Security that's fit for purpose

Port security continues to be a problem. Photo: JD Mack Port security continues to be a problem. Photo: JD Mack

Ports and terminals are increasingly being drawn into the purview of private maritime security companies, as such contractors seek to strengthen their links with the insurance market.

Despite all the measures taken by ports over the past 11 years to comply with the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code, the globalised dangers are marching ever closer to home.

Thieves and oil trafficking fraudsters are operating insouciantly in the waters off West African ports, while the Suez Canal came under threat when a machine gun attack on the10,000 teu containership Cosco Asia in the waterway early in September was seen as an abortive effort to disrupt transits.

Over in east Africa, ransom demands by pirates are said by industry insiders to be way above the average $5.3m recently reported. Although statistics indicate that the number of Somali piracy assaults has fallen sharply, this is apparently not for want of raiders trying their luck.

In Yemen, militants could target marine infrastructure in response to US drone strikes killing their leaders. And it is sometimes forgotten that the greatest number of piracy incidents is in southeast Asia, Indonesia being the fulcrum, although most of the attacks, which take place in ports and anchorages, are petty in comparison with west and east Africa.

Under-reporting of incidents remains a frustrating factor: suspicious approaches to vessels are often not included in official figures.

All this means that ports, many of which have their internal security problems, are as much as ever locked into the global fight against maritime crime.

As security companies vie for business, they seek to offer increasingly sophisticated ‘solutions’. At a presentation in Lloyd’s Old Library during London International Shipping Week, one such company, London-based crisis prevention and response consultancy NYA, stepped forward to showcase its risk management tool for voyage, high-risk transit and port visit planning. The NYA offering is based on an advanced tracking system which gives shipowners, operators and insurers clearer and more up-to-the-minute guidance by overlaying other sources of information about risk and threats on to its maps.

However, in this competitive field, it will behove the ports industry to review constantly and scrupulously the host of services marketed by security advisers – double-checking with their brokers and underwriters that the risk management strategies on which so much depends are fit for purpose.

 

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