In light of the recent shipping vessel attack on the Suez Canal (Suez Canal Authority, August 31st, 2013), Nexus Consulting is announcing the release of recommendations for merchant vessels traveling through the canal.
The Suez Canal Authority (SCA) has noted that an attack on a commercial container ship (Cosco Asia) occurred on August 31, 2013, on the eastern side of the canal at El-Sharqiya (map attached) as the ship was transiting northbound. The ship has since cleared the canal with conflicting reports of damage and canal operations are reported as normal under heightened security from the Egyptian military.
Though the details are limited and at times conflicting, it seems there was a shore-based attack from between 3-5 “terrorists” (the term “terrorist” is being used by the SCA, but does not necessarily mean it was carried out by a confirmed, international terrorist organization). This group is alleged to have fired both machine guns and RPGs at the passing ship.
For vessels transiting the Suez Canal, Nexus recommends considering the following safety and security measures:
- Minimize all shoreside entity interactions – consider taking stores prior to arrival at Suez or post-Suez unless absolutely essential; don’t take unnecessary stores; avoid allowing “bum boats” to come along side while at anchor or awaiting pilot.
- Ensure Suez Canal Riding gang are confirmed and identified – before pilot team and riding gang approach the ship, ensure proper communication and identification have been established; ensure riding gangs are limited to only necessary access and are properly accounted for; ensure the pilot ladder is located in the most tactical advantageous location for the ship and the crew.
It is STRONGLY RECCOMENDED that pilot ladders be utilized only on the western side of the vessel (Northbound rig on Port Side, Southbound rig on Starboard side). The Sinai Peninsula has seen increased violence and this recent attack is reported to have occurred from the eastern side of El-Sharqiya.
- Ensure no unnecessary crew exposure – advise crew to stay off deck unless necessary; consider ballistic film for windows if available; if Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is available, ensure crew utilize them while on bridgewings.
- Highest state of passive security – prior to transit, ensure all ladders and lines are secure; close off as much of the ship access as possible via locked doors and secured passageways.
- Review your vessel's ISM procedures and ensure ISM procedures don’t compromise crew safety - remember, departure from ISM procedures to avoid immediate danger to crew is authorized; for instance if your vessels ISM procedures call for crew to be on deck in bright orange safety vests, consider not utilizing these vests in the canal; ensure proper documentation as required.
- Review and familiarize crew with all emergency procedures – ensure the crew is familiar with all emergency procedures and in a high state of vigilance
- Consider a small “ad hoc” medical kit on the bridge – a small medical kit should be created from ship supply and stationed on the bridge, bandages, peroxide and tourniquet should be included in this bag
- Consider posting extra look outs in secure locations - try to keep the crew “behind steel” and away from non-ballistic glass like windows
- Remember that BMP’s can also be employed outside of pirate waters – best management practices should be employed when transiting the canal.
- The Sinai Peninsula is becoming increasingly hostile - vessels transiting between the Red Sea and Aqaba, Jordan should consider additional security measures.
Ultimately, remember that the best weapon any ship has against a threat is a vigilant crew that identifies the threat as soon as possible and at the greatest range from the ship and employs all mitigation strategies to avoid the threat.
Nexus adds that they have weapons kits available in Suez, as well as the ability to provide unarmed riders through the canal if needed.
For more information on Nexus Consulting, An ISO 9001:2008 certified maritime security firm, visit ncga.us