Piracy may make the headlines, but persistent low-level crime at ports and terminals and the threat of terrorism are far greater headaches for most port facility security officers (PFSOs). The security issues facing ports and terminals are often forgotten or overshadowed by the threat shipping faces from maritime piracy. The reality is, of course, that persistent low-level crime, organised criminal gangs and the threat of terrorism are constant headaches for PFSOs, who often work with limited intelligence and resources to ensure the smooth running of their particular port or terminal.
Due consideration must be given to the threats against vessels, port and passenger facilities and terminals as well as offshore installations. Ensuring the efficiency of any of these requires significant effort from all stakeholders and, while many are concerned with the potential threat of cyber crime in the sector, the reality is that the human element is still the major concern. Theft, be it petty or organised, is a huge loss issue for the industry and highlights the growing issue of security flaws and planning facing ports.
A secure method
A reputable security firm will work with clients to ensure robust security plans are in place at all levels at a facility and meet, if not surpass, the requirements of the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code. The security contractor should undertake bespoke risk assessments covering elements from staff and office security and potential issues arising from economic, environmental and local action, which could affect a site’s smooth operation.
Drawing on its experience not only in vessel and facility protection but also a likely military background in maritime counter terrorism, a professional port and shipping security company, whose staff possess the necessary understanding of the ISPS Code should be able to bring numerous experts into play to ensure the continued smooth operations of client companies working in difficult regions. Furthermore, a security company should then create a programme of scenario training which incorporates a number of potential threats and appropriate security responses to guard against them.
In Southeast Asia, a key security focus should be to ensure business continuity by creating security routines to combat the threat of organised crime at a local level throughout the supply chain. Currently, the shipping industry is concerned with a spike in tanker hijackings. However, the main issue on shore is persistent low-level theft that can often be hard to protect against. By working locally with all stakeholders, it is possible to create a ‘Risk Register’ which lists the possible impact and company liabilities arising from a wide range of potential factors, including economical, operational and environmental incidents, as well as potential disruption caused by local community action which could all adversely affect production, and those associated costs examined. These audits and reviews allow clients to ensure continued operations as well as risk reduction in all areas of their business.
These impact analyses are combined with exercises involving clients’ continuity staff to ensure that all parties are aware of potential areas of risk and the best mitigation practices. By conducting follow up audits, it is then possible to demonstrate to the client that the procedures put in place are robust enough to maintain operational capability at all levels while meeting or surpassing the requirements of the ISPS Code.
The threat of terrorism in certain regions remains very real and has an impact not only on port logistical planning but the shipping industry, too. Al-Qaeda’s recent comments regarding attacks on choke points and ports, combined with ongoing instability in key countries like Yemen, mean that the industry cannot let its guard down.
Yemen has witnessed several terrorist attacks on ports and facilities in the last two years, none of which have had a severe impact on trade, although the situation in the country is currently extremely fluid. The threat of a terror incident as well as the potential for disruption caused by local actors and communities cannot be ignored. Despite their unpredictable nature, all these events can be factored in to a solid security plan. Liaising with clients and authorities in the region to create company-wide contingencies is an essential part of ensuring both site and personnel security.
Ensuring the security of personnel either through training or personal protection measures is a cornerstone of the company’s services. Many reputable PMSCs offer thorough security training courses to several regional clients on a case by case basis. These courses can include elements of close protection as well as hostile environment and awareness training in an attempt to educate client staff and make them more aware of their potential risk and environment.
In Southeast Asia, ports and facilities are particularly prone to theft, as are ships in the region. While armed gangs board vessels underway in the Singapore and Malacca Straits and grab the headlines, shore-based theft is a more widespread issue for most ports. By conducting thorough risk and security assessments on site, security assessors are able to identify weak points in company procedures, either through ‘Red Team’ exercises, where exploits are actively tested on the ground by security consultants, or through tabletop exercises involving client staff at all levels. With the gaps found, appropriate planning can then be put in to place either to complement or replace current security structures. This can only be done as part of a wider security assessment, however; piece meal attempts to plug perceived security holes can be both ineffective and counter-productive unless part of a wider response.
In West Africa, the threat of terrorism cannot be ruled out, while petty crime again dominates at most ports. Gulf of Guinea pirates may reach the headlines, but the real losses come from oil theft in Nigeria and robbery at ports. Stowaways remain a headache for PFSOs, however, and prevention requires planning and discussion with all stakeholders to create adequate, layered security right up to the gangplank of a merchant vessel.
Communication remains a key area in which companies can improve their planning. By ensuring that all key personnel are aware of plans and their application, client companies are better able to respond should the worst occur. The selected security firm should work with clients to identify key weaknesses, which can then be highlighted in any post inspection security plan to provide a measured response to any and all eventualities.
Prevention of loss of any type is not simply about a visible security presence. Genuine prevention is only as good as the planning behind it and, increasingly, the best security is a robust set of measures to ensure that, should an incident take place, its impact on operations is minimal and business continuity is maintained.