Neptune Maritime Security: Assessing the real threat of piracy

Poole: The threat from pirates around the world is still a severe one and shipowners should not take lightly, argues Michael Sykes, chairman of UK-headquartered Neptune Maritime Security.

“The perception may be that the threat is decreasing, but I contend that it is a perception, not a reality,” he says.
With up to five sources reporting piracy incidents the discrepancy in numbers is causing confusion too, Sykes says.
“There is no doubt the dangers from piracy continue to exist,” Sykes says.
NATO has acknowledged that pirate tactics have changed, the former navy man notes. Now, rather than just speed toward a potential target firing their guns, pirates will make what’s called a ‘soft approach’ in order to gauge the level of security on board the target vessel, rather than risk a full confrontation.
Sykes admits the threat has been reduced off East Africa. This, he argues, is because pirates are finding it increasingly difficult to make a successful attack.
“Think of disease prevention and immunisation Рlike measles,” he says. “The best way to prevent the disease is immunisation Рand armed guards provide ship immunisation against the disease of piracy.  What happens if we stop immunising ships, and removing armed guards?”
Over on the west coast of Africa, piracy is on the increase, Sykes observes, and their modus operandi is changing. ¬†In the recent past piracy was usually the theft of crew personal possessions, or a ship’s cargo – especially oil. ¬†Now, things are changing, rapidly, with ships being attacked violently.
Sykes is annoyed at West Africa coastal countries’ refusal to allow private maritime security companies (PMSCs) to enter the area with arms, insisting on using local armed teams only.
“As long as this stand-off situation continues I forecast increasing dangers from successful attacks,” he says.
Sykes has visited Abuja in Nigeria and held discussions with senior people from the Nigerian Navy and the National Security Agency to try and resolve the issue.
In Indonesia, meanwhile, pirate attacks have seen “something of a surge” in the first half of this year, Sykes says, with the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) reporting a 50% increase in attacks, now standing at 43. “However, it should be noted that the majority of these take place at anchor,” he stresses.
On what owners need to be asking when selecting a PMSC Sykes has a long list of useful tips.
A proven track record – number of ships protected, over how long; a PMSC audit with a specific check of the qualifications of the experience and qualifications of the guards; ISO 28007 accreditation, something that will become “increasingly important”.
Other tips include the quality of equipment carried, the level of intelligence reports available, and that the PMSC carries the correct level of liability insurance.
Sykes also has a word of warning about the qualifications of PMSC operatives.
“Very recently,” he says, “it has been discovered that some PMSCs have not checked the qualifications of their operatives, which can be forgeries.” Attention to such detail in audits is imperative, Sykes urges, as such qualifications are very important.  [19/08/13]

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