Shipowners Raise Onboard Security Amidst Mideast Fighting

Monday, July 24, 2006
With the worsening conflagration in Lebanon-Israel and the resulting consequences for maritime traffic, ship operators are bracing themselves for a hike in war risk insurance premiums for vessels that transit the Eastern Mediterranean. The 12-member Europe Mediterranean Trade Agreement that includes A.P. Moller-Maersk, Mediterranean Shipping Company and CMA CGM issued a statement: "In the event that extra costs do arise for war risk insurance, the lines wish to inform their customers that they will have no option but to pass these on to customers by way of a war risk surcharge with immediate effect.” According to Gulf News, a number of Flag-states have also issued directives, in accordance with the ISPS Code, to raise the security levels onboard their vessels while transiting the affected region. With both the major port cities of Haifa in Israel, and Beirut in Lebanon, coming under attack, the threat to shipping in the region is causing concern to insurance underwriters and if the situation is not quickly resolved, this will, no doubt, mean a premium increase. According to the Syrian News Agency, merchant shipping casualties have already been sustained due to the conflict. It reported that 12 Egyptian seafarers on a vessel sailing to Syria's Tartous port had been taken to hospital on arrival after their vessel was fired upon and hit by gunfire from an Israeli barge in international waters. The 6,105-dwt Cambodian-flagged Lady Laila, is US-owned and operated from Damietta in Egypt and of the 12 seafarers, one was reported as being in a critical condition. The US National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency has also issued a warning that due to 'armed conflict' Israeli naval ships have established a closure area in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Lebanon (between 34-05N and 33-06N and between 034-00E and the coastline). Ships will not be allowed to enter or exit the area and all commercial vessels are being advised to keep well clear of the specified zone. In another development, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) issued a statement which expressed concern for the safe evacuation by sea of persons affected by the conflict and for the safety of commercial shipping operating in the area. The IMO also urged that all necessary steps be taken to protect the safety of life and property at sea and the protection and preservation of the marine environment in the affected area. (Source: Gulf News)
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