Koninklijke Vereniging - Société Royale



Piracy risk to tankers

When the 74,997 dwt ‘Navig8 Providence’ was attacked by armed pirates in the Gulf of Oman on 1st June, it marked the second attack on a product tanker in the region that week.

On the same day at Nor-Shipping the Nigerian Trade Minister, CR Amaechi, pledged $186 mill to combat piracy and promised, “... in six months you will no longer be harassed in our waters.”

Skills shortages, disruptive technology and a growing regulatory burden are commonly cited as the most pressing issues for shipowners. Piracy, despite figures from the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) showing that the risk has remained relatively constant in recent years, has been a much more intermittently conspicuous concern. Yet, according to recent estimates, militant groups from the Niger Delta region cost Nigeria more than $7 bill in lost revenue in 2016 alone.

Piracy arises most commonly where there is a failure of law and order. In many cases this is exacerbated by a lack of co-ordination among enforcement agencies, volatile geopolitics and growing links between piracy and religious extremist groups. So far in 2017, the regions in which piracy has occurred remain broadly similar to 2016. In Southeast Asia, more incidents were reported on vessels at anchor, while in the African region more vessels were targeted while underway.

For North there are three locations in which owners need to be most vigilant; in the Gulf of Guinea, where the threat level tends to follow the political situation onshore; in the Western Indian Ocean Region, where the recent upturn in the threat has been linked to the return of illegal fishing fleets to Somalian waters; and in the Sulu and Cebes Sea, where Abu Sayaff in particular has long been a thorn in the side of local commerce, but has also recently begun to attack international trading vessels.

Calculating the threats posed by pirates to the ships, seafarers and the smooth flow of international trade can be an exacting mathematical exercise. Then communicating this risk effectively takes more than a spreadsheet. Scholars like Baruch Fischoff and Richard Zeckhauser have shown that combining numerical estimates and probability expressions can lead to confusion among decision-makers, so it’s vital to ensure that guidance is comprehensible and doesn’t lead to any distortion of understanding. To do so requires considering the likelihood of an event within the context of other facts, as well as the trade-offs that one course of action will have over another.

To assist with this, North offers comprehensive briefings on maritime security to its assureds that cover both general and regional specific risks. North is also a member of the CSO Alliance, a global coalition of shipping organisations that have come together to share information and drive best practice among members to combat maritime crime. North has arranged for its members to join the CSO Alliance for a reduced membership fee.

Operational best practice is most successfully implemented when the lines of communication between experts and operators are kept open. Sharing information on what has worked so that it can be disseminated to other mariners facing similar perils goes to the heart of the concept of mutuality that North is founded upon.

North also strongly encourages Masters and owners to report all actual, attempted and suspicious piracy and armed robbery incidents to the IMB’s Piracy Reporting Centre as well as any regional reporting facilities. Transparent statistics are vital to raise awareness and encourage authorities to tackle piracy and armed robbery firmly. Moreover, unless there is comprehensive reporting, it’s difficult to know which measures have been most effective in deterring pirate attacks.

Certain vessels, like those with low freeboards moving at low speeds such as fully laden tankers, are more vulnerable to pirates, Vessel hardening measures, such as razor wire, pressurised water hoses and other physical measures can be taken by Masters to help prevent pirates from boarding. CSOs should work in tandem with their vessels Masters to produce a voyage risk assessment prior to a vessel entering any high-risk area. This should include identifying vessel vulnerabilities and capabilities, complying with any reporting requirements and control measures, such as using the internationally recommended transit corridor in the Gulf of Aden.

Shipowners and Masters are encouraged to follow advice set out in BMP4 and follow their own security procedures. This includes partaking in voluntary reporting schemes when operating in a high risk area. Voluntary reporting is now established in all of the aforementioned high risk areas examples include the UKMTO in the Western Indian Ocean Region, MDAT-GoG for the Gulf of Guinea and Singapore IFC/Recaap for the SE Asia region. Taking part in these reporting schemes allows governments to co-ordinate assistance quickly in the event of an attack.

Simply knowing about pirates and risks from piracy isn’t enough, and nor can we just plug numbers into a model and expect a solution. It takes consistent vigilance, advance planning, information sharing and practical action. Despite improvements in the global response to piracy, risks remain in many regions and shipowners must continue to be watchful.

Recent events have shown that there is no room for complacency. When it comes to minimising the security risks faced by today’s tanker fleet, time and resource invested in planning, training and intelligence is rarely wasted.





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