In the movie Captain Phillips (based on true events) directed by Paul Greengrass, the Captain and crew of a cargo ship were overtaken and held captive by a handful of Somali pirates, while passing Somalia in 2009. Fortunately for the Captain and his men, right before the seizure of his ship, someone on board was able to communicate the pending situation with emergency crews not too far away from their position. [Spoiler] Eventually the United States Navy was called and special operators were able to capture or kill all of the pirates and rescue the crew.
With modern piracy threatening the shipping industry in certain parts of the world for decades, it comes as no surprise that by 2013 piracy was thought to be a $7 billion a year industry (1). With the history of success that these individuals have had it has taken the shipping industry and the international community tremendous contemplation to reduce piracy’s effectiveness.
Oceans Beyond Piracy, a firm dedicated to the fight against piracy, states the shipping industry spends around $1 billion a year on private security. In 2012, ABC News reported that about 50% of ships in the Indian Ocean (an area high in pirate incidents) had armed guards. They also reported that a lot of former United States (U.S.) military personnel were joining companies or creating companies to provide security for ships (5) navigating these dangerous areas.
Additionally, the step up in security measures* is thought to have reduced the number of piracy incidents and ship takeovers. For example the International Marine Bureau’s (IMB) global piracy report in 2011 reported there were 75 piracy incidents and 14 ship takeovers; in 2012, 49 incidents and seven ship takeovers; and in the first half of 2013, eight incidents and two ship takeovers (4).
At the same time that ships have chosen to arm themselves, multinational coordination and cooperation has taken place to battle common enemies. International efforts by the U.S., Europe, and Asia to patrol waters have been used in conjunction with armed security on ships (4). In addition, The Maritime Executive, a source for analysis on maritime issues, in 2013 stated “…there are over 20 nations involved in three international task forces in the Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean, an area covering more than two million square nautical miles.”
In 2000, the World Shipping Council, a centralized organization for the liner shipping industry, organized an international coalition to “…analyze, propose and implement measures at the national, regional (EU) and/or international level for the enhancement of the security of ports, vessels, cargo and personnel” (2). The World Shipping Council works in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s National Maritime Security Advisory Committee (NMSAC), Trade Contact Group (from the European Union), and the International Maritime Organization (IMO), among others.
International Maritime Organization (IMO)
In particular, the IMO, an international recognized body of the United Nations (U.N.), works diligently with parties in the maritime industry to make trade and travel by sea safe. In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, IMO’s focus was on the South China Sea, the Straits of Malacca, and Singapore. Since 2005, the focus has been shifted to piracy near Somalia, the Gulf of Aden, the Indian Ocean, and most recently, West and Central Africa (7).
The IMO created the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Codes as part of their International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) 1974, chapter XI-2. These ISPS Codes are security guidelines for ships and ports with membership in the IMO (7). They also created the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation (SUA) Treaties in 1988 and later revised in 2005. The SUA Treaties are an international standard for processing persons caught doing illegal things to ships (7). These Treaties are an attempt to stop unlawful acts against unlawful people.
United Kingdom (U.K.) as a Case Study
In the U.K., ship security is created from SOLAS Chapter XI-2 and ISPS Code,developed by the IMO (3). Based on the ISPS code, every ship must have a Ship Security Plan (SSP). In addition, SSP’s must be submitted with a Ship Security Assessment (SSA), conducted by the designated and trained Company Security Officer (CSO). Included with an SSP and SSA is a Ship Security Alert System (SSAS), which is used to alert an outside party of an emergency situation. Each emergency contact must be approved by the IMO, as laid out in IMO membership requirements.
Furthermore, the Maritime and Coastguard Agencies Marine Guidance Note (MGN) 440 (M), developed by the Department of Transport (DfT), provides information on maritime threats and how to defend yourself against them. These include planning out a trip and assessing threats, training for an attack, moving as fast as possible through dangerous areas, and communication with outside parties of any troubling information (3).
Things to Consider
As Forbes makes clear, even with all new security options, choosing the best option is still unclear for some ship owners. For example, some companies were never aware that the U.S. Navy has stated they could be used as a resource if trouble arises (1). One positive outcome from using military aid, which will theoretically follow international laws on the use of force, is the saving of money from hiring private contractors and dealing with the trouble that come from killing another nations citizen(s).
With more and more companies offering security services for ships, Australia’s Lowy Institute (among others) worries about international disputes caused by having contractors on ships in international waters (4). For example, individuals mistaken for being pirates have been killed in the past by private security contractors.
Weapons on board ships passing through territorial waters are another concern for some States. Yemen, among others, have stated that they do not want weapons passing through their territorial waters, which conflicts with neighboring and regional countries (United Arab Emirates, Sri Lanka, Oman and Djibouti) laws, who have in the past not raised any opposition to such actions (6). Overall, the companies traversing these dangerous waters are faced with many decisions such as how they protect they crew and cargo without placing themselves into legal trouble. Only they can decide how important their security is.
*This includes more than hiring armed guards for a ship
- gCaptain. Protecting Ships From Somali Pirates – The Navy vs Private Security. Forbes, 11 Mar. 2013. Retrieved 03 Mar. 2016. Source: http://www.forbes.com/sites/gcaptain/2013/03/11/protecting-ships-from-somali- pirates-the-navy-vs-private-security/#4d7b4bcb7738
- Industry Issues / Security. World Shipping Council. Retrieved 03 Mar. 2016.Source: http://www.worldshipping.org/industry-issues/security
- Maritime and Coastguard Agency. How ship security is managed in the UK, and how to comply with EU regulation on ship security. Gov.UK., 16 Jan. 2013. Retrieved 03 Mar. 2016.Source:https://www.gov.uk/guidance/maritime-security
- MarEx. Armed Guards Now Deployed on 80% of Container Ships, Tankers. The Maritime Executive, 18 Sept. 2013. Retrieved 03 Mar. 2016. Source: http://www.maritime-executive.com/pressrelease/Armed-Guards-Deployed-Container-Ships-Tankers-2013-09-18
- Harris, Dan and Dan Lieberman. Pirate Attacks Down as Private Maritime Security Business Booms. ABC News, 07 Sept. 2012. Retrieved 03 Mar. 2016. Source: http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/pirate-attacks-private-maritime-security-business-booms/story?id=16352840
- Laws and guns. The Economist, 14 Apr. 2012. Retrieved 03 Mar. 2016.Source: http://www.economist.com/node/21552553
- Maritime Security and Piracy. International Maritime Organization (IMO). Retrieved 03 Mar. 2016. Source: http://www.imo.org/en/OurWork/Security/Pages/MaritimeSecurity.aspx
- Warsameh, Farah Abdi. Associated Press (AP). Retrieved 03 Mar. 2016.
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