of Citadels are beyond the scope of this booklet. A detailed document containing guidance and advice is included on the MSCHOA and NATO Shipping Centre website. The whole concept of the Citadel approach is lost if any crew member is left outside before it is secured. Ship operators and Masters are strongly advised to check the MSCHOA website for detailed up to date advice and guidance regarding the construction and operation of Citadels including the criteria that Naval/Military forces will apply before considering a boarding operation to release the crew from the Citadel.

It is important to note that Naval/Military forces will apply the following criteria before a boarding to release those in a Citadel can be considered:

  • 100% of the crew must be secured in the Citadel.
  • The crew of the ship must have self contained, independent, reliable 2-way external communications (sole reliance on VHF communications is not sufficient).
  • The pirates must be denied access to ship propulsion.
  • The use of a Citadel, even where the above criteria is applied, cannot guarantee a Naval/Military response."

The detailed advice and guidance on construction and use of citadels referred to in BMP4 can be found at the website of MSCHOA, or can be provided by e-mail on request by the Managers.

Staff Author