Showing posts with label Armed Security Teams. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Armed Security Teams. Show all posts

Monday, September 10, 2012

Stowage of Arms Put the Ocean Atlas at Risk

Mossberg 12 gauge Shotgun (Photo by K.C.)
The U.S. flagged  M/V Ocean Atlas was delayed in the port of Maracaibo, Venezuela for 12 days for issues related to arms carried aboard for anti-piracy.

Weapons are used by security teams in  areas that are at high risk for piracy. These weapons  are left on board the ship after transit of high risk waters even after the security teams disembarks  to avoid the expense and hassles related to the transfer of weapons to and from the vessel.

The problem with using the ship for storage for weapons outside piracy waters is apparent in the case of the Ocean Atlas. On-board stowage of  weapons puts the captain, crew and vessel at risk and  places  the vessel and crew at  mercy of  port authorities  and government officials.

Aside from the risk of delay, having to clear weapons though customs  port authorities  of various ports  is a hassle. Port officials require documents, inventories etc  and frequently demand  to see and count weapons upon arrival and again upon departure.

In my last post I suggested that it would be better to remove weapons and ammunition at the same key points where the teams are picked up and dropped off now, Port Suez, Fujairah, Galle and Durban.

Governments involved should  set up convenient armories  at key points and eliminate costly bureaucratic obstacle to the transfer of weapons ashore so ships are not unnecessarily put  at risk by  port officials in ports of call outside high risk areas where weapons are not needed.


Monday, May 28, 2012

Was the Maersk Texas Incident a Pirate Attack?

Maersk Texas

gcaptain has reported an attack by pirates on the Maersk Texas. According to the report the attacking  pirates were either driven off by the embarked security team or by the Iranian Navy.

There a a few oddities about this incident - this is one:
vessel’s master reported to authorities that assailants’ observed physical features resembled those of Somali pirates.

A couple trips back we were transiting the  GOA/HOA area and I asked the second mate what he thought was meant by the term "suspicious vessel".  His reply was,  according to our embarked security  team, a suspicious craft is a white skiff with skinny black men in it - it was meant as a joke, at the expense of the security team.

Some security teams are not as experienced at sea as you'd think and some team members do not have a sophisticated world view. For example I've noticed that some  have a very simple method of determining if a skiff is a threat of not. Skiffs in sight of land are fisherman, skiffs out of sight of land are pirates.

Waters that are high risk for piracy also often  have a large number fisherman using the same type skiffs  as pirates. Most of the skiffs have skinny black men in them. It's not the way to determine if a skiff is a threat or not.

Neither is distance offshore a good guide. Somalia fisherman take skiffs well offshore to fish. For some reason this idea is sometimes difficult to communicate. A previous post -Identifying Pirate Skiffs in the Gulf of Aden is here.

One trick to making an incident-free passage  is to avoid getting close to any vessel during the  transit. When carrying an embarked security team the minimum   passing distance from  skiffs should be about twice the effective range of a AR-15. If your team has weapons with greater range the passing distance should be increased accordingly.  The master has final say with regards to use of deadly force but a boat out of range can neither harm or be harmed.

Another oddity is the location.

The position of the attack was given as "position 25:29 N – 057:16 E, approximately 28 nm west-southwest of Bandar-e-Jask" (my convenient chart of the Straits of Hormuz includes this position -  here)

As far as I know no other attacks have been reported that close to the Straits of Hormuz although there have been reports of suspicious craft. This area has a lot of small craft activity, including small fishing vessels, smugglers are also frequently seen in the area as well using high speed skiffs.

That's not to say it wasn't a pirate attack  However  according to Bloomberg the EU anti-piracy force the EU NAVFOR is not buying it:

The European Union’s counter-piracy force said it had reviewed the incident and determined there was “no case of piracy and it’s a false alarm,”
Obviously I don't know what occurred during the Maersk Texas incident but based on what I've seen so far my money is on EU NAVFOR - looks to me that there is a high probability this  is a  false alarm.