An alert anchor watch is critical in areas where boardings by pirates, terrorists or the common thief might be expected. Where are these places? Unfortunately, this is almost anywhere in the world these days. Some areas we might want to pay more attention to include those areas highlighted in security alerts, where economic conditions make theft an attractive option or areas of ideological (religious, cultural, economic) conflict.
Twenty-nine years ago in the Persian Gulf, a U.S.-flagged supertanker came under attack by Silkworm missiles launched from Iranian territory. The $2-million in damage included shattered bridge windows. Those shattered bridge windows blinded both Capt. John Hunt, master of the vessel and lookout Victorino Gonzaga.
The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) Director of Shipping Development, Captain Warredi Enisuoh, recently addressed the carriage of unarmed security personnel onboard vessels in Nigerian waters. The concern relates to the security personnel’s relationship with companies that also provide armed security teams for maritime security – raising the possibility that weapons are being carried for part of the vessel’s voyage and then disposed overboard or secreted on board. Captain Enisuoh voiced this opinion and stated, “The weapons they come with could be sold. This could well threaten the peace and calm we enjoy in our waters……..The agency is, therefore, sounding a note of warning that any vessel that comes into Nigeria with a foreign guard, whether armed or unarmed will be detained.”
This statement of the “peace and calm” enjoyed in Nigerian waters surely comes as cold comfort to the crew and families thereof of the MT Kalamos. Anchored in Nigerian waters and awaiting the completion of loading, this Greek-owned tanker was boarded by armed intruders at approximately 2200 on February 3rd. Three crewmembers are missing – presumably kidnapped for ransom – and one officer is dead – victim of gunshot wounds in these “peaceful waters.” The tanker’s operating company, Aeolos Management, is reportedly working with the Nigerian authorities to locate and free the missing crewmembers.
This incident comes on the heels of the detention of three vessels that had the temerity to enter Nigerian waters with additional, but unarmed, security personnel onboard. As criminals the world over – from the Malacca Straits to Somalia to the Gulf of Guinea to South America – have realized there are hundreds of millions of dollars of assets (vessels and cargo) floating around without any security, NIMASA directly prohibits any additional security unless it is provided by local vendors. As recently as July 2014, the Nigerian Maritime Administration publicly announced that they were “well-equipped to combat piracy,” yet tragedies such as these continue to occur.
Perhaps the Nigerian authorities should view this incident as an opportunity to embrace Private Maritime Security Companies (PMSC) and work with the maritime industry to reduce and eliminate violence against seafarers. Worldwide, this violence is increasing, yet there are barriers to providing proper security – some thrown up by nation-states. The IMO has addressed many of these barriers, yet some countries, such as Nigeria, continue to resist. Certainly, the sovereignty and security of a country cannot be questioned, but as the human costs mount, one must ask, “Why?” Perhaps, the answer is as simple as the storm that “moves safely out to sea.” Seafarers are out of sight and out of mind. Until an incident such as the MT Kalamos.