Thursday, May 7, 2009

Escorts for Group Transits

When I think convoy, the picture below is what comes to mind:

WWI Convoy
However if you are transiting the Gulf of Aden using the Group Transit system what you see might look more like this:

Group Transit Escort (Photo by KC)
Go ahead, zoom in, ain't nothing there.

Whats the deal? According to The Journal of Commerce article Facing Down Piracy:
The group transits,.......... are like convoys but are not escorted by naval ships, which remain “out of sight” over the horizon but still “handy” enough to reach the groups when the pirates hail them.
Ok, "out of sight" but "handy", fair enough, you can't see any ships but you know they are there, just out of sight. But here's the thing, how do I know someone is there?

During my transits of the Gulf of Aden I receive no information at all regarding military assets available for protection. In fact the response I get to my numerous reports is ....NOTHING, not even so much as an automatically generated email, something along the lines of "your call is important to us", I mean nothing, not a single message or email even acknowledging that I exist, let alone that I am transiting the GoA.

I am required to send in numerous messages and reports when I transit, expected arrival times at various points, 24 hr AMVER reports, 8 hr position reports to UKMTO, report to MARAD, noon reports to various parties with ETAs and ETDs to various points, time to enter IRTC (International Recognized Transit Corridor) time to leave, lists of intended waypoints, list of port calls with estimated arrival and departure times. I have to make various initial reports, updates, noon positions and final reports.

I find myself transiting the Gulf of Aden wondering if any one is even receiving my reports, let alone reading them.

It is discouraging to expend time and energy sorting though the voluminous memos, reports, navigation warnings and instructions in order to correctly (I hope) send the proper reports at the correct time and not receive any feedback. I am sometimes tempted to stop sending the required reports to see if I get a reaction.

In more practical terms, an important factor in my planned response to an attack is the expected response time for assistance. If I only need to hold out 30 minutes my response would differ if I need to hold our for a couple of hours or more. Expected response time at any given time during the transit or even in which direction from which I can expect help is something I would like to know. I often don't know if I am even within VHF range of assistance.


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