June 28th 2014 in the Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea, a pirate skiff approached the vessel TORM SOFIA only to be successfully repelled by the ship’s crew and thus reaching its destination, New York, safely. Piracy is a common obstacle within the maritime industry with many vessels falling victim to this very obstacle, making entrance to certain areas a risk to an entire operation altogether; however these areas would not disappear and will be navigated sooner or later.
The likelihood of navigation to pirate-infested areas such as Gulf of Guinea, Somalia and some parts of South East Asia is relatively high depending on the operation which means that if a vessel survives these areas it is worthy of analysing this fact and taking notes on how our own vessels can make use of these morals.
Firstly, a well-defended ship means a successful maritime operation; meaning that defensive measures should be utilised. TORM SOFIA had armed guards on board which were capable of repelling a pirate approach. Armed guards are a measure that takes a lot of criticism from numerous members of maritime communities and nations and thus dismiss them as an additional risk to the operation as they believe the misconception that guards are undisciplined mercenaries whose professionalism is not guaranteed.
However, a professionally-operating security firm will provide valuable effort in protecting maritime operations where this professionalism is determined by the choice of vessel owners in selection of agencies beforehand, making this a step in the right direction.
Well-Coordinated, Planned Response
TORM SOFIA had armed guards and a determined crew, but all those variables require an action plan that is well-planned and practical; without an action plan, chance of success lowers as the absence of a strategy leaves it up to the crew, whose experience varies, to fend for themselves. Action plans allow even the most in-experienced crew members to increase their efficiency and thus do their part better with simple and direct orders that have an endgame to aim for.
TORM SOFIA was in compliance with the BMP 4 management practice which was also accompanied by actions following Rules of Force; causing the pirates to retreat and emergency team ashore notified and gathered. Donald Rothwell, (2011) states that approaches to piracy have been careless most of the time which also leads to the requirement of an organised approach from perspectives of defensive and legal actions; leading to another lesson which maritime professionals should learn: Revision of legal systems as well as the definition of piracy.
Nowadays, piracy is constantly compared to terrorism by the maritime community as both share certain factors such as hostage taking, setting of demands and usage of military-grade weapons such as assault rifles and rocket launchers. Piracy also results in damage of private property and threats to life of crew members; aspects that terrorism also features in its operations. What does this leave us with? An issue demanding specialised approaches akin to terrorism which is addressed by anti-terrorism and army special forces of nations and organisations such as UN and IMO. (International Maritime Organisation)
While the UN and IMO do take action in anti-piracy operations the most popular method remains the usage of private security firms; but there is a lesson to learn here too.
MV Seaman Guard Ohio, a private security ship owned by AdvanFort, an American private security firm, was detained by Indian authorities in October 12th 2013; the ship carried firearms and munitions that were not properly declared before entering Indian territory. The ship, according to AdvanFort had proper clearance from Indian coast guard and police to enter the port to refuel. The lesson here however does not lie in declaration and paperwork but on the shipping route itself as according to several analysts, anti-piracy measures on high-risk routes are poorly regulated which thus leaves India increasingly sensitive to violations of its maritime boundaries. What can be done? The answer is to improve and monitor regulations of maritime boundaries as well as traffic going through the routes that lie within a certain territory.
Overall, the lessons here lie within professionalism of crew, a practical action plan and solid regulation of maritime boundaries which would wield positive results if used right. Piracy is a threat that increases and persists throughout the years and thus is a risk for maritime operations and warrants important steps to be taken by maritime officials despite their approaches to their business. Piracy is compared to terrorism and thus requires a mixture of legal as well as brute force to address as lives of crew members and success of maritime operations depends on the quality of measures taken.