ICC-IMB International Meeting on Piracy, Armed Robbery and Maritime Security
IMB’s Annual Conference took place in Kuala Lumpur this week. The conference focused mainly on the three piracy hot spots: Indian Ocean & Somalia, SE Asia and Gulf of Guinea.
Indian Ocean & Somalia
EU Navfor, BIMCO and NATO were unanimous in their opinion that piracy in the Indian Ocean is supressed but not eradicated. The combination of measures – Best Management Practice 4 (BMP4), Armed Security Teams and a heightened naval presence – are proving effective at ensuring the pirate investors regard the risk to reward ratio as not in their favour. They were keen to emphasise however, that the measures work in unison, and that any relaxation of armed guarding, BMP4 or the naval patrols may result in a return to piracy by the Somalis. The military believe probing attacks are being conducted to test defences and these are occurring mainly in the Gulf of Aden. The conditions ashore have not changed and capacity building has, so far, been totally ineffective. Illegal fishing has re-emerged as a significant challenge and two Iranian fishing dhows have been hijacked in last three months.
Gerry Northwood OBE, COO of leading maritime security firm MAST, said in a statement earlier this week that “the current security framework is working, but it remains extremely fragile and dependent on international navies maintaining a presence in the Indian Ocean, BMP4 being diligently applied, and for at least the majority of vessels to be protected by armed guards.”
He warned that there is an increased risk with convicted pirates being released and returning to their homes in Somalia, reportedly seeking work as armed guards in ocean going fishing vessels. “This is a potentially risky situation. It is not a big step from providing security on a fishing vessel to taking the vessel hostage and using it as a pirate mothership,” he said.
South East Asia
With the recent increase in piracy activity in SE Asian waters, the Malaysian authorities are keen to demonstrate they are taking pro-active measures to prevent it. Armed guards were discussed as a potential solution but given the legal complexities, with vessels passing through different states territorial waters, to be effective, an agreement would need to include the Indonesians and Singaporeans.
A modified version of Best Management Practices (BMP) tailored to SE Asia is due out soon.
Northwood said: “It can take time before armed guards on ships in SE Asia become an effective measure, but this is a move in the right direction. Our advice is that all vessels should be putting in place the appropriate risk assessed security measures.”
He added: “When making the risk assessment, factors to be taken into account include the physical attributes of the vessel (speed, freeboard, access points etc.), cargo and routing. Ideally the measures to be put in place should be from a menu of options, including crew training, access to a citadel, and other BMP4 passive measures where possible.”
Gulf of Guinea
The Maritime Trade Information Sharing Centre, Gulf of Guinea (MTISC-GoG) has been established in Ghana as the equivalent of the Indian Ocean’s UKMTO.
Under reporting is a significant issue in the Gulf of Guinea as the authorities are not keen on the publicity it generates.