by Brittany Damora
On the day a South Korean ship was attacked by pirates, the “Security Threats to Korean Business Operating Overseas” conference, run by Assist Card Korea, heard evidence in support of intelligence-led protection and unarmed solutions to piracy from UK-based risk consultancy AKE Group.
During the gathering of the biggest names in onshore business and shipping in Korea on 21 April 2011 the 75,000-ton Hanjin-owned Tianjinsignalled an SOS to its owners in Seoul and the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs: it was under attack by pirates in the Gulf of Aden.
The incident reflects an increase in piracy against South Korean vessels and highlights growing public support for armed solutions--as well as demonstrating the practical non-lethal methods that actually defused this attack.
AKE Group’s Andrew Kain, Richard Filon, Brittany Damora and Richard Mitchelson presented compelling evidence against armed guards, drawing on AKE’s extensive operational experience with the shipping industry and analysis of piracy trends.
Non-lethal techniques use intelligence to understand the modus operandi of pirates and their capabilities. Vessel hardening with wire and improvised tools, safe rooms to protect crew, security training and contingency plans come at minimal cost and promote risk-awareness. The most successful maritime security techniques boil down to economics and risk mitigation, saving lives and saving money.
Using the armed guards advocated by many is also likely to be counterproductive in the long-term. Bringing more weapons into the region will, intelligence analysis suggests, make pirates invest ransoms into more powerful weaponry, escalating the use of force and ultimately increasing fatalities. Invalid weapon licences, legal problems or accidental deaths will hurt the reputation of companies found at fault.
AKE’s message that preventative and non-confrontational anti-piracy measures work both in theory and in practice was underscored when the pirates’ attempt to hijack the Tianjin failed after the captain ordered all 20 crew to hide in a bullet-proof citadel inside the ship.