Global maritime security improves in H1 2016

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Despite rise in PH incidents, Asia sees fewer attacks overall

MARITIME security incidents related to piracy and armed robbery, among others, have significantly declined during the first half of the year, according to a report by global risk and consultancy firm Control Risks.

According to Control Risks, an unprecedented decline in maritime security cases was recorded in Southeast Asia, which include the Philippines, dropping by 61 percent, to the lowest point since 2009.

“In Asia we have seen an unprecedented decrease in attacks on commercial vessels, driven by enhanced security patrols and a crackdown on crime syndicates onshore,” said Control Risks maritime consultant Sebastian Villyn.


But despite the highly improved maritime security situation, it also admitted that maritime security remains a global key concern except in Europe, where there were no recorded incidents.

Villyn cited in particular the series of maritime abductions in the Sulu and Celebes Seas off the Southern Philippines, in reference to the dreaded terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), which operates in Sulu, Basilan, Zamboanga and other nearby areas.

“However, we have also recorded an increase in maritime abductions in the Sulu and Celebes Seas, in the western Pacific Ocean south of the Philippines. This is a worrying trend, but does not detract from the overall decrease in security incidents in Asia. Conversely, there has been an increase in the number of recorded attacks in the Gulf of Guinea this year, as well as high levels of maritime kidnaps across the region, already on par with that recorded for all of 2015,” he added.

The group’s most recent caper was the kidnapping of three Indonesian fishermen off Lahad Datu in Malaysia’s eastern Sabah state, which is just a short boat ride away from Southern Philippines.

Aside from Southern Philippines, incidents of kidnappings were also recorded in Nigeria. Nigerian pirates were held responsible for eight of the nine vessels fired upon globally.

According to the global piracy report, there were 98 incidents during the January to June 2016 period, consisting of 72 vessels boarded, five hijackings, nine ships fired upon and 12 attempted attacks.

The 2016 incidents was significantly less than the 134 incidents recorded for the same period in 2015.

A total of 64 crewmembers were also taken hostage in 2016, which is much lower than the 250 seized in the same period in 2015.

Control Risks also noted that aside from piracy, terrorist attacks in ports, though rare, were also recorded in conflict zones like Libya and Yemen.

“Most recently we saw the temporary closure of the Bosphorus Strait, a key chokepoint located in north-western Turkey, following the attempted coup there. Some operators are also exposed to boarding by activist groups, which generally pose a limited security risk, but bring operational and potentially reputational repercussions,” it said.

Some five months before he bowed out of office, President Benigno S. Aquino 3rd had signed Executive Order (EO) 197 reinforcing the country’s international commitment against maritime security threats.

EO 197, signed on February 4, designates the secretary of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) as the authority responsible for the security of sea transport and maritime infrastructure in the country, and for other purposes.

It tasks the DOTC secretary to ensure compliance with International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code, an international framework through which governments, shipping companies, and port authorities can cooperate to detect and deter acts that threaten security of the maritime transport system.

The Philippines is a contracting party to the 1974 International Convention on the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), as amended, including Chapter XI-2 thereof, on Special Measures to Enhance Maritime Security, that adopts the ISPS Code.

Relative to the implementation of the ISPS Code, the DOTC is also tasked to ensure that the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), Philippine Ports Authority (PPA), Maritime Industry Authority (Marina), and the Office of Transportation Security (OTS) strictly adhere to the safety protocols under the ISPC Code.

The PCG, as part of its port state control functions, shall perform control and compliance measures prescribed under the ISPS Code relative to the security of ships in or intending to call at any port of the Philippines.

The PPA and other port authorities shall perform the security duties of the Philippine Government under the ISPS Code with respect to port facilities, and in coordination with the Bureau of Customs (BoC), perform the necessary security measures relating to cargo handling in order to prevent tampering and prevent cargo not intended for carriage from being accepted and stored on board ships and within port facilities.

Marina, on the other hand, shall enforce the ISPS Code provisions relative to the security of Philippine flagged or registered ships.

As for the OTS, it is tasked to prescribe, implement, and maintain security standards for the security of sea transport and maritime infrastructure, and monitor compliance of the PPA, other port authorities, PCG, Marina and other relevant government agencies, and recognized security organizations with the standards prescribed in the ISPS Code.

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