FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Shipping Industry’s ‘Best Practices’ Deter Piracy
By Lt. Matthew Allen
MANAMA, Bahrain - At the intersection of the waterways leading to Africa, Asia and Europe, the coast of Somalia plays host to some of the most travelled shipping lanes on the globe, making transit of these pirate-infested waters a necessity for many commercial shipping companies.
With piracy now a growing concern and the global community unwilling to tolerate such behavior, many nations have shown their commitment to the security of the maritime environment by deploying their navies, collectively or independently, to deter and disrupt these pirate activities.
Over the past 20 months these navies have patrolled the 1.1 million square miles of water-space surrounding Somalia, providing security to the region’s sea lines of communication. While these efforts have helped combat piracy, the military alone cannot prevent all pirate attacks, and commercial vessels must not depend solely upon military intervention to ensure their safe passage. Now the commercial shipping industry is demonstrating that the most effective proven deterrent to piracy can be their own actions.
“Best Management Practices to Deter Piracy in the Gulf of Aden and off the Coast of Somalia (Version 2 – August 2009)” is an industry-developed publication that provides excellent guidance all commercial vessels should use to reduce the likelihood of becoming victims of piracy. This advice is not based on theoretical data but proven effective deterrents taken from real-life scenarios.
Whether it is recommended navigation routes, speeds and coastal stand-off distances, or on-board deterrents such as physical barriers and enhanced look-out watches, these continually-updated recommendations contain the industry’s best management practices as derived from the piracy experiences of previous vessels, both good and bad.
Two recent piracy events highlight not only the importance of these best management practices, but also their effectiveness in a real-world scenario. The first event involved a vessel transiting the Gulf of Aden, north of Somalia when it was captured by pirates in early February. The vessel placed itself in an unnecessarily dangerous position by traveling outside of the Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor (IRTC) and unable to benefit from increased patrols in that portion of the Gulf of Aden. Unfortunately, the ship is now under the control of pirate gangs, and its crew forced to await the outcomes of negotiations while anchored off the coast of Somalia.
Two days later a second vessel was attacked while also transiting the Gulf of Aden. Unlike the first, this vessel followed the best management practices advice, and made thorough preparations for sailing through these dangerous waters. She had registered with the Maritime Shipping Centre – Horn of Africa (MSC-HOA) for updates on the Group Transit scheme, and was in contact with the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Organization (UKMTO) for the latest update on areas of higher piracy risk prior to entering the IRTC. The vessel had rigged fire hoses to push back any pirate boarding attempts, and razor wire was placed along the deck edges to block entry. Below decks, the crew mustered at a pre-determined safe area in order to account for themselves and ensure their collective safety.
In the end, the crew was able to prevent pirates from boarding the ship, ensuring their safety and the ability of the vessel to reach its destination. This was a result of diligent application of best management practices regarding appropriate transit routes, reporting procedures and physical security. The experiences of this vessel are testament to the effectiveness of the industry guidelines.
U.S. Naval Forces Central Command and Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) wholeheartedly endorse advice from the IMO and other maritime bodies. They strongly recommend that all commercial vessels transiting along the coasts of Somalia and Yemen, or through the Somali Basin, take the time prior to their transit to become fully conversant with and implement industry best management practices.
The best industry practitioners begin their transit planning by visiting the MSC-HOA or Maritime Liaison Office websites to learn the most current information to ensure safe passage. These websites are located at: http://www.mschoa.org/ and http://www.cusnc.navy.mil/marlo/. UKMTO can be contacted by email at UKMTO@eim.ae