Thursday, December 10, 2009

Protection of Seafarers, Bureaucracy vs Reality

Yesterday I attended a anti-Piracy forum (as an observer) in Manila, Philippines that was hosted by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration. Other government agency participants in the forum include the Department of Labor and Employment, Overseas Workers welfare Administration and others. From the private sector, Seafarer labor unions and Manning agencies were also in attendance.

This forum was organized with the appropriate intent on establishing rules or regulations with the safety of the seafarer in mind. However, it must be first understood that the maritime industry is already burdened as a compliance heavy industry. It is correct to have the desire to protect the seafarer, however, from what I observed, these government entities do not have an understanding of how the maritime industry is already attempting to cope with the piracy issue in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean.

One of the suggestions that came from the government side, was to mandate that any ship carrying a Filipino Seafarer, must have a ships security plan and the seafarer should be orientated on the plan. Last time I looked, the ISPS Code already has that requirement in place, and all vessels already have a ships security plan. This type of suggestion immediately tells us that rules and regulations are going to be implemented by persons that have never been on a ship, and are clearly unfamiliar with the current regulations already in place.

The next step was to mandate that all Filipino seafarers must complete anti piracy training before they can be deployed on ships, and this is to become effective January 15, 2010. Further, this is to be effective for seafarers that are on leave, and those currently deployed on vessels.

The number of Filipino seafarers in the world is around 300,000. The question is, what is the training that is required, and how could anyone train 300,000 seafarers in that short period of time?

there is no answer to the second part of the question, but now the training that is proposed is to be a video. Someone in their infinite wisdom proposed that a video that was taken of a presentation by an INTERTANKO giving a presentation on Best Management Practices, should have a few pictures added to it and the seafarer be required to watch the video, then a certificate be issued.

I have nothing against the Best Management Practices as published by INTERTANKO, I actually commend them for this publication, and agree that it should be implemented on board vessels. However, this would be considered an orientation to seafarers and not anti piracy training. In fact, the publication for Best Management Practices has been out for a period of time, well distributed and well recognized in the maritime industry. As a matter of conclusion, the majority of seafarers in the world have probably already read the publication. I encourage all seafarers to become familiar with the Best Management Practices as published by INTERTANKO.

Should this effort of watching this video be called an 'orientation' of the seafarer, that would be appropriate. However, to term this as anti piracy training that will secure the seafarer would be ludicrous. It was very clearly stated that the elements of the Philippine Government present wanted to make this a mandatory training program in order to be a world leader in anti piracy training for their seafarers. This concept is a fantastic idea, however, if you want to be a world leader in anti piracy training for your seafarer, maybe their should be a training program that actually is a training program, not just a video on information that is already widely published.

Before a mandate of a training program such as Anti-Piracy training should be put in place, I would think it appropriate to hear the voice of the actual seafarer, the ship owners and representatives of the maritime security industry, in order to form a program that has the proper substance and value to the actual seafarer and the shipping company. Merely mandating a video to be watched, and a certificate issued is nothing more than bureaucracy attempting to take credit for establishing a program and trying to give it an appearance that they are solving the seafarers issues of sailing in dangerous waters, when in fact, the mandate of this as "training" is just above useless. This mandate would be a duplication to the efforts that shipping companies are already doing on their own.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Passive Resistance:

I was giving a quote for security service as of late and came across a company that said they were going to go with a security company offering passive resistance. I was a bit curious as in the nature of defense, there is no such thing as passive resistance. Then I thought of the MV Biscaglia, and that is the closest thing I could think of. Now passive resistance normally would bring in the Gandhi Effect. By that I mean, If you sit on the deck of the ship with a sign that says "Don't Hijack us" and if the hijack actually took place, you would simply jump off the ship. Now this is a bit extreme (and actually happened, without the signs of course) but how can you think of defending a ship with passive resistance?

The only way you can defend a vessel against pirates is with an active defense profile. If you can not show that you are ready to defend the vessel, then you are a prime target. Showing an active, viable defense is the best deterrence against attack int he rist place, Then you must have the means to actually defend the vessel.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Sniper Rifles For Anti Piracy?

We have dealt with the requests of many different shipping companies, and have always tried to cater to the desires of the shipping company. It is frequent that companies request firearms for their transits through the Gulf of Aden and the east Coast of Africa. Firearms are not impossible to supply, however it can be difficult and our company will not supply firearms illegally obtained.

That being said, we are getting requests now to provide "SNIPER" rifles on board merchant vessels for their transits.

I do believe in trying to accommodate the client as much as possible, but I also believe that providing a proper service is of the utmost importance. Part of that service is to give expert advice to the shipping company and alternative solutions for them to consider. However, advice and solutions need to be based on experience and a sound security doctrine that is proven in the domain.

The request of the "sniper" rifle really had me baffled. The client not only requested the sniper rifle, but insisted that they want a sniper rifle on all future transits.

So the question is, what is a sniper rifle?
Is it the caliber?
Is it the configuration of the weapon?
Is it automatic, bolt action or semi automatic?

Actually the answer to that is that none of the above are relevant. What the client does not understand, is a "SNIPER RIFLE" is a "SNIPER RIFLE" only if you have a "SNIPER" operating the rifle. without the 'qualified sniper' you have nothing more than a rifle.

When request such as this come across, we attempt to provide the client with factual information that is based on experience. As a qualified Urban Sniper, I may have some knowledge and experience to base the advice. There has been endless debate in the maritime security realm when it comes to armed vs unarmed security, lethal vs less lethal and non lethal approaches. However, the 'sniper rifle' concept has to take the Darwin Award.

We all know the success of the Navy Seal Sniper's in regards to the Maersk Alabama incident. However, not only are these guys trained specifically for that incident, but the shooting took place at about 30 to 40 meters away, in absolute flat seas, without either vessel underway.

If you are to consider being under attack by pirates, the vessel is to go to full speed and take evasive maneuvering. With the movement of the vessel, pitch, roll, yaw and of course its speed, added to the fact that the pirate skiff is also at speed and maneuvering, the sniper rifle option is about the worst option out there. You would not be able to have any effectiveness whatsoever. I don't know how any educated, experienced security contractor would advise a ship company to have sniper rifles as their defense.

Obviously this is a case where either the security contractor knows nothing about maritime security, or the shipping company management is watching too many movies. Or maybe a combination of both.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Anti-Piracy Training

MATS College of Technology, ISSG Holdings and Evolutionary Security Management are pleased to announce that they have reached a significant milestone in their efforts to support the seafarer community’s anti-piracy efforts through specialized practical anti-piracy training. The product of several months’ research and development, this training will provide seafarers with training that is specifically designed to meet this rising global challenge.

MATS College of Technology, a leading maritime training institution in the Philippines, has nearly forty years of history in training seafarers for the global maritime industry and is located within the city of Davao. Graduates from MATS College of Technology have often been found amongst the top graduates within the region.

ISSG Holdings, a specialized provider of ship security and high-risk transits, provides operational support and knowledge that will ensure that the training candidates receive encompasses the latest understanding of the operational environment. This is further refined through ISSG Holdings commitment to ensuring that the shipping industry receives both relevant and reliable ship security services, maintaining constant lines of communication with shipping companies, manning agencies and other supporting elements.

Evolutionary Security Management, a recognized training institution for maritime security based in Ontario, Canada, has been a leading research organization within the Transportation Security community with strong ties to first responder, professional security and asset protection associations. These include taking on leadership roles within those communities. The lines of communication into these professional associations ensure that the training provided to candidates aligns with best practices and sound security doctrine.

Located in Davao City, this course is easily accessible to the maritime and seafarer communities, taking into account the need for a cost-effective solution within the maritime industry. The vast majority of seafarers being drawn from this community mean that shipping companies and manning agencies are not burdened with the high travel and accommodation costs that are often encountered when attempting to coordinate specialized training in certain other parts of the globe. Concurrently, shipping companies and manning agencies have the option of having full crews undergo the training together, a practice that reinforces the crew’s ability to respond cohesively. Direct flights from Singapore, a major transportation hub, ensure that this training can be accessible across the global community.

By blending theoretical (classroom) and practical (on board vessel) training that culminates in a live practical exercise on board a vessel, this training is unique in its preparation of seafarers for real-world events. By building this capacity, this is the first course that balances the history and traditions of the professional merchant mariner with leading edge security practices and theory in a way that will have significant and cumulative benefits across the maritime industry.
The first full training course is currently slated for mid-November 2009. Details will soon be posted on the ISSG Holdings ( and Evolutionary Security Management ( websites. Further information can be obtained through ISSG Holdings by email.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Costs of Merchant Vessel Security

With shipping companies facing increasingly tighter profit margins, along with an increased risk transiting hostile waters, ISSG understands that inflated security costs can cause shipping companies to fore go risk mitigation to stay profitable. This is caused by a lack of understanding on the part of security companies, on how the shipping industry operates. ISSG understands that it is crucial to reduce the impact of security costs so that you can remain profitable, and stay competitive on carriage contract bids.

ISSG Holdings understands that shipping companies do not always have long advance notice of their upcoming transits, and routes can be unpredictable. This, combined with the ever-expanding piracy threat areas can create a unique challenge in arranging affordable comprehensive security for their assets. By developing the proper working relationships with shipping companies, gives us the flexibility to adapt to your needs in a constantly changing environment.

Some security companies have actually chastised us for offering what they consider "low ball" rates for security during transits. I have to say that like any business, we offer our rates according to our costs and the profit margin that we expect to gain. This is not a low ball situation, this is reality in today's times of market need.

If a security company is charging more than the market will bear, then the shipping company will fore go the security to maintain their bottom line. If the security company can understand the needs of the shipping company, they either offer their services at a rate that can be affordable, or stay out of the picture. The complaints about our costs should not enter your mind as i do not even know your costs. I can not be low balling mine if I am calculating my costs realistically, without even knowing yours.

This is not the time to take advantage of shipping companies due to piracy. This is the time to provide a service to shipping companies that is of best value and best service at costs that can be afforded.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Sept. 2009 Anti Piracy Assessment

Evolutionary Security Management, Inc. of Canada issues a bi-monthly Anti-Piracy Assessment for the maritime community. The September report specifically focuses on piracy around the Horn of Africa, and addresses the three elements of the problem -- the pirates, the international response and the impact of this response, and issues surrounding the presence in the region of a large military force.
You can find the September 2009 issue on the website of the company's risk management partner ISSG Holdings, Ltd. The assessment is available as a free PDF download at;

ISSG Holdings, Ltd., is an international business company engaged in merchant vessel protection.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Anti-Piracy Assessment: Sept. 2009

Evolutionary Security Management, Inc. of Canada has issued their September, 2009 Anti-Piracy Assessment -

In reading the assessment, I found two points of particular interest, first, under "defensive Operator Issues" A failure of insurance companies and similar underwriters to balance their response to the activities and measures taken by ship owners and operators:

This is of particular interest as with the shipping companies we have talked with, the insurance companies are not providing an incentive for the shipping companies when they are exercising due care and giving proper preparation for transits through the known piracy areas. It seems that the insurance companies are blanketing everyone with the same charges without regard to the preparations taken.

An example of this would be that if you owned a car, and you had an absolute clean driving record, had taken extra driving school classes, your insurance carrier takes this into consideration. On the other hand, if your record is very bad, and you have taken no steps to show any due care in your driving habits, your insurance would be much higher.

If the insurance companies were to give incentives tot he shipping companies to exercise due care, properly harden their vessels and take the proper steps to mitigate risks, more of the shipping companies would be inclined to take these steps to save on the insurance premium.

The second point "Costs associated with on board security being out of sync with realistic costs and continuing not to consistently follow sound security management or incident management practices;"

We have seen on board security quotes of up to $185,000.00 for a one week transit. This kind of pricing is absolutely ridiculous, as a team of 5 for example, would never cost that much money, even when you include the air fare, visas, hotels, agency fees etc. Some security companies apparently are attempting to take advantage of the shipping industry rather than be a reasonably priced service provider. In addition, many security providers are giving quotations for service before they even take the opportunity to conduct a proper risk assessment for that particular vessel and it's transit.

Insurance companies need to start giving incentives to the shipping companies so that there is motivation to take the proper steps to safeguard their assets and crews, and security companies need to reign in their price structure to a reasonable level, and provide a sound service based in a proven security doctrine.

Read the September 2009 Anti-Piracy Assessment and give your thoughts.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Why quotes for security services should not be received immediately

Ship security is becoming big business—but is it delivering a service in line with the risks that you need to address? Remember, your business is about moving persons and goods from one location to another so that they arrive at that location on time and in acceptable condition. If they don’t, you face not being paid, being forced to pay penalties, or higher operating costs in the future. You may also face losing clients that lose trust in your ability to maintain reasonable costs or even make delivery. If you hold a position of trust within your organization, you will someday find yourself having to answer one of two questions—were the measures that you took adequate to the situation or were the measures that you took really necessary and a worthwhile use of resources?

This needs to be answered in two parts. First, what is the risk to the vessel in terms of its transit? Is the vessel susceptible in some way to some kind of attack that could lead to the transit being interrupted, the cargo (or passengers) being lost, or even the vessel being taken? Each vessel is reasonably unique. They may share common characteristics depending on their class or type, but when you look at the vessel and how it operates as an entity on the water, it is now a unique being. The second question is how important is this transit to your company? Is the company relying on the transit in order to stay in business or is it simply one of many iteration of the same thing? Why is this important? Because the impact changes as the transit becomes more crucial to your organization’s survival.

As a person holding a position of corporate trust—either to the executive as a trusted advisor or to the shareholders as a capable executive—you need to have a sound basis for your answer if you are going to at least appear to be exercising your due diligence. You need to be prepared to answer why the services you are paying for, right down to the particular safeguards, should be considered an effective and efficient use of resources. That means that you need the security company to provide you with reasonable, logical arguments as to why they should be allowed to put administrative, physical (barriers), procedural or other kinds of protective measures on board your vessel. If they cannot provide this, you need to ask yourself whether or not the service that they are purporting to provide really would be adequate to the challenge at hand and, frankly, you will only be doing so based on luck, not on your exercising due diligence in making the decision.

In the security community, any security safeguard should be based upon a security assessment (often called the threat and risk assessment). In short, the safeguard is there to answer the question that the risk assessment asks the person responsible—is this level of risk appropriate and acceptable? If not, then you determine what steps or measures are put in place so that the risk is treated appropriately. What you should not see, is an immediate response to your question about how you would be protected unless the security company has examined those elements of the risk assessment that are needed in order to arrive at a logical basis for what they are going to propose.

Remember, risk management is more than simply addressing one of many issues. It is about appropriately responding to as many issues as possible in such a way that the delicate balance of operations is not disrupted inappropriately. You should not trade security risk for legal or operational risk where those other two risks would cause an equivalent or greater injury to your organization. Why? Because risk management is about being able to assure your organization and your clients that they can count on you to deliver on your own promises to them.

Some thoughts for ship managers and owners to ponder.


Sunday, August 23, 2009

Anti-Piracy Vessel Risk assessments

ISSG Holdings, Ltd. and Evolutionary Security Management, Inc. have developed an unparalleled anti-piracy vessel survey program for the maritime industry. This survey is conducted in two parts. First we send a trained security surveyor to your vessel, anywhere in the world to conduct the survey without interrupting the ships schedule. The report of the security survey is then transmitted to Evolutionary Security Management, Inc. in Canada, where an exhaustive assessment is conducted, and report issued back to the company.

Being appropriately prepared for an attack by pirates requires an approach that is based on sound judgment and analysis. The approach put forward in this program is intended to meet that goal while clearly demonstrating the company's alignment with Section 29 of MSC 1333 put forward by the IMO in June 2009 and other elements of the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code. While the IMO's guidance is indicated as being a preferred practice, it can be construed, given the maritime culture, as a best practice for companies seeking to demonstrate that they are exercising their due diligence. This approach is further supported by security doctrine that has undergone a peer review to ensure its soundness and consistency with security doctrine and practices.

The three following cycles play pivotal roles in the defence of the vessel:

1. Protection, detection, response and recovery;

2. Deter, detect, delay, deny and detain or destroy; and

3. Mitigation, preparation, response and recovery.

In the first cycle, the goal is for the vessel to be able to be adequately hardened against reasonably foreseeable threats. Having been hardened, the next goal is for the vessel to be able to detect and respond to threats effectively. Finally, infrastructure should be included that allows for the vessel to recover from a range of known impacts.

In the second cycle, the focus is on the security operations of the vessel. In this case, the hardening of the vessel and other activities ideally deter the attacker. If this is not possible, however, the goal is for the vessel to be able to detect and delay the attacker from boarding the vessel (and progressively more sensitive areas) until help arrives. Finally, the goal is to be able to deny access to personnel , potential hostages, or critical aspects of the ship. Finally, the ship may want to maintain the means of being able to detain or destroy a potential attacker, although this option will rarely be acceptable.

In the third cycle, the goal is to take steps to minimize the potential impacts of an attack as part of the long-term corporate activities. The first cycle plays a significant role in the preparation of the vessel while the second cycle plays a significant role in the response phase. The final recovery phase ensures that the ship, its crew and the assets on board are protected so that normal operations can resume expeditiously.

The Approach:
There are four basic elements required in order to perform a valid survey of a vessel. These four elements are the following:

An understanding of the threat, including its knowledge, skills, abilities and traditional resources; ·

An understanding of the vessel from an engineering perspective; ·

An understanding of the operations of the vessel, particularly its navigation and how it deals with security events;

and · An understanding of the crew and its ability to respond.

Before setting out on the survey, the surveyor must review the threat profile of the potential threat in the area. Particular attention should be paid to the intent, number of craft, number of persons per craft, knowledge, skills, abilities, and resources (particularly weapons and tools) available to the attacker. This can often be provided through the Evolutionary Security website (marineweb). To get access to this web, you will need to contact

The second element deals with how robust the vessel is or, in other terms, how well it is likely to withstand an attack. This is broken down into two sub-elements. The first element deals with the materials, engineering and design used in the construction of the vessel. This is a question of robustness. The second sub-element, however, looks at whether or not the design offers the attacker the means or opportunity to gradually penetrate onto the vessel, into the superstructure, and then to progressively more protected compartments.

While the second element deals with how well the ship can defend itself (a question of preparation), the third element looks at the elements of response and recovery. Having detected a suspicious vessel or potentially hostile situation, can the vessel outrun, outmaneuver, or otherwise navigate in such a way that it enhances the ship's natural design features? This is the first sub-element. The second sub-element involves whether or not the ship has the necessary preparations, plans, procedures and testing completed to validate whether or not the infrastructure on board the vessel is working.

The final element of four involves the training and understanding of the crew. This is not part of the ship survey and fits more closely into an inspection under regulatory regimes, etc. We want, however, to remind the ship owner and operator that technology is only one piece of the challenge, the other is a capable and confident crew. Incident reports have borne out the conclusion that those that have solid plans and look like they know how to execute them have a reduced chance of being attacked over those that appear unprepared.

We believe that the Vessel Survey for Anti-Piracy Risk Assessment is vital in the maritime industry today. This program not only enhances the capability of the ship and crew to be prepared, but is one of the most cost effective ways for shipping companies to exercise due diligence and a sound security practice.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Anti Piracy, Is Security for Crusie Ships Different?

When you look at the situation of defending a vessel against piracy, the methodology from a merchant vessel to a cruise ship should not change. What does change, is the consideration of the passengers and the configuration of the vessel.

Normal cruise ship security should be concerned with the on board threats against the vessel, its crew and the passengers on the vessel. Anti piracy security is a whole different concern. When you consider security, you need to understand that the security provided for anti piracy operations needs to concentrate on the piracy aspect. The normal security on the vessel needs to concentrate on the on board threats.

To have a security entity be concerned with both aspects at the same time will severely hamper one or the other. These are two completely different methodologies and should be treated as such.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Firearms Debate Rages On

The debate whether to arm merchant vessels rages on. There are advantages and disadvantages to having firearms. Certainly anyone possessing a firearms should be well trained, not only in the use of the firearm itself, but in appropriate Rules of Engagement. When speaking of rules of engagement, I am not referring to just reading the rules of engagement, I am speaking of understanding them, and the liability that goes along with the firearm. I am not against firearms but care needs to be exercised here due to the inherent risks involved. Some say that the use of firearms would escalate the violence of an attack. This could be very true if the methodology of it's use was incorrect. Firearms are always to be a last resort. You can follow the legalities of the rules of engagement and definitely escalate the fight, or you can have a proper methodology with the use of firearms and not escalate the fight. Keep in mind this is my own opinion, and I certainly welcome other opinions. I will give a small scenario and explain my view. A merchant vessel is very large, averaging about 200 meters in length, while a pirate skiff is very small comparatively, about 10 meters in length. On the ocean it is a much different picture than land warfare would paint. The merchant vessel has no cover or concealment and is usually limited in it's maneuverability. The pirate skiff of course is in the same situation regarding cover and concealment, but is highly maneuverable. Now imagine looking at a merchant vessel that is 200 meters away from you, and how large it appears, and imagine a 10 meter skiff 200 meters away, and how small it looks. The pirate obviously has a much larger target to shoot at, and his accuracy does not need to be near as good to hit the target. The pirates have displayed a consistent method of firing a few rounds with the AK-47 and maybe a round from the RPG-7. this has stayed consistent as it is a means of intimidation to get the vessel to stop. However, with the normal resistance a ship can offer, speed, maneuverability and standard anti piracy methods such as fire fighting equipment used to repel or hinder the boarder, the violence usually does not tend to escalate beyond the intimidation. Now imagine the 200 meter distance between the two vessels, and now the first few rounds fired from the skiff (along with an RPG round), and imagine someone on the vessel firing back. This may be justified by the rules of engagement, but now you are at a severe disadvantage, as the pirate can start firing much more than he would have. With the maneuverability of the skiff, you are not likely to hit the skiff, however, they have a much better chance of hitting your vessel. This is the type of conduct with a firearm that could place the vessel and it's crew in much greater danger, but is the common practice with firearms. On land, with cover and concealment, this use of the firearm would be acceptable and reasonable, but at sea, it just does not work. Most that want the firearm on boar, are of the mentality that if I shoot back, the pirate will just run away. What if he doesn't? My whole point is that proper preparations of the vessel and crew, with the correct defensive posture and layers of defense, firearms just are not necessary. No one is out there to kill pirates, they are supposed to be out there preventing the vessel from being boarded.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Piracy Attacks more than double?

I had some thoughts in regards to the numbers that have been floating around on piracy reporting in the Horn of Africa region, as compared with this year and last year. Last year the number of reported piracy attacks in the region are about 111 total attacks with about 42 hijackings for the year. This year, there have been approximately 32 hijackings with about 250 reported attacks for the same area, being the Gulf of Aden and the East Coast of Africa.
The reported hijackings are probably pretty factual, however, my thoughts are on the
supposed increase in attacks. When looking at the Live Piracy map by the IMB as a basis, I can see that the reported attacks of course have gone up dramatically, however, for some reason, the reported sightings of “suspicious” vessels stands at only three. This is what caught my eye and started my thought process as to the reality of attacks. The IMB admits that less than 50% of attacks are reported to the IMB, as merchant vessels are not 'required' to report attacks. Through a few informal talks with seaman, I found that the only attacks that are normally reported, are those that result in significant damage to the vessel, serious injury to a crew member, or of course, the actual successful hijacking itself. This is mostly due to the desire to maintain an 'incident free' situation with insurance
carriers, and the fact that if an attack is reported, the vessel may be held up for inspection causing unnecessary time delays and other matters with some port authorities. I have come to a few conclusions or a theory as to why the numbers have jumped significantly, and how the reporting of this can be very misleading. First we will start with the reporting. Most articles or reports, are missing one key element, and that is the word “REPORTED.” When the article is written or given on television, it is given that the number of attacks has significantly risen in the region. They are not taking into account that it is the number of Reported attacks has risen.

If you look at the numbers of reported attacks for the region, it is well over 100%
increase in the reported attacks, and we are not even finished with the year. However, the most interesting element, is if the attacks had actually increased, then the number of sightings of suspicious vessels would have increased dramatically as well. This significant increase in reported attacks coincides with the naval presence in the region. The navy ships are compelled to report all activity, to include calls for help by merchant vessels being attacked by pirates. n. However, the merchant vessels are not reporting a significant increase in the sightings of suspicious vessels. In order for the number of attacks to have literally increased over 100%, there would have to be a significant increase in actual pirate boats and pirates themselves. Almost all reported attacks involve about two skiffs, sometimes three and sometimes one. Therefore, there would have to be twice as many pirates on the water for the figures to match. I therefore conclude that the attack rate has not risen significantly, merely the reporting of the attacks has risen significantly.
I have concluded that this is the case due to the naval presence in the region. Before the naval presence, the merchant vessels fended for themselves and did not report attacks unless of the damage to the vessel, injury to the crew or an actual hijacking took place. Now that the naval entities are there, the merchant vessels have someone to call for help in the event of an attack. The naval vessels are compelled to report the call of distress, therefore, the number of reported incidents has risen significantly. Another way to substantiate this theory, is when
the incident is reported, the name of the vessel is not normally reported. Therefore, the report to the IMB came from the navy, not the individual vessel filing the report. The response to this may be causing the maritime industry to go in the wrong direction when it comes to vessel defense. The answer is not to rely on the naval flotilla, but to take the appropriate action to protect their own vessels.

Anyway, just some of my thoughts.

Friday, August 7, 2009

ISSG Holdings, Ltd. Issues Maritime Security Operations Guide Plan

In facing modern maritime piracy, security operations are successful when the security company exercises versatility in its conduct and approach. Due to the environment difference as an operational space, as compared to common crime, insurgency or war zone, a tailored solution must be found to meet the client’s needs. The factors among others to take into account are the tactical threats, logistics support and the particularities of client’s operating structure. ISSG Holdings, Ltd. is a maritime protection specific security company and as such we base our methodology on solid planning with a military mindset.

Asset protection operations at sea combine land and naval force protection patterns. As the Protection Team lacks even common naval weaponry and sensors, the engagement distances are the same as on soil, with the difference that the ship, obviously, cannot use the landscape to take cover for example. The specifics of this situation are that the vessel becomes a moving defense platform. Maritime protection operators should be land and sea proven; therefore providing limited adjustment to the maritime environment.

The Maritime Operations Guide Plan is the foundation on which operational planning and execution are based; it defines the functions and the concept of operations of the system as a whole, the leadership and missions of each integrator, and coordination between them.

This current document is to expose our vision of how typical asset protection at sea is done. Unlike other security companies, we do believe in “security company – client” transparency in our business conduct. We therefore share our general operation outline with the client giving him the knowledge of our methodology. Armed with this knowledge, the client has the opportunity of input and an instrument to measure our performance.
Applicability and Scope

The Maritime Operations Guide Plan concerns the Maritime Asset Protection activity conducted by “ISSG Holdings, Ltd.” and is based on our Anti-Piracy Methodology. The Plan describes the organizational structure of the teams, which is important information for decision-making process understanding as well as the variety of factors and limits, which lead us during elaboration of specific operational plans.

In order to make sound decisions on the protection of your assets and crew, it is important to be armed with the most up to date, accurate information. Every vessel is different and every company has different expectations as to the acceptable level of risk. We work with you to determine the best security scenario for you, and provide you with options for your decision making process. We provide a vessel / transit risk assessment for you with every quotation of service.

Essential Functions
1 Advise the Master on Security matters and methodology.
2 Prepare the vessel and crew for high threat transit.
3 Protect the vessel and crew from hostile action.

Physical protection of vessel, crew and cargo, performed by a qualified professional team with adequate equipment while on board the vessel. The term “protection” stands for: Hardening of the vessel before entering known hostile waters, sound advice to the Master for ship and crew safety, and the employment of a sound, multiple level defense methodology to detect, deter, delay and deny aggressors and control the ships environment. Generally, the team is to assemble at the quarters, prepare the equipment, arrive to port and embark the vessel, perform all the necessary actions as transit preparation and routine, uninstall the equipment and disembark.
Our teams are equipped with anti-piracy devices, which do not use gunpowder or explosive gases to propel the projectiles; therefore they are not “ traditional firearms” and can be delivered to the vessel by the team legally. As a company policy, the client is responsible of providing firearms to the vessel in the case he requires our team to operate this kind of weaponry.

ISSG Holdings, Ltd. Has a very well defined defense methodology, and when combined with the correct defensive posture along with the right personnel, we know that firearms are not necessary for vessel defense. ISSG has over 50 former Navy Commandos / SEAL's on staff, with a medic on every team. Our staff is among the most capable in the industry to provide vessel protection.

With our experience, it is known that certain weapons and equipment may only be loaded on the vessel in specific locations due to existing laws, rules and regulations of various countries. ISSG holdings, ltd. Will not attempt to circumvent these laws and place our team members, company or client in a position of legal compromise. Firearms are expressly forbidden in Egypt, Oman, UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen except by local authorities. Night vision, ballistic helmets and ballistic vests may be restricted in certain jurisdictions. We have gone to great lengths to provide our equipment for you.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Equipment for Anit-Piracy Security

With our experience, it is known that certain weapons and equipment may only be loaded on the vessel in specific locations due to existing laws, rules and regulations of various countries. ISSG Holdings, ltd. Will not attempt to circumvent these laws and place our team members, company or client in a position of legal compromise. Firearms are expressly forbidden in Egypt, Oman, UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen except by local authorities. Night vision, ballistic helmets and ballistic vests may be restricted in certain jurisdictions.

Shipping companies that are requesting armed security teams on their vessels should be careful, and aware of the legalities not only of having weapons on board, but how they are obtained.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Risk Assessment for Maritime Security

Any security safeguard should be based on a properly conducted risk assessment involving trained security personnel with experience in the domain. Each situation should be weighed on its own with the safeguards ensuring appropriate protection for life, property and operations. Ships are produced in many different configurations and though the transit area may be the same, there are different types of transits. When looking at the different vessels, some have a very high free board, such as the auto carrier type, and some have no free board such as some dredger type vessels. This drastic difference in configuration requires a maximum flexibility in the capabilities of the security provider to construct the proper defensive posture for each type of vessel. In addition to different vessel types are the different kinds of transits. Many vessels travel at a speed between 12 and 18 knots. Some of these vessels have good maneuverability and some very limited. However, one special type of transit that is probably the highest risk type, is the tug and barge towing transit. This transit is especially at risk not only due to a speed capability of about 5 knots, but the fact that the distance between the tug and barge can be from 500 to 700 meters. this configuration gives the total transit length of about 850 meters. Ocean tugs typically have an extreme low freeboard, as well as the barge. The risk assessment is very important as it guides the defensive posture of the transit, but more importantly, the risk assessment gives the vessel owner and operator the knowledge necessary to make informed decisions. There is no "one size fits all" when it comes to vessel protection against piracy.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Firearms on merchant vessels?

There has been a lot of talk about firearms on merchant vessels to protect against piracy. Even if we take out the liability ramifications, and the legal issues as far as flag state is concerned,there are still a lot of problems associated with firearms.

If the vessel owns the firearms, the run the risk of delay in ports due to inspections of the firearms and ammunition. If the security company is to provide weapons, they will have a problem providing the firearms in almost any port. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman and the UAE expressly forbid the possession of firearms by non citizens, and further, by anyone that is not a policeman or active duty military.

Therefore there is only a couple ways to provide the security service with firearms. Either you have your own vessel and an end user certificate for the firearms, or you make arrangements for the firearms (illegally) to be provided by a third party, usually at sea.

Should you have your own vessel, multiply that by two and you are now cost prohibitive to provide the armed service. I say multiply by two because you will need a vessel on each end of the transit. Otherwise, you must escort the ship with your vessel and again, cost prohibitive. Should you make the arrangement for weapons illegally, then the shipping company can become party to the illegal activity. Obtaining the weapons illegally is also a very high cost, because they must be disposed of prior to the end of the voyage. This is usually done by throwing the weapons over board.

The answer is, develop a methodology that includes a proper security posture for the vessel and have the proper team. If your methods are correct, your security posture correct, and your response effective, you will not need firearms on the vessel.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Monsoon Ending, Warning by Naval Forces Command

The Naval Forces Central Command says to watch out as the monsoon season comes to an end.

The high waves and winds in and around the Gulf of Aden will be calming soon, it is vital that extra watches be vigilant, and adequate anti piracy measures be in place, especially with vessels of low freeboard, low speed and minimized maneuverability.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Pirate Evolution and Adaptation

Over the last year we have seen an evolution / adaptation of the piracy in the Gulf of Aden and the east coast of Africa. Most of this was predictable if you know a bit about the criminal mentality. I say this because the typical pirates in the region are acting more like criminals than terrorists. I guess if you want to be technical about it, piracy is a form of terrorism, but I am speaking of the context of crime for profit rather than crime for political influence or gain. the pirates have evolved in their methodology as well as having adapted to the presence of naval forces in the region. They have moved farther off shore, they have moved attacks into the Red Sea and even as far East as Sur, Oman.

Now that the monsoon season has slowed piracy for a while, it is almost finished and the "experts" are predicting a severe rise in attacks. This would be normal as they have been hampered by weather and big waves and are in need of new financial replenishment. There have been many stories and articles about the various groups of pirates working maybe in up to five separate clans or groups. However, I believe that this can actually be looked at in a different way. If we look at it as seasoned pirate vs new pirate, we can concentrate on two groups rather than five.

My observation takes credence with two attacks. First, the attack on the Maersk Alabama. The pirates in this case were mere teenagers and obviously not the seasoned or experienced pirate. the other is the attack recently off of the coast of Oman, Where the attack took place in Beaufort 7 conditions on July 4th on a bulk carrier. The point being, to operate a small skiff in Beaufort 7 conditions and conduct an attack, you have to be a pretty seasoned operator.

So the two groups would be the seasoned pirate / fisherman and the young new pirates that are just now jumping in on the piracy opportunity. Therefore, when the monsoon season ends, we should not only see an increase in piracy, but we should also see a distinct set of separate methods emerge. The pirates have had plenty of time to sit around the table and plan how they may be able to better their chances of success with piracy attacks. Even recently, the Yemen Navy reported thwarting an attack involving 14 skiffs. this may be an indication of the evolutionary mode of the new pirate season.

The pirate attacks have more than doubled this year in the region, however the success rate per attack has gone down. This may be in part to the naval patrols, but more importantly, the preparation of the vessels and their crews in response to the piracy issue. If the evolution and adaptation continues, the pirates will use many more 'attack' skiffs on each individual target in an attempt to produce better results in their efforts. This will make each vessel more difficult to defend and each shipping company should be preparing for this now.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

East Africa gets high-speed web

Seacom said in a statement the launch of the cable marked the "dawn of a new era for communications" between Africa and the rest of the world.
From BBC News

I wonder if this can help anyone involved in piracy by having better technology at their disposal?

Most desk top risk assessments are conducted from open source information which is readily available on the web. Finding information on ships such as their locations, ownership, configuration, speed, transits and cargo's are all available through the internet if you know where to look.

When getting ready for attacks, the pirates hierarchy have the ability to look for potential targets using this technology, know the flag state of vessels and ownership. Ownership of the vessel can be important when sizing up a compnay to determine the best likely chance of a sizable ransom.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Indian Navy Thwarts Attack, Lets them Go

NEW DELHI - It was an anti-piracy operation with a twist in the tale: Instead of arresting the eight brigands who were attempting to board a merchant vessel in the Gulf of Aden, Indian Navy commandos seized their weapons, emptied their skiff of its fuel and set it adrift, leaving the tidying up to another warship.

About 225 nautical miles east of Aden Thursday, as visibility dropped to less than two nautical miles, the guided missile stealth frigate INS Talwar that is currently patrolling the piracy-infested Gulf of Aden received a distress call from the Liberian-registered MV Maud, with 10 Indian crew on board, saying a skiff with eight armed men on board was approaching at high speed, an official here said Friday.

The Indian warship immediately responded to the distress call and advised the vessel to increase speed and carry out evasive manoeuvres to avoid getting boarded. Simultaneously, a helicopter with marine commandos took off and started closing in on the threatened vessel, a senior Indian Navy official said.

The commandos noticed that the brigands had thrown a rope ladder and were attempting to board the Maud from just off the bow.

The visibility being low, it was possible that the pirates may not have sighted the warship and the helicopter. The helicopter crew fired warning shots to deter the pirates from boarding the ship, the official added.

Following this, the two pirates who were attempting to clamber up the merchant vessel fell into the water. Commandos from the warship thereafter boarded the skiff and confiscated the weapons and other equipment from the pirates.

Then, fearing further piracy attacks due to the low visibility, the commandos emptied the skiff of its fuel and set it adrift as INS returned to her patrolling duties while warships from other navies arrived on the scene for follow up action, the official said.

In response to the timely action of the Indian warship, the Indian master of MV Maud, Captain Manpreet Singh Dhaliwal, sent a message expressing his gratitude.

From available records, this may be the first instance of a piracy attempt being thwarted when the brigands were in the process of boarding a merchant ship, an Indian Navy statement said.

Overall, this is the fifth successful action of the Indian Navy against the pirates in the region.

On December 13 last year, the guided missile destroyer INS Mysore foiled an attack on an Ethiopian merchant vessel and arrested 23 Somali and Yemeni pirates in the Gulf of Aden. Before that, on November 18, the stealth frigate INS Tabar had sunk a Somali pirate vessel after coming under attack.

On Nov 8, the Tabar had repulsed an attack by pirates to hijack two ships - an Indian and a Saudi Arabian merchant vessel.

Earlier this month, the Indian Navy thwarted a piracy bid off the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean Region.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


In our quest to improve our abilities in the maritime protection industry, we have been conducting a lot of research about the UAV or Unmanned Aeriel Vehicle. There are many different UAV options on the market today, and many of them can fill the need. the question is, how do you choose a UAV?

For our purpose, we must be able to launch and recover the UAV from a vessel. Most UAV's are designed to be launched and recovered in ground operations. However, some of the manufacturers have developed ways to launch from a small boat or from a large merchant vessel by employing a catapult type system. so now that you can launch the UAV, how do you recover it?

Many factors can play in the recovery especially if you plan to recover the unit on a moving ship. When the unit itself costs in excess of $15,000, you certainly do not want to lose the UAV in the water. The best system we could come up with (along with manufacturer consultation) is to use a 'net capture' system.

Additional considerations for choosing the right UAV range from the endurance of the UAV, how long it can stay in the air, the distance that it can travel away from your position and maintain control, speed and elevation capability, real time video, GPS, and auto return capability. Now these are not all the considerations but a good list to begin with.

After a lot of consideration and consultations with various manufacturers, we have come up with a few conclusions that fit our purposes. First, we must be able to deploy the UAV at a minimum range of 10km with a flight time minimum of 55 minutes. Of course there must be GPS and real time video feed. For this type of UAV, we detect a target within the 10km range and can deploy the UAV to quickly identify the target to determine if it is a threat or non threat target.

Secondly, the UAV that has a flight time endurance of up to 8 hours, and a control capability of up to 20 miles. This type of UAV is a bit larger and more of a challenge to transport between transits. However, if your need is a greater distance surveillance application, this type of UAV works great.

What we found to be the most interesting fact, is that no matter which type of UAV (within our acceptable parameters)we liked, long range, short range etc., the cost of the systems were within a few thousand dollars of each other.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

14 boat pirate attack

SANA'A, Yemen (AFP)--The Yemeni navy repelled a attack by Somali pirates on a Yemeni oil tanker in the Gulf of Aden on Tuesday, a military spokesman said.

"Somali pirates on 14 boats tried to attack the oil tanker Yemen Oil 7 on its way from Aden to Hudeida" on the Red Sea, the spokesman said in the defense ministry's online newspaper

"Navy forces immediately took on the boats, submitting them to a burst of fire which forced them to flee," he said.

The tanker, whose tonnage wasn't specified, was undamaged and continued its route towards Hudeida, a port city in northern Yemen, 420 kilometers (260 miles) from Aden, the spokesman said.

In April, the government said it had recaptured a Yemeni oil tanker a day after Somali pirates had seized it. Eleven pirates were caught.

quite the sizable force for 14 boats to attack.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Integrating Security Solutions:

A Necessity for Small and Medium-Sized Organizations
The recent guidance to Operators and Ship Owners regarding anti-piracy measures provides the first elements of concrete guidance in response to a challenging issue. The guidance, however, does pose some challenges, particularly for smaller and medium sized organizations. While many of the identified best practices would normally be considered sound, they are generally considered sound because of the context within which they are applied. For Operators and Ship Owners, it should be clear that it is up to them to identify what works best for their organizations and that the guidance provided by the IMO should be used in terms of options and best practices, not a checklist to be adhered to in all circumstances.
This challenge is illustrated on two fronts. Consider this; does it make sound business sense to create an anti-piracy plan when the ship is already required to maintain a Ship Security Plan as part of its requirements under the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code? Arguments based on efficiency would perhaps lead one to the conclusion that the Ship Security Plan should be able to deal with this identified threat. On the other hand, however, those ships that do not fall under the ISPS Code may do well to have a plan in place for these kinds of situations. Again, however, one might look to the ISPS Code in addition to MSC 623 so that both a sound approach and some best practices are identified.
The second obvious example of this challenge is illustrated by two recommendations that come into apparent conflict with each other. On one hand, the IMO MSC does not recommend running the ship blacked out due to a number of safety issues, including the potential loss of night vision. It does, however, identify night vision equipment as a potential option to improve the ship’s ability to detect potential pirate vessels. With very few exceptions, these recommendations would be mutually exclusive. Again, the Operator or Ship Owner should return back to their own risk assessments and operations to determine which option rings truest in their own particular context.
Owners and operators have security programs for one of three reasons. The first reason is to reduce losses suffered by the organization that may occur through theft, vandalism, etc. This approach generally turns to security consultants that are drawn from professional associations that promote their own doctrines and approaches to security. The second reason is that the security program may be a requirement that has to be met if the company wants to be involved in certain activities—such as the ISPS Code and international shipping. The requirements of these structures (or even Conventions) are often drawn from multiple sources and use a consensus model, meaning that the approaches they take may be nearly unique in nature. The third reason for the security program stems from the belief that participating in certain programs or communities can reduce the overall burden that security places on an organization – such as illustrated in the C-TPAT program and its ability to facilitate the inspection process. The constant thread across all these programs is the owner-operator that has to design, implement, maintain and demonstrate adherence to the various requirements.
Maintaining and demonstrating that level of compliance can be challenging for Ship Owners and Operators. The challenge here is that the various programs may not align particularly easily, putting the organization at risk of em-placing wasteful programs or practices. These practices may include performing multiple tasks that achieve the same result because the requirements demand that a certain approach be taken. It may also involve the creation of parallel programs (involving costs associated with people, infrastructure and operations) that lead to security organizations competing against each other for scarce resources –or the organization paying more than what would normally be required to run a coherent program.
The answer to this management riddle lies in establishing an integrated security solution. This means that the organization sets up one overarching security management system and then integrates new programs into that structure as they are required. The overall framework is founded upon a model such as the Plan-Do-Check-Act structure that is currently being integrated into an increasing amount of security management systems or even the ISO 28000 standard. Having established this overall structure, the goal is to integrate additional requirements as they emerge into the common framework, taking particular care to identify overlapping elements, communication points and even potential areas of conflict. For the manager of the company, ensuring that the person or team brought in to address this challenge possess the necessary expertise across a number of systems is particularly important so that any risks associated with losing the ability to demonstrate compliance are minimized.
Today's environment is reaching what can be described as a critical mass. On one hand, operators (at all levels) are under significant financial pressure to keep costs down in order to compete effectively. At the same time, requirements and guidance passed on as best practices (such as the recent IMO MSC document) put additional strains on organizations in terms of costs since much of society expects to see organizations adopting best practices. Finally, the overall system is under pressure to keep the per-unit shipping cost low so that the impact on prices passed to the consumer are kept to a minimum. While an Integrated Security Solution may appear to be beneficial today, it will likely be essential in the near future.
//End of Article//
//Author Bio//
Allan McDougall is the co-Director of Evolutionary Security Management in Canada, a leader in the Critical Infrastructure Assurance and Protection domains in addition to being a recognized marine security training institution. He holds several professional certifications in the asset protection and anti-terrorism domain (including recently the lead auditor for ISO 28000 training) and is a published author on Transportation Systems Security. He currently sits on a number of strategic-level working groups, including as the Chair of the Anti-Terrorism Accreditation Board`s Transportation Security Committee, the TSA CIPAC on cyber-security in the Transportation Systems Sector, and a number of government working groups.