As with nearly every aspect of life, Maritime Security has not been immune to the impact of COVID-19. From the workload of global shipping to the movement of Maritime Security Officers (MSOs), every sector of the industry has been impacted. Sectors such as bulk carrier shipping have been severely affected, with no real short-term future for the crews or vessels, until the world gets back on track. However, other maritime sectors have seen a significant rise in business, due to the global crash in oil prices, tankers are in high demand for floating storage units. In both circumstances, there is an underlying influence on maritime security. With the rise of floating storage at anchor, it provides an ideal opportunity for potential terrorism and, in some locations, kidnap for ransom. In contrast, those bulk carrier vessels no longer being utilised will be sited at anchorage, this in turn gives opportunists an ideal prospect for theft.
Further to this, is the issue of crew fatigue; many seafarers have not had leave/rest for an extended period and crew welfare is a major concern. One missed lock on a security gate, for example and criminals will exploit it. Another area for concern is the desperation factor, across the world people are struggling financially and many may be forced to turn towards crime or piracy as a way of surviving, when existing avenues are no longer available.
Here at Securewest, we anticipate further issues in regions already designated ‘piracy hotspots’. With the continued accessibility of shipping, both during transit and at anchorage, we calculate a persistent trend of opportunistic thefts and armed robberies in the Malacca/Singapore Straits. In regard to the Gulf of Guinea, unless a coordinated maritime taskforce provide an effective solution, we foresee a prolonged issue with kidnap for ransom incidents, with prospective pirates now, more than ever, valuing the crew over the contents of the ship when it comes to negotiating the ransom with shipping companies. In conjunction with Naval patrols, combined with MSOs and good BMP5, the Gulf of Aden has not seen the number of piracy incidents as previously reported. However, the presence of MSOs are still vitally important, demonstrated by the recently reported event(s), where MSOs repelled an aggressive approach on a vessel in the vicinity of High Risk Area (HRA).
In conclusion, COVID-19 has and will continue to have a significant impact on the Maritime Security industry. Managing MSOs effectively and planning to mitigate the risks at transit/anchorage will be key. Above all, personnel safety and welfare should be first and foremost in everyone’s mind.