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.