Last month, suspected pirates kidnapped twelve crew members from a Dutch cargo ship off the coast of Nigeria.
The attack occurred early Saturday morning as the vessel was nearing port of Port Harcourt, Nigeria.
The ship owner, ForestWave Navigation, confirmed that 12 of 14 crew members on board their general cargo ship FWN Rapide were taken from the vessel. The two remaining crew members are reported safe. Nothing yet is known of their fate.
Sadly, as owners, operators and crew are all too aware, this is not an isolated incident. Year on year, the number of piracy and armed robbery incidents against ships has increased from 43 in the first quarter of 2017 to 66 in the same period of 2018. This is according to the latest report by the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) of the International Chamber of Commerce.
Whilst the problem is still global, the most alarming rise has occurred off the coast of Nigeria, the scene of this latest kidnap incident.
But the worrying statistics don't stop there. The number of incidents involving firearms is up from 14 to 27, the number of boarding incidents is up from 33 to 39, attempted boardings up from 4 to 12, fired upon from 4 to 11 and hijacks 2 to 4. The troubling statistics go on and on and do not even include robberies and attempted robberies where no violence was employed.
So, what's to be done?
Well, reading the report it is interesting to note that the majority of incidents occur whilst the vessels are anchored and are therefore most vulnerable. Vulnerable because a static ship is easier to board but also because the size of the vessels superstructures means that there are many blind spots, making identifying where an intruder has boarded extremely difficult.
Another key observation is that during incidents where the crews are alerted and take immediate action, they are significantly more likely to create a positive outcome for themselves and their vessel.
So, it seems clear that the key to security is prior-warning and location of a potential boarder, giving crews time to enact their security protocols.
One company offering a system to address these issue is MARSS, with their latest system called CLiMBERguard.
CLiMBERguard is designed to detect and track any unauthorised access to the superstructure of any vessel or maritime structure. Climber detection is achieved utilising self-contained CLiMBERguard units that combine micro-radars, imaging sensors and processing to automatically detect, classify and track approaches close to and scaling the sides of the vessel.
Multi-touch command and control interfaces present a clear situational awareness picture to the crew. This can be via a fixed control panel or remotely via smart mobile devices, aiding decision-making and rapid response.
CLiMBERguard was developed to protect both naval and merchant vessels and is already operational protecting cargoes of critical national importance.
Complimentary systems include the MOBtronic man-overboard system, that reliably notifies the crew when a man-overboard event occurs and NiDAR command and control system. NiDAR will integrate security radar, sonar and daylight/infrared cameras, as well as CLiMBERguard and MOBtronic, to deliver layered 360° safety and security zone around maritime installations, above or below the waterline.