In spite of a global drop in maritime piracy, the threat still remains, especially off West Africa and sporadically off the Horn of Africa, according to the World MarSec Union.
Dave Daniel Rachimi, CEO of the World MarSec Union (WMU), noted that there are still occasional acts of piracy along the Yemeni and Omani coastlines, and there has been a significant rise in piracy activity in the Straits of Malacca, as well as in Malaysian and Indonesian waters – the International Maritime Bureau has recorded 133 incidents of piracy and robbery at sea around the world for the first seven months of this year.
Rachimi told defenceWeb that piracy has risen enormously off Nigeria, Benin and Togo. For example, on 9 August a product tanker 200 nautical miles off Nigeria was attacked by up to three pirate boats operating from a suspected mothership. The pirates fired on the vessel and unsuccessfully attempted to board it, according to Dryad Maritime.
“It is unusual to see an attempted hijack of an underway tanker at such ranges from the shore and the numbers of craft involved suggest that this was an attempt at cargo theft. This could be a real game changer for this specific type of crime if repeated; one that would match the strategic shock earlier in the year when a tanker, MT Kerala, was snatched from an anchorage off Angola,” said Ian Millen, Chief Operating Officer of Dryad Maritime. “The victim vessel was in transit between a Gulf of Guinea port and a destination further south. If the departure and destination ports were known, and the mother ship had a suitable equipment fit, it is possible that the pirates could sit along the likely route and intercept the vessel whilst underway.”
With attacks against ships still ongoing and the nature of pirate operations changing, it seems there is still the need for maritime security. Private maritime security companies (PMSCs) are quick to point out that no ship with armed guards on board has ever been hijacked.
Rachimi told defenceWeb that his union, the only PMSC union in the world, was set up to protect tankers, cargo vessels, container vessels, cattle ships, passenger vessels and general cargo vessels. The idea for the union originated four years ago out of a need to regulate the business of securing ships that travel in pirated waters.
Members pay a yearly fee to join the union under the conditions that they uphold its rules and protocols, meaning that they are expected to conduct business under the highest standards of the law, and to treat each member and associates fairly and justly. “We only hire trained military to protect cargo and we vet various PMSC companies so that if a ship owner would use our resources they are basically guaranteed a safe and lucrative mission,” Rachimi said.
One of the benefits of the WMU is that it is able to offer economies of scale through its ability to purchase mission equipment in bulk. This extends to 35 high risk area (HRA) ports and includes armoury vessels, protective gear, satellite phones, kidnap and ransom insurance, security guard insurance, flights, hotels etc.
At the moment WMU counts 35 PMSCs that use its services (this totals 15% of all registered PMSCs), including members and non-member PMSCs. Membership is being expanded to agents, logistical partners, etc. Going forward, WMU will use an independent external examiner to test weapons proficiency, medic kits and operating procedures before, during, and after a mission.