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Private Marine Convoy Service to Defend Against Piracy

by Brian Sims

Typhon has announced that it is launching its marine convoy escort service with immediate effect. This private service is designed to assist ship operators that need to transit the Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean, by offering a contracted private convoy escort service. Piracy has now spread from Somalia, into other areas including the Indian Ocean as far as the Gulf of Guinea, Bangladesh and Indonesia. Attacks are reportedly becoming more audacious, more violent, better equipped and more adept. With the EU Naval Force’s presence in the region due to end in 2014, some predict a major escalation in piracy in the Indian Ocean. In the Gulf of Guinea in West Africa, maritime crime is escalating and the UN Security Council has recognised it as a specific threat. Resolution 2039, passed on 29 February 2012, declares, ‘Expressing deep concern about piracy and armed robbery at sea in Africa’s Gulf of Guinea, the Security Council urged States of the region to act with dispatch to counter the scourge at the national and regional levels, encouraging international partners to provide support for regional patrols, coordination centres and the implementation of a region-wide strategy.’ Current EU Naval Force figures for the coastal waters off Somalia show attacks peaking in 2010 and 2011 at 174 and 176 respectively. In 2012, total attacks dropped to 36. However, attacks in the Gulf of Guinea have risen in recent years, and have severely impacted the region. Currently, shipping passing through areas at high risk of piracy depends upon on-board armed guards for protection. The common approach is for armed personnel to join vessels, and to remain on-board during transit through ‘at risk’ regions. This can require ships to alter their route to collect and land personnel. The process can be both costly and time-consuming, and also delivers a relatively small area of protection around a vessel. This can be in the range of a few hundred meters, dependent upon the weaponry used. Typhon’s offering can detect threats of piracy at a significantly longer range, via an Operations Centre in the UAE. It enables control and management of any routing, including necessary course adjustments to avoid known trouble hot spots. The service makes use of close protection vessels to escort ships in the convoy, using surveillance, detection and early warning capabilities to identify and assess any threats. Through early detection, a pirate threat can be managed before it becomes a danger. The convoys travel in a protected ‘envelope’ which make it difficult for the pirates to launch an attack. The goal is to diffuse and de-escalate any violence. The detection solution is multi-layered, with protection by sea using radar, by air using satellite and by land through an onshore operations centre. In conjunction with the close protection vessels, Typhon can deploy armoured patrol boats to intercept a potential target, engage direct fire weapons or mount a key defence of the client vessel. Anthony Sharp, CEO, stated, ‘Typhon was created in order address the specific threat from pirates in a number of key geographies. The areas we will protect are too vast for current naval resources to monitor effectively and this will be an even bigger issue when Operation Atalanta comes to an end. Our mantra is to combat the problem of maritime crime and piracy using methods that are both effective and proportionate to the threat. With millions paid out in ransoms to pirates and much more money lost by businesses in fuel costs avoiding pirates, it is important that businesses are granted a safer passage with their cargo through dangerous waters.’ Operation Atalanta is currently a military operation performed by the EU Naval Force. It was intended to battle piracy in waters off Somalia, but was then expanded to include coastal territories and internal waters. It is currently scheduled to continue until December 2014.

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