LLoyds List: 20 Nov – Lloyd’s List survey shows that ports and cyber security are also increasing threats Somali pirates still present a significant risk, say 70% of survey respondents.
An escalation of piracy is the greatest threat facing shipping, according to Lloyd’s List’s latest annual maritime security survey.
In the survey, conducted online over four weeks, 53% of respondents were concerned about an escalation of piracy-related incidents.
Activity in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean has fallen to an all-time low this year, prompting the United Nations monitoring group on Somalia to state in its most recent report that the heyday for piracy is over.
However, attempted attacks over the last fortnight more than prove that Somalia retains the infrastructure to mount attacks and that pirates are increasingly familiar with armed guards’ modus operandi and rules for the use of force.
The survey found that 70% of respondents felt that Somali pirates still present a significant risk.
Although the escalation of piracy is a concern in the Indian Ocean, 63% of respondents said West Africa was the area that most concerned them and 28% said their security needs in the region were not being met.
One shipowner said: “Our fleet is forced to use inexperienced, government-issued vessel protection detachments in West Africa, which refuse to disclose the identity of the guards or details of the weaponry or kit utilised.
“Due to widespread corruption, I do not feel that security needs are being adequately met.”
Although the threat of piracy is clearly of paramount concern, 48% of respondents said port security was also a threat on their radar.
According to one respondent, the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code is not adequate to improve port, terminal and vessel security. The respondent said: “Unfortunately it is a double-edged knife because many breaches of safety are hidden in order to not lose points on commercial evaluations.
“This means that robbery may be increasing at many ports but without acknowledgment, the authorities cannot do anything.
“The ISPS Code concept of breach of security must be reviewed in order to be helpful for vessels and terminals allow them to be proactive and report all incidents.”
Just over a third of respondents, 36%, said they were worried about cyber security.
One respondent said cyber crime could become the top threat facing the maritime industry.
“We have managed to diminish threats on shore, though there is not yet evidence of improved technologies either on vessels or in shipping companies,” he said. “Instantly, a hacker can intrude the system and cause… havoc.”
Just over half of respondents, 51%, said that the industry should be encouraged to share maritime intelligence.
However, one supplier of ship services said the problem with intelligence was “too many hands in the cookie jar”.
He said: “Reports from different agencies conflict with each other. In addition, underreporting of [pirate] incidents is commonplace.”
Asked whether they employed armed guards for Indian Ocean transits, 39% of respondents said yes.
One said the decision depended on the type of ship, on the counter measures employed and on seasonality, but added that the answer would vary, generating different responses from, say, a prudent shipowner with corporate social responsibility or from a charterer under pressure to turn a profit on a trip.
Commenting on the survey findings, Ince & Co partner Stephen Askins said the legacy of the past few years was that Somali piracy troubled the majority of respondents.
However, he said that the findings suggested that West Africa was seen to be more of a threat in future than Somalia, reflecting events in the Gulf of Guinea this year, set against those incidents reported in the Indian Ocean.
“What is perhaps interesting is that although terrorism, organised crime and port security are seen as likely threats, it seems that everyone is much more attuned to the physical threat… than to, say, cyber crime, the impact of which, I suspect, is not appreciated by most unless they have experienced it,” Mr Askins said.
Attempted pirate attacks over the last fortnight more than prove that Somalia retains the infrastructure to mount a threat.