Malicious maritime incident

This risk is featured in the full matrix, representing the averages of multiple different scenarios presented together in the ‘terrorist attacks on transport’ category.

Impact 5
risk indicator
ID 4
Risk theme Terrorism
Impact & Likelihood
Impact key
5 Catastrophic
4 Significant
3 Moderate
2 Limited
1 Minor
Likelihood key
5 >25%
4 5-25%
3 1-5%
2 0.2-1%
1 <0.2%


The risk of a malicious attack targeting the maritime sector in the UK marine area is considered unlikely. An incident such as the scenarios described below has never occurred in or near UK waters, and measures are in place to help mitigate such an incident occurring. However, historically and globally we have seen incidents of terrorists targeting the maritime domain, and the government continues to prepare for a wide range of terrorist attacks. Examples of global incidents of this nature include the bombing of the Superferry 14 in the Philippines in 2004, and the hijacking of the Kartepe in Turkey in 2011. In addition to the protective measures that are in place for maritime, the government aims to ensure we are appropriately prepared to respond to this kind of attack, including working with our international partners.


The reasonable worst-case scenarios included in this group of risks involve a terrorist attack on a vessel in or near UK waters. This would lead to casualties and fatalities, structural damage to the vessel and possibly in some scenarios may lead to the vessel sinking, depending on the methods used by the perpetrators. In a sinking scenario, passenger evacuation protocols would be activated. This incident would have significant economic costs due to varying factors including the initial response, salvage of the vessel, potential blockage of navigation channels, medical costs and wider impacts on the maritime sector.


Variations are held at a higher classification. 

Response capability requirements

Any incident in the maritime domain would require specialist capabilities to respond due to the nature of the operating environment. Military intervention would be required in some scenarios. HM Coastguard Search and Rescue coordination would be needed to support the response to incidents. The triage of casualties by medics and the evacuation/reception of passengers at port would also be needed. The incident would invoke the Victims of Terrorism Unit and Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office to manage domestic and international victims. Mental health support and recovery victim support services would be needed for impacted individuals.


In some incidents a vessel may need to be recovered and removed. Depending on the exclusion zone around the vessel this may cause some disruption. If a forensic investigation is needed, this could take months, causing operational challenges for the receiving port if no alternative location is available for management post incident. An enhanced security posture at ports may be required following such an incident.