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CYPnaval Conference - October 2nd - Cyprus

October 2nd 2019
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Royal Navy's 1 Day Shipping Managers' Course - July 10th - London, UK

July 10th 2019
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CSOA First Response Report: Iran Drone Attack

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10 Questions: CSO Alliance Talks to Dryad Maritime

 
March 22nd 2016
Welcome to CSO Alliance's 10 Questions. These are the topics we believe most members are interested in and the ones directly affecting their work in terms of security arrangements. If you have other questions you would like to see us ask, just let us know in the comments section.

This week, Ian Millen, Chief Operating Officer of Dryad Maritime, has taken your questions.

What are the big risks for shipping in 2016?

Maritime terrorism is obviously something that needs to be continually accessed at the moment. Currently, we [Dryad] are not as concerned as some media commentators, but this is not to say our evaluation of the threat won’t change. We know that terrorists use maritime routes for logistical purposes – moving fighters and weapons – so there is an obvious maritime link there that needs to be closely monitored. Our assessment is that there is still a greater likelihood of attacks happening ashore rather than at sea, as we saw last year with the attacks on the Bardo Museum, the beach in Tunis and the offices of Charlie Hebdo, and therefore more risk to seafarers and tourists when ashore. Ship and port security is generally good, but beyond this exists a greater level of risk and uncertainty. Everybody needs to remain vigilant as we’ve seen terrorists strike in many different areas. That doesn’t mean that the threat of terrorism should paralyse maritime trade or the seafarers that the industry relies upon. Keeping well informed of emerging threats and taking simple, but effective, measures to mitigate risk are the key to safety at sea and ashore.

What security process efficiencies can you recommend or envisage between the Shipping and Port industry?

The answer to this and many other challenges is the three Cs – Communication, Cooperation and Collaboration. It’s important to communicate and share information on threats and risks across the industry, and indeed with other related industries. Cooperation is wide-ranging, but can be anything from responding to requests from others or simply complying with best practice – it’s a trust building activity that makes the whole more than the sum of its parts. Collaboration is much stronger than cooperation and involves individuals, teams and organisations working together towards common goals and objectives. Safety and security is everyone’s business, so there couldn’t be a more important sector to collaborate in.

To do all of the above requires commitment, effort and the infrastructure to share information. The CSO Alliance is one platform that can do this – think of the individual CSOs as the bricks and the CSO platform as the cement that binds them together. An intelligence picture is like a jigsaw puzzle that is made all more challenging by the fact that you rarely have all the pieces of the puzzle in your possession. Not only do you not have the box lid with the overall picture on, but some of the pieces you need are in other people’s boxes. Communicate, cooperate and collaborate and you have half a chance of filling the gaps and having a discernible picture from which you can make good decisions. In Dryad Maritime, this is what we do all the time; finding the pieces, building the picture and taking the actions required to keep our clients safe.

Which regions most concern you from a security point of view?

When looking at the volume of maritime crime and piracy events, the numbers drive you toward Southeast Asia. With a 10% rise in 2015 incidents, when compared to 2014, the area leads the crime league table. It’s worth noting that much of the reported crime is of the less serious type (eg. theft of ships’ stores etc), but this does sit alongside more serious vessel hijack for the purposes of refined product cargo theft – and we saw a spate of this last year. The good news is that much of the more serious criminal activity occurred in the first three quarters of 2015, with the final quarter showing crime levels falling back to the levels of 2009. Credit goes to the Malaysian and Indonesian authorities and their partners who have more effectively clamped down on the criminals involved.

We have recently witnessed the first hijack of a tanker for its fuel cargo in the Gulf of Guinea in 2016, following what was a quiet year in Gulf of Guinea crime in 2015. This was, unusually, brought to a good outcome by the Nigerian Navy who intervened to retrieve the tanker and its crew over 300 miles offshore. Of more concern to us, and for the crews operating in the Gulf of Guinea, is the criminal enterprise of kidnap for ransom off the Niger Delta. Whilst the crew members are released after ransoms have been paid, we are seeing far too many vessels boarded by force and their crew members taken ashore. In the last few days, we have seen the Nigerian Navy involved in the aftermath of another kidnap incident off the Niger Delta. The worry here is that the navies in West Africa don’t appear able to deter maritime criminals beyond their own territorial waters.

Somali piracy has been broadly contained, although the attack and detention of Iranian fishing vessels off the Somali coast has given some cause for concern. We do not believe that these attacks signal an impending return to full scale Somali piracy, but instead a response to alleged illegal fishing activities. That said, the demonstrated capability at significant range in some cases, reminds us of the need to maintain vigilance when transiting the waters adjacent to Somalia. All it takes is a complacent ship and a few lucky pirates to reverse the good work that has been done and put more seafarers back in peril.

The situation in Yemen and the naval blockade along the country’s maritime borders mean that normal trade is severely limited and all vessels need to consider the dire situation on the ground, as well as the restrictions imposed by the Saudi-led coalition.

The Mediterranean Sea is also very complex at present, with the flow of desperate people, fleeing across the sea to Europe, having a significant impact upon maritime activities. Whilst this is primarily a humanitarian crisis, ships’ crews continue to be involved in assisting the regional rescue authorities and, in some cases, can be exposed to some risk. Balanced against the risk of innocent lives being lost at sea, this is thankfully a risk that continues to be managed by those involved.

How concerned are you over possible acts of maritime terrorism?

Though there have been threats of intent to attack Western shipping by Islamic jihadists in the past, the majority of terrorist activity at sea is opportunistic and logistical in nature to facilitate attacks ashore. The most prolific maritime terror group, Abu Sayyaf, do not routinely attack ships at sea but rather use boats to facilitate attacks ashore, with the exception of a single kidnap of the crew of the MY Catherine in April 2014. With the attention of IS fighters fully occupied with fighting on the ground, their ability to operate at sea is limited, but not impossible. This, along with a lack of maritime resources and training, means that there is no strong evidence to suggest that IS currently have the capabilities to conduct a successful offshore attack.

All of this said, we continue to monitor potential threat areas, such as the central Mediterranean, off Libya, for any signs of the terrorist threat migrating to the sea. History shows us that there have been incidents of maritime terrorism, offshore and in port, but the numbers of such events are very small compared to terrorist atrocities conducted ashore. In Libya, attacks against oil facilities ashore have naturally given those operating in adjacent ports some cause for concern, and we have seen evidence of unsuccessful attempts to attack port facilities from the sea. We have also seen a number of comments from senior security officials warning of the potential and, currently, have at least one flag state raising the ISPS levels in the Central Mediterranean due to concerns regarding terrorism. So, in short, we continue to monitor the situation very carefully.

What’s the biggest challenge facing any CSO this year?

The biggest challenge facing CSOs is the sheer scale and complexity of potential threats to their seafarers and ships. Interpreting information – separating the facts from the headlines, the truth from speculation – is a full time job in itself. The media can often overstate the terrorism risk both ashore and at sea, so it is important to look beyond the headlines and put these events into context. With today’s information age making open source media more freely available, you might think it easier than ever to spot security threats, but this brings with it its own set of problems for CSOs; how accurate is the information? Is the source credible and reliable, and has it been properly assessed and analysed? This process can be both challenging and extremely time consuming, but this is something we do on behalf of CSOs on a daily basis, and I am proud to say do very well. Outsourcing such activities is also a responsible thing for a shipping company to do – you wouldn’t dream of doing your own brain surgery or flying the plane when you go on holiday, so some things are best left to professionals in the field, whether that’s to help you do your job better or take away the pain altogether.

How happy are you with current security arrangements in the Indian Ocean?

The announcement of the reduced HRA was great news for the maritime industry, and we at Dryad fully welcomed the decision. It was the first significant sign of recognising the changing strategic and threat context in the region, and the great work of naval forces, shipping companies and private security companies to contain Somali piracy. It was also a welcome de-escalation that will hopefully encourage CSOs to consider other, more appropriate, solutions to mitigating risk. The answer is not always armed security, although where the vulnerability of the vessel and the threat level warrant it, this is one option amongst a wide range of solutions. There are many routes through the High Risk Area (HRA) that can be navigated safely without the need for embarked security, provided that appropriate risk-based planning and information-based mitigation, such as risk assessments and vessel safety monitoring, are in place. It is essential that each voyage is considered on a case by case basis. One of my favourite quotes is from Abraham Maslow who said, ‘When the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.’ In Dryad, we have lots of different tools in our tool box and our job is to find the most appropriate and cost-effective one for our clients without compromising safety and security.

In short, the reduced HRA is a sign that we are moving in the right direction and gives us some cause for optimism. We should, however, not drop our guard as complacency could easily lead to bad news. We haven’t had a large merchant vessel hijacked in the Indian Ocean for over two years and want to keep it that way.

Which ports do you see as being problem areas for CSOs?

Ports where on-the-ground information is hard to obtain and qualify, and where information and security situations constantly change will be problem areas for CSOs. Ports in Libya are a prime example, which is why we produce a weekly report that focuses solely on Libyan ports to better inform CSOs of the constantly shifting situation. Other areas are also on our radar, such as Syria, Yemen and the Crimea. In some of these there are real threats ashore, in others the risk of falling foul of international sanctions. In addition to the careful overview we keep on Libya, vessels considering trading in Yemen need to be aware of the fluid and dangerous situation ashore, as well as the likely reaction of Saudi-led coalition naval forces who are carefully monitoring all movements in and out of Yemeni ports. A complex situation that requires careful observation and analysis and something best done by professionals, such as our team of intelligence specialists.

Some CSOs believe that because they don’t transit a High Risk Area, their vessel is safe. What’s your view?

Uncertainty is everywhere – from weather and metrological factors, sanctions and geopolitical aspects, to the threats that exist to crews when ashore. Having and maintaining strong Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) will help you to understand where the areas of high risk are. Having a clear understanding of the threats, existing and potential, in your operating areas can help you to not only plan appropriately and effectively, but also help you to better educate your crews in the risks not only at sea but also ashore.

That said, despite the very real threats in certain areas, we don’t want to be paralysed by fear; that’s not good for global maritime trade, but particularly bad for the seafarers we rely upon to keep the lights on and the world fed. With proper education, good awareness and simple, but effective, risk mitigation, we can continue to trade effectively and safely across the vast majority of the globe.

How can shipping make life easier for CSOs?

Firstly, by recognising the vital role that they play and by arming them with the tools they need to do the job. Security is a job in which we shouldn’t be cutting corners – it’s far too important and the consequences of doing it badly are serious. CSO’s need to be resourced adequately, either with people or money to apply the proper amount of effort to do the job properly. If they need professional support, especially in complex and dangerous regions, then owners should ensure that they have the funds to access such help.

Secondly, through education and training. Enhancing the Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) of CSOs and enhancing education on risks and how to mitigate them is the key to safe operation of their vessels. The sharing of good practice and exchange of information, ideas and views between themselves and other CSOs, as made available through the CSO Alliance is also a way that life can be made easier for these hard working individuals. In certain maritime communities, CSOs meet regularly to do just this, but where that is not physically possible, then doing it virtually is the way to go. Doing this activity online also provides a searchable record that can be tapped into.

What’s the best piece of advice you could give a CSO?

If transiting an area of potential high risk then a proper comprehensive risk assessment is essential to understanding any events that might affect shipping, be that security or safety. Only by fully understanding the actual possibility of potential threats to occur, can owners, charterers and ship managers take the decisions on what is the most cost effective measure to mitigate this risk. A CSO carries a huge responsibility and they owe it to the seafarers they support to do the job well.

But if I could only give them one piece of advice to CSOs, it would be to do their homework on who they take advice from. Watch out for vested interests and beware of those whose business relies upon the continued presence of danger – they might not be the most objective of analysts, especially if the danger they speak is mitigated by the provision of their services. There are plenty of good, professional suppliers out there, so do your homework and find out who you can rely on to meet your needs. It’s far too important a job to take a chance on.

For more information on Dryad Maritime, please visit their site by clicking here .