Being prepared for risky waters
Rakesh Kumar, Company Security Officer, Wilhelmsen Ship Management
Reports estimated in the last twelve months, 58 seafarers were kidnapped in this region in 13 incidents by pirate gangs linked with the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) Extremists (there was a total of 22 incidents with 9 foiled).
Looking from a commercial, geographical and judicial standpoint, the South East Asia piracy makes sense:
- A third of the world’s cargo passes through the Straits of Malacca and Singapore Straits. Asian economies and consumption have grown in the last decade and trades moving between Europe and China are made in these channels;
- The bottleneck and crowded waterways make it easier for pirates to blend in. It’s hard to tell if two huddled vessels are transferring fuel or cargo or under siege;
- The dense traffic in South East Asia with different national territorial waters adjacent to each other makes it very hard to distinguish who has patrol responsibility.
These conditions make South East Asia a very attractive target for pirates.
Although Somalia based piracy has been declining since 2012, its perpetuators continue to have intentions and maintain capabilities to do so.
Recent piracy activity, including two hijacking of merchant vessels, reaffirm our conviction we should never let our guard down and continue firm diligence to deny any opportunities to pirate gangs.
At WSM, we assess high risk areas based on salient industry guidelines:
We have a setup dedicated solely for security. This has been very fruitful for keeping assets under our care safe and secure. We play an active advisory role to Management who in turn keep owners and other stakeholders informed on Maritime Security issues and concerns.
Our shore-based staff also support vessels by actively providing relevant updates, performance tools and constant monitoring of vessel status as part of on-shore vigilance for the security of our vessels.
Rakesh Kumar, Company Security Officer for WSM
Our managed vessels pass through the risky waters of Somalia, South East Asia and the Gulf of Guinea hundreds of times a year. We are definitely no less exposed to pirates than other trading ships. To-date, we have done exceptionally well in preventing and preparing for such attacks.
Our crew undergoes training that encourages and builds good attitude towards surveillance. The key to avoid attacks is to be on constant watch of surroundings. Our crew is after all, the first line of defense.
We are also looking at the potential of cybercrime in the seas and have begun efforts by introducing the Information Security Programme to all our managed vessels. Officers, owners and seafarers will have the opportunity to take the course and learn how to enhance their awareness of cybersecurity. Although losing a ship or cargo from cyber disruption is not yet a reality, if risk is there - we ought to be prepared.