The recent report from UKMTO regarding an incident 102nm southeast of Nishtun, Yemen, is a stark reminder of the persistent threat posed by piracy in the Arabian Sea. The Master of a vessel reported a close encounter with a small craft carrying four individuals, who engaged in small arms fire with the ship’s Armed Security Team. Fortunately, the vessel and crew are safe, and the ship is en-route to its next port of call.

This incident, coupled with a suspicious approach reported just yesterday in the vicinity, underscores the heightened activity of Pirate Action Groups (PAGs) in the Eastern approaches to the Gulf of Aden. The utilisation of armed security measures has undoubtedly played a pivotal role in thwarting potential hijack attempts and safeguarding maritime assets.

The encounter aligns with past piracy tactics, affirming the presence of multiple PAGs in the Gulf of Aden (GOA), Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea regions. What’s noteworthy is that the swift action taken by the vessel’s Armed Security Team (AST) averted a potential crisis and ensured the safety of the crew and cargo. Such incidents reinforce the necessity for armed security, vigilant security measures and adherence to Best Management Practices (BMP) 5 to mitigate piracy risks.

Why the Surge in Armed Security Usage?

In light of recent developments, the prevalence of armed security teams onboard vessels has become more pronounced than in previous years. Here’s why:

1. Persistent Threat: Despite concerted efforts to combat piracy, the threat remains persistent, with organised pirate groups demonstrating adaptability and resilience. The escalation of incidents in the Arabian Sea underscores the ongoing challenge faced by maritime operators. Multinational military and Naval forces are committed to police a huge expansive area and cannot be in all areas at any given time, therefore the military can only react and offer assistance once an incident is already underway, in some cases the assistance is too late and pirates have already taken over the vessel.

2. Effective Deterrent: Armed security teams serve as a formidable deterrent against pirate attacks. The mere presence of trained personnel and the capability to respond swiftly to hostile actions significantly diminishes the likelihood of successful hijack attempts.

3. Operational Expertise: With the evolving nature of piracy tactics, the need for specialised operational expertise has become paramount. Armed security teams undergo rigorous training to effectively assess and respond to varying threat scenarios, thereby enhancing overall preparedness and response capabilities. The teams also have up to date intelligence allowing for safer routing options.

4. Protecting Crew and Assets: The foremost priority for any maritime operation is the safety and security of its personnel and assets. By deploying armed security teams, ship operators can proactively safeguard against potential risks and ensure seamless passage through high-risk zones.

This recent incident serves as a sobering reminder of the persistent threat posed by piracy in key maritime transit routes. As such, the utilisation of armed security teams has become an indispensable component of modern maritime security protocols, offering a robust defence mechanism against evolving threats. In an increasingly volatile maritime landscape, proactive measures such as these are crucial for safeguarding global trade and ensuring safe passage for vessels and crew alike.

Stay safe, stay vigilant.

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