Piracy attacks on vessels in the commercial shipping sector are an on-going problem with particular hotspots in areas such as the Gulf of Aden, the Gulf of Guinea and the South China Sea. In a recent declaration, BIMCO and 99 other maritime organisations including flag states agreed to work towards the suppression of piracy attacks in the Gulf of Guinea.
The declaration has highlighted the need for interested parties to work together with regional states to create active anti-piracy operations. It is believed that this will lead to an 80% reduction in piracy attacks in the area by 2023.
In an effort to support seafarers to meet their responsibilities with regards to their fellow crew mates, vessels and cargo, marine training specialist Ocean Technologies Group has created a series of learning modules to help prevent seafarers falling victim to these types of attacks.
The modules detail how a vessel can be ‘hardened’ and how crew should be prepared for passage through a high-risk area by identifying some strategic principles of vessel defence to prevent unauthorised boarding.
Many shipping companies employ armed security guards to be onboard vessels as an extra line of defence. However, there are legal and safety risks associated with their use and so it is vital that a reputable Private Maritime Security Company (PMSC) is chosen with competent and professionally trained guards.
Ocean Technologies Group’s “Working with Maritime Security Guards” gives seafarers guidance on how to engage and work successfully with armed guards from selecting the PMSC through to the guards’ disembarkation at the end of their deployment.
“Knowing how to deal with piracy attacks is vital for our seafarers especially if they are in waters where such instances are commonplace.” said Manish Singh, CEO of Ocean Technologies Group, “Companies are under so much additional strain at the moment with the pressures of crew change, but they must not fail to ensure that Masters and their crews are fully conversant with key anti-piracy protocols to give them every chance of avoiding and even repelling unwanted attention.”
The psychological fall-out from a piracy attack can lead to seafarers suffering from Post-Traumatic Disorder (PTSD).
Marlins, part of the Ocean Technologies Group, has created an e-learning course to help seafarers recognise the specific signs and symptoms of PTSD, explain how it can be treated and offer guidance on the support options available to seafarers. “As well as piracy events, seafarers can be exposed to many types of distressing situations such as onboard fires, medical emergencies, collisions or even witnessing the death of a colleague, which is why it is so important to recognise the early symptoms of PTSD and understand how this differs from stress, depression or anxiety so the right help and support can be offered,” said Catherine Logie, Business Development Director for Marlins.
“Seafarers have been through so much during the past 17 months, with the additional burdens placed on them due to the pandemic and the uncertainty around crew changes, so it is inevitable that there will be an increase in mental health issues amongst crew. Ship owners and managers can help address this by raising awareness of a range of mental health issues and having systems in place to support those who are struggling,” she added.