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Maritime checks urged

In the wake of an attempted terrorist attack on a vessel transiting the Suez Canal, and as evidence emerges of threats to vessels in the eastern Mediterranean, the Security Association for the Maritime Industry (SAMI) has stressed the need for shipping companies to check that ship security plans are in place, workable, and fit for purpose.

All too often says London-based SAMI the maritime security focus on board and in offices ashore has been on the threat posed by piracy, but as recent events have highlighted, the threat of terrorism is real and needs to be taken seriously.

The association adds that security problems facing shipping are spread over a wide area, and it is vital that there are processes in place to respond to credible threats, or to the requirements to increase security levels. Over the past month, some flag states have raised their International Ship and Port Facility (ISPS) code security levels owing to the threat of terror attacks in Yemen.

Such heightened security demands can be difficult to implement on board, and so it is important that checks are made to ensure the correct response can be initiated, the maritime security body adds.

Peter Cook, CEO of SAMI, says: “With shipping seemingly an increasingly attractive target to terrorists it is imperative that all steps are taken to ensure that security measures can be implemented effectively”. According to Cook, one of the best ways to check the ability to respond is to hold a security drill or exercise: “Companies can very quickly identify problem areas by holding a training exercise based on any number of current security threats.”

The association urges that shipowners to take a range of steps to safeguard their seafarers, cargoes and vessels. From a risk management perspective it is important they appreciate the threats posed in the areas they operate, then too it is vital that the management team on-board are able to communicate and respond effectively to implement the necessary measures to mitigate any risks posed.

Meanwhile Gerry Northwood, COO at GoAGT, a UK maritime security company, said: “The reported attack on the ‘Cosco Asia’ shows an increased risk and that immediate and sustained heightened security needs to be implemented onboard merchant vessels using the Suez Canal, as well as major maritime choke points such as the Straits of Gibraltar and the Straits of Bab el Mandeb.”

He added: “An unarmed security adviser should be considered for all vessels transiting the Mediterranean prior to embarking armed guards in high risk areas. They can assist crews in identifying potential threats and are able to assist the Masters and their crews communicating and gathering intelligence. When deemed necessary armed guards can be put on board.”

Gerry Northwood said, “In our view there is now an increased risk of an attack on merchant shipping. Masters need to have a plan, train for it with their crews and have sufficient experience onboard to gain valuable minutes in mustering and safeguarding crew. Just because a vessel has left Port Said at the end of the Canal, and there has been no incident, does not mean that vigilance should be decreased. In our view there is an increasing risk of attack in the Mediterranean between the Canal and the Straits of Gibraltar.”

“It is almost inevitable that there will be an attack in the future and the masters of vessels and their crews need to have their wits about them.”


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