INTERTANKO members have joined the debate regarding the use of firearms on board ship for anti-piracy operations.
INTERTANKO members have joined the debate regarding the use of firearms on board ship for anti-piracy operations. How can pirate attacks and/or armed robberies on merchant ships be deterred, delayed or even prevented? How can merchant ships prepare before entering a high-risk area? And how to minimise the risk of being attacked?
The vulnerability of ships transiting such areas varies greatly. A prudent operator and his seafarers will take into account and deploy the necessary self-protection measures contained in the IMO"s MSC circular and the industry"s widely circulated Best Management Practices whose primary aim is to ensure the safest possible conditions for the crew, which is paramount.
They will also take into account a ship"s freeboard, its transit speed and its ability to manoeuvre; they will also note the latest information received from any protective naval forces in the region.
INTERTANKO and its members, said they are convinced that:
The use of any arms carried on board ships will escalate the violence of pirate attacks and armed robberies and increase the risk of loss of life.
There should be no arming of ships" crews. Crew members are not trained in the use of firearms and should not be required to defend themselves and their ship.
Where a private security service is employed, the personnel should be unarmed and their role should be an advisory one.
The risks associated with live fire arms on an oil or chemical tanker are evident.
Private Security firms offering armed guards and escort services should be avoided. There is no accepted quality control process in place; there are inherent problems regarding liability; there are command and control issues regarding the use of lethal force; and there are a number of insurance-related problems.
The use of government armed guards is of course a different matter. Where used, these should preferably be sourced from the ship"s flag state.
However, it needs to be borne in mind that if government armed guards were to be introduced on a large scale, the logistical issues of enabling the embarkation and disembarkation of government vessel protection detachments (VPDs) would be enormous, as several thousand would be required. How and where would they board the vessels? Where would such a large military force be billeted in-between transits? Where would they billet when on board the vessel?
Talking about the Gulf of Aden (GoA) and Somali situation, INTERTANKO"s marine director Capt Howard Snaith emphsised; ?Ensuring that the operator and its vessel is registered with MSCHOA, that the vessel regularly reports its position to MTO Dubai, and that the vessel submits its vessel movement form to MSCHOA, are the main key elements. With the information provided by the vessel and its operator, and using its own tried and tested methodology, MSCHOA can compile the necessary VSL.?
Since the internationally recommended transit corridor (IRTC) started operation for ships transiting the GoA, there has been a noticeable drop in successful piracy attacks in this region. There is no doubt that the implementation of ships" self protective measures, as contained in the industry best management practices and associated proactive actions by the ship and her operator, significantly lower the risk of a successful attack, INTERTANKO said. Owners/operators should:
Register with and submit their vessel movement forms to MSCHOA and provide regular reports to MTO Dubai, when within their reporting area.
Apply the industry best management practices to reduce the risk of a successful piracy attack. Follow the recommended routing guidance as provided by MSCHOA.
Capt Snaith also said, ?While the protective naval forces are addressing the symptoms of the piracy problem, the root cause behind the problem is to be found ashore in the absence of a strong and stable government in Somalia. While this root cause is unresolved, the risk/reward balance remains attractive for the pirates. We therefore expect the piracy situation and the need for government naval protection in the GoA and off the Somali coast, to continue for a considerable time until matters are resolved ashore. We therefore welcome the ongoing commitment by these governments to their military forces and to the long term sustainability of government naval protection in this area?.