Thursday, April 10, 2008

Stand by to repel boarders

A former shipmate told me an interesting (sea?) story about a Greenpeace demonstration. The demonstration involved boarding a log ship in broad daylight and putting up a banner protesting the harvest of old growth timber.

The Greenpeace activist got aboard by distracting the crew. A RIB boat placed immersion suit equipped swimmers into the water ahead of the slow moving vessel and a few managed to climb on to the bulbous bow. The log ship crew responded by manning fire hoses forward and attempting to blast the swimmers back into the water.

While the crew was fully engaged on the bow, a second crew of activists, using grapple hooks, climbed aboard undetected on the stern.

Environmental politics aside, this would make an interesting and challenging security drill scenario. The standard primary and secondary response teams, if properly trained should be able to cope with this type of threat.

What are the principles of shipboard security in the event of an attack?

There are as follows:

1. Detect threats
2. Attempt to keep attackers off the vessel.
3. If attackers get aboard, manage and mitigate risks to the crew.

In the case of the log ship, the distraction forward caused a breakdown in ship security, unable to function at the lowest level, detecting threats - the activist with grapple hooks aft.

What is required in this case is the standard two or more team approach long used by ships to respond to fire and other emergencies. The primary team is used as the main response and the second team, in this case, should ensure that basic shipboard security is maintained.

To accomplish this, two things are needed. A good understanding on the part of the senior officers of the principles of ship security and emergency response. Secondly training to ensure the basics are understood by the entire crew.

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