In order to tackle piracy off the Horn of Africa in 2008, sovereign states began offering escort services to vessels passing the Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor (IRTC) between Somalia and Yemen.

The escort service involves a state-owned warship escorting a merchant vessel or a convoy of merchant vessels through dangerous waters. The mandates of Coalition Forces including CTF-151, NATO Operation Ocean Shield, and EUNAVFOR Operation Atalanta focus on anti-piracy patrol operations, but, occasionally, they provide escorts for merchant ships delivering humanitarian aid or involved in peacekeeping operations, OBP reports.

Other states are acting independently, likes China, India, Russia, Japan, and the Republic of Korea. which also deployed vessels to protect commercial traffic in the Gulf of Aden.  The cost of the convoys is borne by each navy running their own escorts and convoys.

In Nigerian waters, one of the only officially permitted Contracted Maritime Security services is a State Affiliated Escort.

The Nigerian Navy provides escort services by embarking Nigerian naval personnel aboard private patrol vessels chartered-in to service for military use or chartered to the companies seeking protection.

In general, a private company owns and operates the vessels, while the Nigerian Navy provides the crew and security personnel—who are responsible for handling weapons and providing security services. The conduct of these services is governed by a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between specific Private Maritime Security Companies and the Chief of Naval Staff of the Nigerian Navy. Currently, there are approximately 20 of these MOUs in effect.

These public-private models of escort services in Nigeria are protect oil and gas assets, commercial vessel traffic moving to and from oil and gas infrastructure, commercial vessels moving into and out of ports, and in special zones like Secure Anchorage Areas. 

Delta port escort costs / Credit: OBP

Additionally, the waters off Ghana, Togo, Benin, and Nigeria also include a number of secure zones where vessels can safely anchor to wait for a berth or conduct ship to ship transfer (STS) operations. In Benin and Togo, coastal state navies are responsible for patrolling the secure zones, and in Ghana the Ports and Harbor Authority is responsible for providing protection.

Map of West Africa safe zones / Credit: OBP

As far as Asia is concerned, there is evidence that State Affiliated Escorts have been used in the continent from the early 2000’s when incidents of piracy and armed robbery were more often  in the Malacca Strait.

In fact, during 2004, the Royal Malaysian Navy indicated it was willing to provide escort services to vessels under threat while transiting Malaysian territorial waters, with the government bearing the brunt of the costs.

Concluding the report, OBP notes: "The other models remain significantly cheaper than contracting a State Affiliated Escort— regardless of whether it is a nation state or private enterprise footing the bill. As a result, the high cost of contracted escort services has limited their usage in practical terms and will likely do so into the future as ship operators continue to seek security solutions which strike the balance between optimal protection and cost effectiveness."

For further information about the use of State Affiliated Escort, click in the following PDF