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Pirates! - The high seas under attack

by Charles H. Piersall on
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pirates' boat
Pirate attacks off the Somali coast are estimated to have cost the global shipping industry about USD 5.6 billion in 2011 alone. Ransoms for hostages and ships run into the millions of dollars, in what has become a substantial and often cruel business. It was estimated that earlier this year over 100 seafarers and several ships were being held for ransom in brutal conditions.

It is safe to assume that pirates have been around since the oceans were first used for commerce. From the sea peoples of the Aegean and Mediterranean to Scandinavian Vikings and English and Spanish privateers ; from Europe to the Caribbean, no part of the world has been exempted from the “scourge of the seas”.

Now, as most of trade travels by sea, the world is seeing a growth of piracy, particularly around developing or struggling countries, and those without strong navies to respond to the challenge. In addition to the ordeals experienced by victims, the economic cost of piracy is huge. In olden times, pirates were hung – no courts, no lawyers, no forgiveness. But today’s environment is different.

ISO technical committee ISO/TC 8, Ships and marine technology, has been working with the International Maritime Organization (IMO), major international corporations and intelligence and law enforcement agencies to develop International Standards that increase security to help thwart these attacks.

Securing the seas

Since the terrorist attack on the USA on 11 September 2001, ISO has been actively engaged in matters of maritime and transportation security. Its work has been supporting IMO initiatives like the International Ship and Port Security (ISPS) Code, whose uniform industry implementation was facilitated by ISO 20858:2007, Ships and marine technology – Maritime port facility security assessments and security plan development. In fact, the standard was published on the same date as the ISPS Code entered into force.

Another important contribution is made by ISO 28000:2007, Specification for security management systems for the supply chain. It is the only published generic, risk-based, certifiable standard for all organizations, all disruptions, all sectors. It is widely in use and constitutes a stepping stone to the authorized economic operator (AEO) and the customs-trade partnership against terrorism (CTPAT) certifications.

Fending off pirates

As piracy activities continue to grow, a team of senior corporate security officers and international law enforcement from the International Security Management Association (ISMA) and ISO are working together to look for solutions.

Among its recommendations are features to be incorporated in newly designed ships that isolate crews from pirates attempting to get on board, while continuing the safe underway operation of the ship. For existing ships, we have been examining minor modifications, add-ons, changes in operating procedures, etc. that make it more difficult for pirates to successfully attack a ship.

Armed response

There was initially great concern about “arming” commercial ships or providing armed guards on board. But as piracy drastically increased in frequency and the horrific acts commited against persons on ships got worse, the philosophy was reexamined. Now armed guards are assigned to some ships and more are being seriously considered.

To this end, ISO has been requested by IMO and other stakeholders to develop an ISO standard that establishes criteria for selecting companies that provide armed guards for ships. The standard, ISO 28007, Ships and marine technology – Guidelines for private maritime security companies (PMSC) providing privately contracted armed security personnel (PCASP) on board ships (and pro forma contract), is under development on an accelerated schedule. Part of the ISO 28000 series, it will be a certifiable standard to provide the necessary support and confidence to Flag States and the IMO.

Charles Piersall
Capt. Charles H. Piersall
Capt. Charles H. Piersall
Chair
ISO/TC 8, Ships and marine technology

Capt. Charles H. Piersall has been Chair of ISO/TC 8, Ships and marine technology, for 16 years. He is a retired US Navy Captain with over 54 years of distinguished maritime service – first as a senior naval officer and then as an industry executive. He is recognized worldwide as a leader in the field of international maritime and supply chain security standards. In addition to the highest military awards and honors, Capt. Piersall has received numerous high-level awards for his contributions to international standardization including the ANSI Astin-Polk International Standards Medal and the US Coast Guard’s Distinguished Public Service Award. Under his leadership, ISO/TC 8 received ISO’s highest award – the Lawrence D. Eicher Leadership Award in 2005.