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On Route Risk Assessments

Recommendations from Jon Davies 
July 7th 2017
Recommendations from Jon Davies
It is recommended that all vessels, especially those that transit the defined Risk Areas should have a risk assessment conducted prior to transit. Failure to complete one will lead to insufficient or inaccurate maritime domain awareness, possibly negate or reduce insurance cover and increase the risk of falling victim to a maritime crime. Conversely, over estimating threats can impact on a vessel’s operating costs, using unnecessary protection measures for the transit area.

There are multiple ways to conduct a risk assessment, not least by CSOs themselves, but external commercial companies will provide this service at a cost, potentially providing specialist expertise ranging from security knowledge to geographical insight. Further, it is worth noting that for probable cost, reasons of effectiveness, good order and standards that the conduct of a risk assessment should not be undertaken by the company delivering onboard security or escort services. This has the advantage of allowing the prospect of separate monitoring or audit of security service delivery beyond say, the vessel’s Captain, who is also the ultimate customer and the arbiter of the service delivered.

The voyage risk assessments’ primary objective should be a standardised, semi-quantitative estimate for a single voyage for a specific vessel, although it could be templated and adapted from that for vessels of similar capability on the same route provided it is regularly reviewed and approved by the owner management. It provides a basic risk profile. Fundamentals which comprise a basic risk assessment include the following steps the aim to create a common tool across a company’s vessels, usable (and re-usable if rigorously maintained) by all:

a. Identify the overarching threats that have the potential to affect your vessel’s route and operations, including assessing the balance of commercial opportunity against that threat. It should include environmental factors such as geography, regulation/intelligence/standards available in the public domain (such as that provided by IMB, or regional providers UKMTO, MSCHOA, EUNAVFOR, MDAT-GoG, or through interface organisations like SHADE or ReCAAP), commercial providers (media and information providers ranging from BIMCO to Oceans Beyond Piracy and commercial sources), activities of any other vessels in the same area and establish the “normal” or ongoing risks to the venture such as recent pirate attack capabilities and occurrence of criminal activity. The responses could vary between declaring a voyage too risky/demanding through to acceptance based on the adoption of agreed security standards. (Identification of hazards or threat assessment)

b. Estimate the level of threat/danger that is likely to exist on the specific transit and ports on the route considering the size or vulnerability of the ship, usage and criminal “attractiveness” of the cargo, the seafarers (who may be a target themselves for ransom), and existing procedures. This is a predicative assessment and the aim is to increase the probability of success; this is likely a desk-top assessment. Obviously, credible professional international or national resources can do it; but be aware of vested interests, for example the receiving port has a vested interest in your arrival and any security provider in supplying additional or unnecessary service. This will need to be updated after the costs of defensive measures are factored in to assess the financial benefits of the voyage. The over-arching voyage risk assessment (VRA) should be a standardised format, prospectively in both quantative and assessment style for a single or repeated voyage by a singular vessel. (Assessment of risk; the threat, vulnerability and consequence analysis)

c. Evaluate and determine what level of vessel hardening will mitigate the threat, whether it is safe to transit for example with minimal or no hardening, through to a full range of measures including the ultimate use of armed guards if permitted under Flag State regulation. This will need to include the departure/arrival port factors, ranging from entry of a vessel with armed security on board, to whether physical security measures need be de-rigged and stowed until departure. Elements of this are likely to require a physical and perhaps on-site assessment of the vessel.

d. Deliver effective risk mitigation measures appropriate to the threat on transit and alongside. This will form the responses to the VRA and add to cost of voyage data. (Risk Control Options and Cost Benefit Analysis and an effective further extension of the Ship Security Assessment)

e. Monitor the latest changes to transit (not least NAV WARNINGS), port security, operational restrictions, Flag government regulations. (Constant until successful completion of voyage)

f. Evaluate effectiveness and cost of security on the transit. (Cost Benefit Assessment)

g. Recommendations for improvement and lessons learnt. (Recommendations)

Stakeholders (across both own company and cargo interest) should be actively engaged in the process from the outset. Use of this process should enable readily defensible decisions for the CSO and support a successful venture. Benefit has been gained by doing sequential and dove-tailed assessments; by the CSO and by the Captain and there is clear merit by involving the end user of the assessment.