'Piracy, Armed Robbery and Conflict at Sea' - Countering the Growing Threat to the Shipping Industry

Posted by Witherbys on 10th Jan 2024

'Piracy, Armed Robbery and Conflict at Sea' - Countering the Growing Threat to the Shipping Industry

‘Houthi attacks close vital Red Sea route’ 

‘Red Sea – Somali piracy shakes shipping industry and international trade’ 

‘Houthi drone detonation opens a new chapter’ 

‘US and UK ‘shoot down’ one of biggest Houthi airstrikes in Red Sea’ 

‘Pirates strike again? Armed gangs board ships’ 

'Crew members kidnapped in Gulf of Guinea tanker hijacking’ 

At just over a week into January 2024, these are but a glimpse of the multitude of recent international news articles on maritime security you may have seen. The evolving geopolitical security situation is bringing additional and increasingly challenging security risks that many ship owners have not experienced in recent decades. This is equally true for ship Masters and crews, many of whom have little or no experience and training for response to the impact of drone or missile attack, the examples of which we are now seeing daily. On the 10th of January alone, a multiple attack against commercial ships by 21 drones and missiles took place. In the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden and Persian Gulf, we have seen merchant shipping attacked by many methods ranging from drones to missiles, explosive laden boats and mine detonation. 

Even compared with the historical heights of maritime piracy off Somalia, ships have not been faced with the likelihood of direct attack in these regions since the Iran–Iraq wars of the 1980s. We are therefore seeing the implementation of a new era in maritime security as new threat actors emerge globally. Companies, Masters and ship’s crews must prepare, protect and train for these evolving risks from conflict and armed attack. Furthermore, the ongoing maritime security risks of armed robbery, piracy and kidnapping of seafarers as hostages remain ever present in many areas of the world. Regions from the Gulf of Guinea to the Black Sea are also emphasising the security challenges for safe navigation and ship operations. 

The newly released ICS/Witherby publication ‘Piracy, Armed Robbery and Conflict at Sea’ fully supersedes an earlier ICS title ‘Pirates and Armed Robbers: Guidelines on Prevention for Masters and Ship Security Officers’, covering practical security measures to be implemented in the ship’s SMS and on board by the Master and crew. 

The publication includes detailed guidance and checklists to be followed in the event of an attack on board, as well as key information on ship damage mitigation, guidance for hostage situations and how the ship should respond to missile, mine and drone attacks. As the safety of crews is paramount, we strongly urge customers to purchase and utilise this publication to ensure that the ship is adequately prepared for a renewed era of global maritime insecurity.