Vessel Movements and Cargoes Studied
Dryad Maritime Intelligence have warned Lloyds Joint Cargo Committee about a new threat in the Gulf of Guinea region that leaves vessels vulnerable to hijack
Vessel Movements and Cargoes Studied
In a report issued last week, leading maritime intelligence company Dryad Maritime warned of an emerging threat in the Gulf of Guinea.
The UK- based intelligence company explained to the Maritime Security Review that tanker masters operating in the Gulf of Guinea region are being contacted by firms offering to buy their petroleum-based cargoes.
In what could potentially be a ploy to lure vessels into areas where they risk being robbed or hijacked, bunkering offers are being proposed to ships’ masters who are approached directly by email and telephone.
In at least one reported case the caller knew the details of the vessel’s movements and cargo two weeks in advance.
The fact that the proposed bunkering operations are generally to take place well outside normal anchorage areas makes these offers highly suspicious. Advance knowledge of a vessel’s movements and cargoes only adds to the already highly dubious nature of these proposals.
The risk to vessels and crew is serious, at the very best any similar operation would be illegal, at worst, with suggested R/V points at up to 40 nautical miles from recognised anchorages, the scenario could be one of hijacked vessel and kidnapped crew.
Dryad have informed and briefed Lloyds Joint Cargo Committee in regards to this new threat.
Albeit unlikely that these proposals are accepted by serious operators, the nature of the threat does highlight the need to address information security.
Dryad Maritime Intelligence have advised that the best way to defeat criminal gang intelligence is to deny them the information in the first place.
Security experts from a number of companies operating in the Gulf of Guinea agree that the intelligence capabilities of some criminal gangs are improving all of the time. Given these continuous improvements, it is highly unlikely that any criminal operations against ships are based on luck.
According to Ian Millen, Dryad’s Director of Intelligence: “Mounting a criminal operation against a tanker as far away from Nigeria as Lome, Abidjan or Port Gentil is unlikely to be based on luck alone, so it’s important to make it as difficult as possible for the bad guys.”
Millen explained that: “Dryad has been advising on ways to mitigate risk in the Gulf of Guinea for some time now and denying intelligence to maritime criminals is one of the most important layers of defence. From the attacks and hijacks we have seen against product tankers, we know that it is more about planning than it is about luck. ”
Whilst a determined effort to gain information on ships and cargoes can be achieved through approaches to legitimate maritime sources, the risk of information leakage can be significantly reduced by taking a proactive approach to security and by protecting critical information.
Millen is adamant that operators need to examine and update their IT security practices and protocols on a regular basis. Having had the opportunity to examine the conclusions of a recent survey into IT security in the shipping sector, Maritime Security Review cannot but agree with Dryad’s Director of Intelligence.
“Information security is a key weapon in the fight against maritime crime. Where the good protection of critical information betters the capability of maritime criminals to exploit it, then overall security is improved significantly. Threats emerge when little attention is paid to the integrity and protection of data. If you don’t care who knows about the future plans of your vessel and cargo, then don’t be surprised if someone else takes an interest in it. When that ‘someone’ is a criminal gang who’s looking for the commodity you have, then you are in trouble.”
As specifically regards the threat identified by Dryad and the consequential warning and advisory that the company issued, the more information that can be gathered the better the chances of understanding the scenario and modus operandi of the criminal gangs.
Millen pointed out that: “Our analysis is based upon evidence provided by some very reliable sources. Whilst the instances we have are small in number, it is highly likely that such activity is widespread, with vessels being approached directly for information on their movements.”
The Director of Intelligence added that: “We would be very interested to hear from any company that has experienced similar approaches. The more information on such issues is shared, the more likely we are to be aware of the problem and take measures to counter it.”