At Maersk, security is first and foremost a question of employee safety. As such, piracy is presently our main maritime security concern.
Piracy poses a threat to international trade and global growth and must be dealt with by the international community. Through the Danish Shipowners Association, we are involved in a number of UN, European Union and NATO working groups and meetings devoted to dealing with this threat.
We back proposals such as establishing a regional maritime sea patrol to protect ships in the area from piracy attacks. With support from the international community, the nations in the affected regions also need to address the problem.
Attacks are on the rise
With an estimated 2,000 transits yearly under the Maersk flag in the Gulf of Aden and off the Somali coast – a strategic corridor between the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea – we work continuously to keep our crews and our customers’ cargo safe from piracy attacks.
According to the ICC International Maritime Bureau, the record number of attacks in 2008 (111) was surpassed as early as September 2009. And while progress has been made on the legal framework for prosecuting pirates, the issue remains largely unsolved.
Furthermore, the area in which the pirates operate is expanding, with some attempts at piracy now spotted off the cost of Oman and in the Red Sea. Nigeria continues to be viewed as another risk area, and our ships operating in Nigerian waters and calling Nigerian ports are also subject to stringent procedures to help mitigate the security risks.
Protection through collaboration
Nearly all of our transits through the Gulf of Aden in 2009 were carried out as part of a navy convoy system, either under the direct protection of a designated navy ship or as part of a of group transit where a number of ships sail under the protection of the European Union fleet.
These same systems are not employed for the Somali Basin, where our ships are instructed to sail sufficiently far from the shore to impede most pirate attacks.
Continuously updated measures
To mitigate the risk of piracy attacks on our ships, we continuously update our comprehensive set of security instructions for ships that transit the Gulf of Aden or the Somali Basin. Based on the very latest best practices and often updated more frequently than once a month, these instructions include detailed reporting procedures as well as precautions to be taken on board the ship when transiting these areas. We maintain our policy of not arming crews or allowing armed guards onboard our ships. However, in certain instances when force protection is government mandated, we will work with and comply with government instructions. Occasionally, we still reroute certain ships away from the Gulf of Aden. Ships that have a low freeboard and/or low speed are required to sail around the Cape of Good Hope if they cannot be part of a naval convoy system.
Security on land
For a global company, keeping employees safe can also be an issue on land. Our security officers continuously monitor and assess the situation in areas where there is potential unrest. Decisions as to whether a Maersk office will remain open or be closed at times of unrest are made by local management.