Maritime Security Tips: Piracy might seem like something that we left in centuries past, but attacks on international cargo ships are still a reality on the high seas. And in order for you to stay protected while traveling on the open waters, there are a few things you should know.
Piracy has, unfortunately, experienced a bit of a resurgence over the last decade and a half. And according to one study, oil tankers and bulk carriers face the highest risk of being attacked. (They are slow-moving, can be easily boarded, and often carry extremely valuable cargo.) But regardless of the ship you’re navigating, you don’t have to become the next victim.
All it takes is a little preemptive planning and you can significantly reduce your risk of being targeted and compromised. Here are some tips:
Choose Your Routes Wisely
Strategic route planning will reduce your risk and help you arrive at your destination port without any trouble along the way. But in order to plan the best possible routes, you need to know where potentially dangerous waters are.
“There are often maritime security organizations that specialize in a certain area. For instance, the Maritime Security Centre: Horn of Africa, focuses on threats off the east coast of Africa, and ReCAAP, a similar organization in Southeast Asia, protects ships there,” Crewtoo explains. “These organizations have invaluable information for ships traveling through those regions, including real-time warnings of pirate activity.”
On a related note, it’s important that you stay in constant communication with the appropriate authorities and points of contact. This will increase the response time should there be an attack on your vessel at any point in your movements.
Know How Pirates Attack
Although there is a convenient way to attack any group of pirates, they tend to attack small, fast Scythians who can get close to the boat in a matter of minutes. They can be armed with AK-47s or various RPGs to shoot at the bridge of your ship. Others come first with knives and quickly get into the boat and take hostages.
The sooner you can identify a potential pirate attack, the greater your chances of dealing the greater damage (financial or physical). You may not be able to prevent pirates from boarding the ship, but you can protect your cargo and crew.
On many ships, the bridge is the main point of pirate attack. The better you can defend the bridge, the less likely it is that pirates will attack. (This also helps keep the crew safe).
To secure the bridge, a two-layer chain fence must be installed at the back and side of the bridge. (This reduces the RPG’s impact on the control room.) Reinforced doors and locks are also important for the bridge group, such as the Kevlar body armor and helmet.
Employ the Right Security Mechanisms
Depending on the type of cargo you have on board, where you’re traveling, and what sort of threats you face, there are a variety of security mechanisms you can use to safeguard your ship and crew from attacks. This may include any or all of the following:
- Physical barriers
- Reinforced door locks
- Safe rooms
- Water sprayers
- Private guards
- Floating armories
Physical barriers are especially important at key points of entry. For example, barbed wire on the edge of the deck can prevent pirates from successfully climbing stairs to the boat. Some ships even install electric fences (but they are not safe in all cases, for example, ships with hydrocarbons).
Unfortunately, security is always measured by costs. But when conducting a cost analysis, it is important to keep in mind the real cost of a pirate attack on your ship. Prevention of attacks is several times cheaper.
Pay Attention to Maritime Cybersecurity
While we’ve spent the bulk of this article discussing physical piracy and attacks, it’s important to note that cybercrime is an even bigger threat.
“With a 400% increase in attempted cyberattacks targeting the maritime Security industry since February 2020, it’s not just keeping your networks running that will keep you up at night,” Mission Secure explains. “The global pandemic has brought on an influx of cybersecurity issues, including but not limited to phishing attempts, ransomware, employees working remotely, and network access adjustments due to travel restrictions.”
It is very important that any malicious program, which can be called malicious content, is intended to gain access to, affect, and compromise computer systems and networks. When a hacker successfully deploys it, the malware acts as a virus that can negatively affect the entire computer network of the ship. In other words, part of the malware could shut down the ship.
Every shipping company or maritime organization should develop and implement an improved cybersecurity risk management plan so that it does not fall victim to costly cyber attacks this year and in the years to come.
Mission Secure believes that any strategy must be proactive and well documented to counter cyber threats. They believe that it starts with identifying risks, identifying vulnerabilities and assessing risks. From there on the development of “protection and detection measures.” Finally, continental plans are implemented and the focus is on reaction and recovery (there must be an attack).
Invest in the Right Training
The final piece of advice is to invest in the right training. All staff and crew members need to be well-versed in the proper protocol for preventing, identifying, and defending against potential attacks. This includes both physical attacks, as well as cybercrimes.
Adding it All Up
At the end of the day, staying safe while on the high seas is all about planning ahead and making smart choices that lessen the likelihood of experiencing an attack in the first place. And in 2020, it’s important to remember that most attacks don’t actually happen in a physical face-to-face manner. They tend to happen virtually through cyber channels. So by protecting your ship physically and through the proper network protocols, you can dramatically lower your risk of being targeted.
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