Amid a complex and dynamic maritime security situation in West Africa, a new publication provides Best Management Practices to Deter Piracy and Enhance Maritime Security off the Coast of West Africa (BMP- West Africa) including the Gulf of Guinea.
This aims to help ships plan their voyage and detect, avoid, delay and report attacks, thus mitigating the risk from piracy and armed robbery.
The publication highlights, among others, the need of a Vessel Hardening Plan, which can ensure vessels are prepared for operations in areas of increased threat and out to be considered as part of the voyage preparation.
The implementation of ship protection measures that should be identified during the voyage planning process and clearly marked on the VHP.
Among others, the Master should implement the following actions to assist in raising vigilance:
- Provide additional, fully briefed lookouts.
- Maintain an all-round lookout from an elevated position. During STS, there is a tendency for members of the crew to be looking “in” and not “out”.
- Enhanced vigilance may be required for exposed fender and mooring stations where SPM have been removed.
- Consider shorter rotation of the watch period to maximize alertness.
- Maintain sufficient binoculars for the enhanced bridge team, preferably anti-glare.
- Consider use of thermal imagery optics and night vision aids as they provide a reliable all-weather, day and night surveillance capability.
- Maintain a careful radar watch and monitor all navigational safety warnings and communications, particularly VHF and GMDSS alerts.
- Consider placing well-constructed dummies at strategic locations around the ship to give the impression of greater numbers of crew watch.
- Consider using CCTV and fixed search lights for better monitoring. Fixed search lights can deter approaches from stern.
- Consider mounting anti-piracy mirrors on the bridge wings to make looking aft easier.
- The accommodation and pilot ladders should be kept at main deck level and lowered when required only.
- When in port:
–Access to the vessel must be controlled
–Regular security rounds should be conducted
- Ensure the crew are well rested.
A proper lookout is the most effective method of ship protection. It can help identify a suspicious approach or attack early on, which allows defences to be deployed.
In June 2018, the 5th edition of the piracy-specific Best Management Practice (BMP5) was published compiling a useful and comprehensive guidance which introduces effective measures for the protection of crew, vessels and cargo while transiting the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea. The new edition superseded BMP4.
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