The year has been dominated by terrorist acts. France, Tunisia, USA, Mali, Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt, Syria, Libya, Iraq, Yemen, Nigeria and many others. Far too many to list and far too much associated tragedy. We have seen cruise ship passengers and holidaymakers killed at the Bardo Museum in Tunis and on the beach in Sousse, a Russian passenger plane brought down with 224 people on board and many other atrocities across the globe, including the alleged, ISIS-inspired mass shooting in California. Some incidents grab the attention of the international media more than others, but the list of countries affected across the world is a very long one, affecting many nationalities, religions and cultures.
Given the above, it comes as no surprise that our clients, both commercial and leisure, have concerns about the impact of terrorism and civil war on their safe, global operation in ports and on transits. Our regular reporting has covered all of the hot spots throughout the year; from civil war in Yemen, Syria and Libya, to the very recent and unusual armed attack against a vessel in the Sulu Sea. Whether we are providing advice on operating oil tankers in Libya, container ships transiting the Indian Ocean or advising superyachts on security threats in the Caribbean, our remit is necessarily broad and deep.
One area that has attracted more attention in 2015 is the Mediterranean Sea. From concerns regarding ISIS in Libya to the war in Syria and mass seaborne migration to Europe from both of these countries, terrorist acts against Egyptian naval vessels or concerns over the security of the Suez Canal –‘The Med’ has attracted a lot of media attention in 2015. As promised in our last Newsletter, we produced a free Special Advisory on the Mediterranean to provide an overview of the regional security situation by exploring a number of areas that impact, or could impact upon, vessels and their crews. This very popular report followed an earlier advisory where we analysed what, if anything, lay behind the sensational media reporting that suggested that ISIS in Libya would target superyachts in the Central Mediterranean. If you want an insight into this important region and haven’t yet downloaded your copy, I encourage you to do so.
The year hasn’t been all bad news on the security front, with the first step in de-escalation within the Indian Ocean reflecting the diminished risk from Somali piracy. In October, BIMCO announced that the co-sponsors of Best Management Practice for Protection against Somalia based Piracy, version 4 (BMP4), had agreed to a revision of the High Risk Area. This change came into force officially on 1 December, and came as a welcome step to us here at Dryad, given the drop in Somali pirate activity we have seen over the last three years.
It should, however, be remembered that the HRA has not been removed, but reduced; a reflection of the lack of long-range pirate activity in recent years. There is no less a need to remain vigilant and take the appropriate risk mitigation measures when transiting in and around this region.
If this caution needed any reinforcement, the hijacking of the Iranian fishing vessel, Muhammidi, last month, gives some pause for thought. The vessel was reportedly hijacked over 200 nautical miles off the Somali coast (still within the revised HRA). During the vessel’s detention and after a gun battle close in shore, that claimed the lives of several pirates, the dhow was boarded by a coalition warship who afforded assistance. There are far too many inconsistencies in the report of this event to take it all at face value, including the range at which the vessel was reportedly taken, but it does serve as a timely reminder of the potential threat.
With the above incident and other instances of the detention of Iranian fishing vessels, the question of whether illegal fishing in the Indian Ocean could ignite a resurgence in full scale Somali piracy, if not addressed, is something we are being asked here in Dryad. Our Head of Operations, Mike Edey, has written a thought-provoking blog, which I urge you to read, that gives his opinion on the subject.
Whatever the level of threat in the HRA, the key to proper risk mitigation lies in conducting a proper risk assessment. Not every transit requires the provision of armed guards, but some do and whether or not this is judged to be a necessary step really depends upon a proper, professional assessment of the specific threats and overall risk. Taking this first and critical step will help you to decide the level of protection you require, whether that is intelligence routing and monitoring or the provision of embarked security teams. My only plea is that you get your advice from objective and credible sources, and, beware of those who talk up the threat for business purposes – I’m afraid that we’ve seen far too much of this in 2015.
Other good news is the positive environmental flavour to the year, beginning with the January implementation of a number of Emission Control Areas (ECA) and ending with the on climate change. The first of these events was entirely focused on shipping, whilst the latter made little reference to the shipping or aviation industries – , although the ECA implementation points to positive steps in the right direction. The introduction of the ECAs had resulted in a number of pessimistic financial projections on the increased costs of lower sulphur fuel, but another feature of 2015 – the significant reduction in the price of oil and associated bunker fuel costs – seems to have mitigated this risk to some extent.
In Dryad, we have continued to help clients keep down their operating costs, improve profit margins and reduce their carbon footprints by optimising their routing and avoiding bad weather – a service that has provided both safety and economic benefits. As 2016 approaches, we are looking forward to enriching our services in this field with new and innovative ways of delivering our vessel management services that promise to bring further savings and, importantly, safety at extremely attractive prices.
On safety, if we needed reminding of the dangers to be found at sea, the tragic losses of the Eastern Star in the Yangtze River, with over 400 people on board, and the loss of ‘El Faro’ with all hands in Hurricane Jaoquin, serve as reminders of the environmental threats of operating at sea. There are far too many losses resulting from the natural forces of nature and it’s easy to forget that the scale of these far outweigh any maritime terrorism or crime threats. We have also seen far too much misery at sea with desperate people attempting to flee conflict and improve their lives in dangerous sea crossings. The good news here is that the international community, is putting more of an effort into rescuing those in peril on the sea – something that the shipping industry is also heavily involved in and for which they, and , deserve much credit.
So as you can see, we’ve had a particularly busy year in Dryad just keeping on top of the complex world we live in and supporting our clients as they trade and move around it. We have travelled lots and attended many conferences and events; Malta, Norway, Denmark, USA, Crete, India, Japan, Hong Kong, to name a few.
We’ve been fortunate to feature in the UK Chamber of Shipping’s ‘Maritime Nation’ documentary, launched at London International Shipping Week (LISW), along with other UK-based maritime companies. And we have been privileged to speak at a wide variety of events, from advising the cruise ship industry on maritime security to making a contribution to the wellbeing of seafarers at HR and Crew Conferences, as well as technical-related conferences where we have demonstrated our human-centric, operational approach to dealing with uncertainty at sea.
Back in our HQ, we have also been busy developing new capabilities to meet the expressed needs of our clients. In our last newsletter I told you that we were working on an exciting risk product to support our commercial and superyacht/leisure clients. At the time, I was under oath to say nothing more, in case I got into hot water with our Head of Marketing. Now, I’m pleased to say that the secret is out and that we have been engaged in developing our own, maritime-focused, Country Risk Map – a tool that will help our clients to build their awareness and find clarity in a chaotic world.
All that remains for me is to say that I hope you enjoy this latest edition of our newsletter. We are very fortunate to have an interested and wide-ranging readership and we would be delighted to hear any feedback or comments you have about this foreword or the articles below. If you do have any feedback to share, or any questions that you would like to ask, please feel free to contact me at: [email protected]
We at Dryad wish you all very happy holiday period as well as a safe and prosperous New Year!
P.S. Don’t forget to look out for our more detailed maritime crime figures for 2015, coming out in January.