Piracy in the Gulf of Aden

Date Published: 13th March 2009

This was the key question that was on everyone’s minds during the annual IPTA sponsored Chemical and Products Tanker Conference held in London this week. A major session centred on piracy that has affected over 90% of the attendees during 2008. The answer was provided by Simon Fordham of BGN Risk Maritime Security Services – the commercial security provider on the panel following a series of briefings by the IMO, US Coastguard and EU Naval Operations.

Fordham stated that the Naval Force operations in the region have made an impact. They were now creating the conditions for an Industry led solution. BGN Risk has extensive experience of sustaining high profile security operations against aggressive adversaries to secure high value assets, transits and supply chains in hostile environments. They have been working with major insurance brokers and government agencies to deliver a self-supporting and sustainable corporate maritime security framework for Ship Owners to benefit from.

BGN Risk also articulated some key advice and comments for Ship Owners and Management Companies:

• Invest in Prevention:
• Corporate Reaction
• Address the human dimension

Fordham emphasised that a better understanding of the adversary is required through continued development of information sharing protocols between governmental and commercial intelligence providers. This will give early indication of the pirates’ next intentions and their supporting organised criminal networks. Officers and crew need to be protected from the prospect of corruption and intimidation as well as continue to be prepared and drilled for ship attack and hijack situations. Likewise, Ship owners and Management Teams need suitable guidance, support and rehearsal so sensible and timely decision making is backed by strong resolve, stamina and determination not to compromise on optimum business opportunities and working practices.

For an effective Corporate Reaction, there needs to be confidence in the security advice being offered, and the security practices being exercised. Fordham encouraged Ship Owners to interrogate security providers for relevant experience, expertise and appropriate motivation. Now more than ever it is essential for the security provider to have an established relationship with their clients. Also confidence for bringing security as a central business function to take full advantage of corporate and commercial opportunities to get that essential competitive edge in these trying economic times.

BGN Risk’s focus is on investing in prevention. This reduces the pirates’ expectations of success at every stage. Sound proactive planning, access to good integrated intelligence, and tailored, proportionate security operations – if necessary providing ship escorts and ship security teams. In the unlikely event of a hijack then professional and experienced responders are in place to react immediately to secure a safe and timely release of the crew, the ship and its cargo. Companies that have attempted to self resolve the hijack have invariably made basic mistakes in the early stages which have played into the hands of the hijackers/pirates.

Preventative maritime security operations at the centre of business thinking allows Ship Owners and their Management staff to get the results they want in difficult economic and operational times: to be able to trade and transit where and when without compromise, in safety and confidence. Anything else would be “chasing the error” with exponential rises in additional costs and operational uncertainty.

About the author

Julie Palmer

Regional Managing Partner

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Julie is a law graduate who qualified with Price Waterhouse in 1994. Julie joined Smith & Williamson in 1997 and became a partner in 2001. With Mike Stevenson, Julie set up Middleton Partners offices in Salisbury and Southampton, both of which are now part of Begbies Traynor.

Julie is a member of the Insolvency Practitioners Association and is a Fellow of The Association of Business Recovery Professionals. Julie deals with all aspects of Corporate Recovery and turnaround work and takes all form of personal insolvency appointments.

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