Maritime Piracy

Over the past 12 months we’ve seen a dramatic increase in maritime piracy. As technology makes it ever easier for pirates to identify and target vessels, a proactive approach to security has never been more important. Yet for many companies, security is still just a box-ticking exercise and companies do not put enough emphasis into the security of a vessel … many in fact, have a ‘the horse has bolted, let’s close the stable door’ mentality. 

Let’s take a look at why failing to prepare and cutting costs can make you a prime target of maritime piracy, and highlight the steps you can take to mitigate the associated risks.

What are the Risks?

These days, it’s remarkably easy for criminal organisations to identify ‘soft targets’. Not only can they use maritime pirates to seek out the obvious signs that vessels are underprepared, such as a weak (or non-existent) Counter-Piracy Plan and little-to-no onboard physical security, effective countermeasures, or Maritime Security Operators. Modern technology may also make vessels extremely vulnerable to piracy attacks. 

Maritime pirates can harness cheap and widely available equipment, as well as access to software that assists in accessing onboard systems and useful data. So, if you’ve not invested in the right level of cybersecurity, you leave the door wide open to criminals. This isn’t just a financial risk; piracy is much more intricate than solely gaining money.

When it comes to providing physical security, cutting corners comes at a price too. Using inexperienced or poorly-trained Maritime Security Operators, who may not know the basics needed to deter maritime pirates, such as clearly acknowledging you’re aware of their presence when a skiff approaches, which may incentivise the pirates to abandon their attack. In the worst-case scenario, members of a ship's crew could be coerced into cooperating with the criminals to compromise your security from within.

The Solution? Be Proactive!

The important thing to remember is to be proactive, rather than reactive to deter maritime piracy. The key to preventing any kind of attack – be it digital or otherwise – is to have the appropriate security measures in place and operating effectively.

This means investing in top-of-the-line cyber protection, as well as experienced, well-equipped Maritime Security Officers from reputable, proven companies. And while a Counter-Piracy Plan is required by law for any UK vessel heading into High-Risk Areas, it’s good practice to create and submit a thorough copy for any voyage you’re taking outside of territorial waters.

For the ship’s crew, having the right people in place to undertake Designated Security Duties is a key part of maintaining effective security internally. However, don’t just rely on a handful of people. To stay compliant with the International Ship & Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code and protect your vessel from maritime threats, it’s critical to make sure everyone on board has undertaken the minimum Security Awareness training.

In the long term, prevention is better than cure. But you can start by investing in the proper training for your crew so you can be confident knowing that they’re ready for every eventuality. That’s where myself and the team at VIRSEC come in.

How Virsec Can Help

At VIRSEC, we provide a range of 100% online courses to help you prepare your team and stay compliant with ISPS regulations. Certified by the UK DfT Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA), these online courses are designed for all crew members from deck hands right up to the Ship Security Officer. 

Should you have any questions, feel free to drop us a message or call +44 (0) 161 763 4427. I’d be happy to help.

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