Posted on September 11, 2018 by Ashleigh Cowie

The Head of Maritime Security at BIMCO has spoken to trade press and warned that existing standards of vessel hardening are inviting pirates to attack.

Speaking to Safety4Sea, Mr Jakob P Larsen cited the Gulf of Guinea as one of the worst regions for piracy at the moment, and expressed fears that lowering levels of piracy in Somalia are unjustifiably causing shipowners to relax their security practices. 

He stressed the importance of continuing to follow BMP5 guidelines for maritime security and the need to improve risk mitigation techniques on board ships. 

In an interview with the magazine Larsen said: "I think the single most important issue the industry faces is the piracy in the Gulf of Guinea. Judging from statistics, the problem has been escalating these past few weeks. This may be because we get closer the 2019 Nigerian general election, where past years’ piracy trend has traditionally been upward, for whatever reason". 

Another worrying area for the maritime boss was the Red Sea with the situation in Yemen becoming increasingly unstable. ARX has reported several reports of rising tensions between the Saudi-led coalition and the Houthis in the region, particularly over the last 6 months. 

Yemen Timeline:

April 17th - Military cargo is smuggled in to Yemen in aid shipments

April 23- Houthis hold 19 vessels in Yemen port

May 14th- Turkish bulker in the region is hit by missile 

June 13th- Port in Yemen attacked by Saudi-led alliance

June 14th- Yemeni navy counter-attack Saudi-led coalition

July 26th- Saudi companies stop Bab-el-Mandeb transits

July 31st- British Special Forces deployed to protect Red Sea oil Shipments

Aug 7th- Saudi-UAE coalition accused of negotiating with Al-Qaeda

Aug 30th- Weapons seized off ship in Gulf of Aden

Larsen makes clear there is no need to dramatise the situation, he said: "It is mainly warships and shipping interests with ties to countries in the Saudi-led coalition that are at risk. Other commercial shipping mainly face a smaller risk of getting caught in the middle of hostilities. Such collateral damage can be serious enough, but the risk is smaller and can be managed if following the existing guidance in BMP5".

During the interview he is asked about a rise in piracy levels in Somalia after several attempted boardings recently, but says: "apparent piracy activity has been sporadic with only very few incidents reportedThe current low levels of Somali piracy activity is a testament to the success of the international cooperation on areas such as ship protection, naval intervention, arrest and prosecution and establishing of alternative livelihoods for would-be pirates. But this success is still reversible, and if we allow complacency to set in and remove all risk mitigation, it is likely that the problem will come back again in force".

In regards to the notion that piracy is under-reported in the region the maritime security expert said: "a company with a poor security record can eventually lose business, and this is unfortunately an incentive to under-report. More regulation is not the answer to this problem. Regulation is already in place which puts a reporting responsibility on the industry and on flag states. Rather, what is needed is a change of mindset so that shared reporting is seen as something that saves lives and benefits all, and that in reality, national or commercial interests will only rarely warrant that information sharing is restricted". 

When considering the future of shipping and piracy, and the possibility of an improving outlook, Larsen was unable to support the suggestion that the risk of piracy could be completely eradicated:

"I am afraid that we will probably never get to a point where the piracy threat is insignificant. Human nature is such that there will always be criminals that try to prey on ships transporting valuable cargoes and seafarers vulnerable to kidnap. What we must do as an industry is to constantly improve our risk mitigation techniques. For example, I am sure that there are some low-hanging fruits to be picked when it comes to integrated security features for future ship designs. I am not talking about turning ships into fortresses, but simply remembering to also take basic security considerations into account during the design phase can make a valuable yet inexpensive difference. I hope that improved risk mitigation measures together with the previously mentioned change of mindset can help suppress the piracy risk even more than today".

ARX Maritime's Anti-Piracy Barrier features in the latest BMP5 as a recommended way to harden your vessel against pirate attacks. 

Our barrier significantly increases the chance of your crew and vessel surviving a pirate attack. Its features include:

- A specially designed fend-plate to deflect ladders, grappling hooks and climbing poles

-Simple installation that can be carried out by the crew on board

-It's cost effective, does not need to be replaced and comes with a 5 year guarantee as standard

- It has been tested by the UK Special Forces

-It comes recommended by Shell and BP

- It does not need to be taken off the ship when it enters ports

-It is made of recycled plastic, and does not run the risk of being disposed of in the sea like razor wire. 

For more information about this and other ARX product contact the team on products@arxmaritime.com or on +441313170048

Interview courtesy of Safety4Sea.

Posted in news , piracy

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