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.