Heightened security should be implemented now on all merchant ships transiting the Suez Canal and the Mediterranean, UK Maritime security company GoAGT advises shipmasters.
The warning comes after reports that the "Cosco Asia", a Panamanian registered ship, was attacked on Saturday while transiting the Canal. Egyptian officials say they foiled the attack, which was aimed at disrupting shipping in the Canal.
Gerry Northwood, COO at GoAGT, a UK maritime security company that provides international shipping companies with security advice and armed guards internationally, said: “The reported attack on the ‘Cosco Asia’ shows an increased risk and that immediate and sustained heightened security needs to be implemented onboard merchant vessels using the Suez Canal, as well as major maritime choke points such as the Straits of Gibraltar and the Straits of Bab el Mandeb.”
He added: “An unarmed security adviser should be considered for all vessels transiting the Mediterranean prior to embarking armed guards in high risk areas. They can assist crews in identifying potential threats and are able to assist the Masters and their crews communicating and gathering intelligence. When deemed necessary armed guards can be put on board.”
Gerry Northwood said, “In our view there is now an increased risk of an attack on merchant shipping. Masters need to have a plan, train for it with their crews and have sufficient experience onboard to gain valuable minutes in mustering and safeguarding crew”.
He added: “Just because a vessel has left Port Said at the end of the Canal, and there has been no incident, does not mean that vigilance should be decreased. In our view there is an increasing risk of attack in the Mediterranean between the Canal and the Straits of Gibraltar.”
Northwood concludes that: “It is almost inevitable that there will be an attack in the future and the masters of vessels and their crews need to have their wits about them.”