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Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Should we in Sweden be surprised when we learn that there are foreign submarines in the Stockholm archipelago? Hardly!

On the Swedish politician's statements it sounds like the foreign submarine in Swedish waters (October 2014) was a one-time event. However, given the characteristics of the archipelago, it is very unlikely that this was and is a rare event.

Analyses of submarine operations have a relative long scientific tradition of successfully using quantitative methods. This started during the Second World War where especially UK drafted a very competent group of scientists with the ambition to win the Submarine War in the Atlantic. Under the concept of operations research UK developed methods to analyse submarine movements and behaviour in order to figure out how best to attack them (see, for example, the U-boats in the Bay of Biscay, an essay in Operations Analysis of McCue and Methods of Operations Research Morse and Kimball). This was the start of a successful civil and military research field.
Obviously, when analysing this type of event there are many uncertainties, but there are also some things we know with certainty, for example, about the Stockholm archipelago. If we use what we know about the archipelago, but also are honest about what we do not know with certainty, one can assess the likelihood of actually discovering a foreign ongoing submarine operation. Things we do not know exactly are for example, the duration of the submarine operation, how often the submarine have to surface and the probability for the Armed Forces finding clear evidence if they are searching thoroughly. Here I assume that a submarine operation is one to four days, the submarine is surfacing two to four times a day and that the Armed Forces probability to confirm the presens of a submarine is somewhere between 20 and 70 percent (given a foreign submarine in the archipelago). From the Armed Forces own reports we also know that two independent observations from civilians were required before the operation began.

Given the assumptions above and some probability calculations the probability to confirm a performed hostile operation is about 7 per thousand, but this figure is, as a result of uncertainties, not easy to determine exactly. We can say, however, given the assumed uncertainties, that the probability, with a 95 percent probability, is between 3 per thousand and 16 per cent (informed readers now understand that I'm not a frequentist, but rather a Bayesian). Not minding the exact values, it still can be concluded that it is very difficult, and therefore rare, to succeed in confirming an ongoing underwater operation. Therefore, it is even more unlikely to confirm an operation in more sparsely populated archipelagos or at sea.
Was this incident a one-time event, given the way the world looks today, or a common phenomenon that Sweden so far only discovered once? I don’t know. Also, how to comment on it depends on what we mean by a “one-time event” and how we define "today". We know that submarines have been in Swedish waters before, but it was during the Cold War and both Sweden’s ability to detect submarines and the security situation was different then. Therefore, we look at three different cases:
Assumptions A: The frequency of foreign operations as well as Sweden’s ability to detect these operations have been reasonably constant over the past ten years.
=>  The probability that this was a one-time event calculates to between 1 and 6 per thousand

Assumption B: Conditions, such as the crisis in Ukraine, has influenced the situation so that we only can assume that the conditions have remained constant over the past year.
=> The probability that this was a one-time event calculates to less than 0.6 per thousand.

Assumption C: The situation continues like it is now and after totally 20 similar years only Sweden till has only one confirmed foreign operation.
=> The probability that this was a one-time event calculates to between 3 per thousand and 1.2 per cent.
My conclusion from the probabilities above is that this was not a one-time event, but I can be wrong!

Allowing the archipelago of the Swedish capitol to be so unguarded so that it is virtually impossible to detect an ongoing operation is as if we wouldn’t notice foreign military airplanes until they are landing at the Arlanda airport (just outside Stockholm).
There is only one way to change this equation and increase the likelihood of detection. It is by constantly having (much) more presence at sea and more sensors in the water (as fixed installations and on ships, submarines and helicopters) while also having greater capacity to more closely examining suspicious observations. If Sweden focuses on this, the likelihood to confirm foreign operations can be increased. However, to reach a level where Sweden with high reliability can meet submarine operations in Swedish waters takes substantial efforts.

Given what we know today, the only surprise is that Sweden actually managed to confirm the submarine visit, it is a great achievement for the Armed Forces. The submarine in itself is not surprising and a single event like this should not alter our perception of the outside world. Estimates of how common unwelcome visits are must (as before) instead based on what the visitors have to gain in relation to what they have to lose (gain vs risk). Today, there is no shortage of theories about what the purpose may be and, as shown above, the probability of detection is low (i.e. there are many plausible gains and low risk). However, the consequence of a discovery can be very serious (if Sweden will use weapons if needed). If visiting submarine sailors are going here about once a year, it is about as dangerous as working on a fishing vessel. This, even though there is a small probability that a visit could result in death.
There are a lot more dangerous things that people do just for fun.

-        This was most probably not a one-time event.
-        The risks for a foreign submarine operating in Swedish waters are low.
-        The military purpose of a submarine operation in Swedish waters doesn’t need to be substantial. As a result of the low risks the purpose can be no more than crew training.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Yes, safety can be exaggerated!

I know, you should not believe things you read in ads (see picture below), but unfortunately I have lately met several civilian and military professionals all used to dangerous situations claiming that:

"You should always chose the safest alternative!"
An ad claiming that "safety can nerver be exaggerated". (C) H Liwång 2014.
However, if that was true nothing would ever be accomplished. The scary thing is that even if I point out that choosing the safest alternative can seriously decrease the gain most stand by their first statement promoting safety first!

Most people I meet seems to, on a personal level (and maybe unconsciously), weigh expected gain against expected risk (however sometimes with very personal utility functions for gain and risk). For some/several government safety officials and military personnel (with a professional life that does not come down to a finical bottom line) this basic understanding for risk management seems to disappear. Can it be because they have lost track of what they are trying to achieve, or that the achievements are on such a high and/or abstract level that they don’t see them? Because, only if there is no meaning with your activity, only then does it make sense to always chose the safest alternative.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Piracy off Nigeria: Captain claims that Chevron and Edison Chouest (ECO) didn’t do enough

In October 2013 the support ship C-Retriever was boarded and two out of the crew were taken hostage. According to Courthouse News Service one of the two, the Captain Thomas, now sues the company for not doing enough to prevent the attack.

The attack came after other attacks on ships and personnel and threats of more attacks as well as after reports on security weaknesses such as how the communication was performed. According to the captain ECO did not implement sufficient security measures to deal with the risks.
According to the “Ship security challenges in high-risk areas: Manageable or insurmountable?” (presented on this blog earlier) preparing for such maritime security threats is not easy, but possible. It is not possible to entirely avoid risks, but given that there are high risks in the operations area the ship operators must analyze them and implement suitable measures of protection. How much protection that is needed is given by the level of the risks, but also by the costs of the measures. But operations where the risks exceed a maximum level (which at least for safety is quantified by IMO (2000)) must be stopped. According to the International Association of Classification Societies (IACS) “It is important to recognize that the company is responsible for identifying the risks associated with its particular ships, operations and trade. It is no longer sufficient to rely on compliance with generic statutory and class requirements, and with general industry guidance. … It is for the company to choose methods appropriate to its organizational structure, its ships and its trades. The methods may be more or less formal, but they must be systematic if assessment and response are to be complete and effective, and the entire exercise should be documented so as to provide evidence of the decision-making process" (IACS 2012).

Therefore, in my mind the lawsuit comes down to if and how the company used the information about the threats in a structured analysis and then actually implemented suitable controls (and updated the analysis and controls as there were new information and the situation changed). However, the analysis must also take into account how different measures affect the crews', but also the threats, perception of the security measures according to the figure below. Especially off West Africa this is not an easy task!
Cyclic version of the ship security risk management. Of extra importance is dependencies
between internal and external conditions and the effect of risk controls (Liwång et al. 2014).

IACS. (2012). A Guide to Risk Assessment in Ship Operations. London: International Association of Classification societies.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Strangers hiding in the Stockholm Archipelago and the perception of security?

Next week I’ll give a talk on a National Transport Conference on the possible effects of a deteriorating security situation in the Baltic Sea on the vital shipping to and from Sweden (Maritime security for Swedish needs?).

Last week in Victoria, BC (Canada) experts such as Professor G. Till and Commodore (Ret) L. Cordner at the Maritime Security Challenges conference made it clear that maritime security is about creating reassurance. If that reassurance can’t be produced the security situation deteriorates which will affect the shipping system. This is the basis for the research project I’m working on and the research questions are:

what do we (or the people responsible for Swedish maritime security risk governance) actually know about the influences and dependencies that create security and perception of security, and

how does different security incidents affects transports to Sweden?
The project was first presented on this blog in January 2014.

I think this is an important project, however the Ukraine crisis and increased Russian activity in the Baltic area has given the perception of maritime security I talk about a public voice. A week ago Swedish media reported about how the Russian Navy on international water gave orders to a Finnish ship with Swedish researchers to move away (which actually isn’t that strange, most navies wouldn’t like a foreign research team with subsea sensors in the middle of an exercise).
The Royal Swedish Navy performing sub sea work in archipelago waters. (C) Hans Liwång 2011. 
However also, since yesterday the Swedish Navy is investigating subsea activity in archipelago waters just off Stockholm and also being relatively open about the nature of the operation (fifteen years ago I’m not sure that the navy would have felt that they had anything to gain from calling a press conference on such an incident, now the situation obviously has changed). Subsequently, even if the maritime security in the Baltic Sea may be the same as ten months ago when I started my research project, the perception of security has definitely changed. An important awakening maybe, but one that is potentially dangerous to the modern day life in Sweden by affecting our vital transports.
So even though it could be the case that the conditions for performing safe and secure sea transport to and from Sweden hasn’t changed in reality, the effect of a change in perception may have increased uncertainties enough for starting a downwards spiral of security perception effecting the effectiveness which in turn put new challenges and uncertainty on the ship operators and so on…

How should we break this possible downward spiral? Well we’re back to reassurance, and reassurance at sea is produced with presence (on the surface, not in the air or under the surface). A positive reassuring presence that is reliable!

Monday, 22 September 2014

A systematic flaw when weighing gain against risk

In a Swedish newspaper article/blog the Swedish journalist Clas Svahn discusses the book ”Katastroferunder 100 år” (Catastrophes during 100 years) written by the Danish researcher and historian Rasmus Dahlberg. Reading the article I react on/against the view or role of both humans and technology.

The effect of “human negligence never seems to be reduced. The more people we become and the more technical solutions introduced the more sources of possible misery, there will be. ...  The common thread here is without a doubt humans and the fact that we are not flawless, but full of arrogance, laziness and influenced by peer pressure and therefore takes decisions that sometimes result in disasters that no one could have predicted”.

I don’t like this perspective. Technology and technical solutions are not introduced to increase safety, they are introduced in order to make things possible (that was not possible before). At the introduction there is an unconscious (and sometimes conscious) process of weighing the gain against the risks. If the gain does not weigh heavier, the solutions will not be introduced (that’s how our laziness works and has made humans successful at spreading over this planet). Look for instance at inventions such as the bungyjump cord, the machinegun or the car. Not safe at all, but enough people has perceived the benefits as more important than the risks and therefore used these things. No one thinks these inventions are harmless and most disasters they can lead to are envisioned and predicted (including an inhabitable Earth).

As I’ve writtenbefore humans are very good at feeling/identifying when something is going wrong. In most of these instances humans react and stop catastrophes in the making. This happens all the time and is most often not documented (and the saved lives not counted). Humans are fantastic!

Also, the amount of people on this world is only possible thanks to our inventions. Technology kills many, but supports many more (at least for now). And looking at how we destroy our planet, it is not human errors leading to catastrophes that are killing the earth. It is a systematic flaw in weighing gain against risk. This because there are two things that don’t work as well as they could, or should:

-          The process of weighing potential gain against the risks (today, many introductions of new technology are too complex for our intuition).

-          Our never ending strive for (economic) growth skew our perspective on gain and therefore (can) let us introduce things that we don’t need.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Almost all attacks lead to substantial consequences!

During 2011 off Somalia (or by Somalia based piracy) about 20 percent (48 out of 237) of the reported attacks led to boarding or hijacking. This was a lower number compared to previous year’s thanks you several different factors, such as:

-          In 2011 most crews and ship operators had understood the seriousness of piracy and enforced effective measures.
-          The naval forces in the area were more effective.
(but also that all attacks (but one) was on a steaming ship)

So far this year about 65 percent of the attacks off West Africa has led to boarding or hijacking and in South East Asia almost all (>90 percent) of the about 100 reported attacks has led to boarding and/or hijacking.
One reason for this shift is that the reporting frequency of incidents off Somalia was high, in other areas the reports of unsuccessful attacks is not as good. But even despite this statistical error there is a substantial increase in the percentage of attacks leading to the worst possible consequences.
Worldwide pirates had a success rate of 50 percent in 2011, 2013 it was above 80 percent!
One could even argue that piracy in areas such as off West Africa and in South East Asia pose a bigger problem than what piracy did off Somalia in 2011. This because a high success rate for pirates lures more into the piracy business and also affects the crew’s negatively. Also, the fact that Somalia based piracy attacked steaming ships made the problem easier to handle, it is much harder to effectively protect berthed or anchored ships.
Therefore, the work off Somalia, often perceived as a success, was a special case that unfortunately can give the wrong impressions on what level of effort is needed to reduce piracy.
So, the work has just began and don’t let the success off Somalia fool us in think that this problem is manageable…  

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Ship security challenges in high-risk areas: Manageable or insurmountable?

Article abstract:

“Piracy can lead to risks so high that they, according to the International Maritime Organization, are tolerable only if risk reduction is not practicable or is disproportionate to the benefits achieved. Therefore, there is a need for reducing ship security risks in relation to antagonistic threats such as piracy.
The aim of this study is to identify challenges for ship operators when developing their ship security management. Furthermore, this study also investigates two central aspects in the analysis; understanding the threat and understanding how a security threat affects the crew and operation of the ship.
It is clear from the analysis that the importance of subjective aspects beyond a ship operators’ direct control is high. This seems to be the fact for all aspects of the risk management process. The situation is also dynamic as the security risk, as well as the risk perception, can change dramatically even though there are no actual operational changes. As a result, the ship security management process is highly iterative and depends on situations on board as well as conditions out of the ship operator’s control.
In order to make ship security manageable the risk management has to put particular focus on methodological understanding, relevant system understanding and well defined risk acceptance criteria as well as on including all levels of the organization in the risk reduction implementation and on a continuous monitoring.”

Hans Liwång, Karl Sörenson and Cecilia Österman

The full article is available at, for more details see post Now easy to download.

Friday, 6 June 2014

An examination of the implementation of risk based approaches in military operations

Article Abstract:

"Today several nations utilise risk based approaches in military planning. However, the discussion on limitations with the approaches in regard to aspects such as uncertainties, the nature of the threat and risk to civilians is limited.
The aim of this work is to identify important challenges when applying risk based approaches to military activity. This article discusses risk based approaches in general and their military applications. Five generic quality requirements on risk analysis are presented from research in risk philosophy. Two military application areas for risk analysis: military intelligence, and risk management in legal assessments are analysed in relation to the presented quality requirements on risk analysis.
From the analysis it is clear that risk analysis is an integral part of the decision-making analysis and cannot be separated in time, space or organisationally from the decision-making process in general. Defining the scenario to analyse, including the time span, is a central task in risk analysis and will affect every aspect of the risk estimation. Therefore, the principles for scenario definition must be communicated and continuously updated throughout the organisation. Handling the uncertainties throughout the process is also important, especially if the aim is a resilient military system."
Hans Liwång, Marika Ericson, Martin Bang
Journal of Military Studies (JMS) is an international peer-reviewed multidiscipline publication of selected Military Sciences. Publishers: National Defense University, Finland and Finnish Society of Military Sciences


Wednesday, 14 May 2014

The Swedish Sea Rescue Society

The Swedish Sea Rescue Society (SSRS) saves lives and assists boats at sea off Sweden for free year around without government founding. SSRS is of course based on volunteer work and a nonprofit organization. They also offers a service to their members where they can call for assistance before the situation turns in to an emergency. According to the society the preventative service is a way of thanking their members for their support which enables the society to continue to do what is most important of all, saving lives at sea.

As a result of a big navigational oversight from my behalf I had the opportunity to meet SSRS last year. The incident which started with much blood and physical damage to the boat ended as a rather pleasant and positive experience for the whole family onboard one of SSRS’s boats. After that, with the bleeding stopped, we happily continued the boat vacation (the boat did not need immediate repair, only cleaning) for many days.
Therefore I of course would like to share their video were a plumber and an accountant use some of their spare time to save lives:

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Professionals or amateurs?

Accidents, errors and bad judgment happens, or as I posted a couple of posts ago: “Things happen; by chance, as a result of a threat or because somebody makes a mistake. This has always been the case, is the case today and will always be the case”.

At the moment I know almost nothing about the initial cause of the accident off South Korea were several hundred are unaccounted for and most probable dead. No matter the cause I’m surprised that it still (today with supposedly enlighten crews) is possible to misjudge the situation so dramatically.

Lifeboats are hard to use when the ship is heeling, that has been known for many years now. Good alternatives for passenger ships are hard to find. Ordering people to their cabins can’t be a solution. A ship operator must make sure that these situations are prepared for and that crews on passenger ships are well prepared and trained. I would hope that it is what one does in case of an emergency that seperates professionals from amateurs.

Thursday, 30 January 2014

My writing, what is it about?

A word cloud based on my post headings (counting phrases instead results in the following popular phrases in my headings: ship security; security analysis; off Somalia; Costa Concordia; armed guards;and arctic waters).

What do we know about the conditions for maritime security?

I recently gave a talk about Civilian shipping in peace, crisis and war with a northern Europe perspective.

Europe is as all other regions of the world dependent on shipping for support of cargo in general, but also for essential goods such as specific types of food and medicine. Without this cargo the way of life as well as quality of life will be affected. This is clearly expressed in for example the US Quadrennial defense review report (Department of Defense, 2010).
Our ports are relatively stationary and can therefore without too much effort be included in the maritime security measures implemented by states to decrease the effects of potential security incidents. This is however a fairly new area to be handled structurally and the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) didn’t get involved for real until the introduction of the ISPS code in 2002 (IMO, 2002). Also, the approaches are to a great extent borrowed from airport security which has its limitations when applied to ports and harbors. Therefore, there is still reason to be somewhat skeptical about the efficiency of the port security efforts of today and how much we know about how to assess the efficiency.

Shipping of today is an international business and a ship owner offers his services in the area in the world where he can make good money without too many uncertainties. The shipping in northern Europe has a relatively high quality because the money is good and the uncertainties are low.
But, in the event of a maritime crisis (or simply when maritime security no longer can be guaranteed) when there really is a need for maritime security efforts also including ships of the coasts off Europe:

ð  the uncertainties for ship owners also increase and the high quality ship owners will start operate somewhere else (because they can),
ð  therefore, the conditions for maritime security will drastically change, and
ð  we cannot prepare for maritime security based on the situation of today
So, what do we know about maritime security in time of crisis and based on which assumptions can we study it? Not based on the lessons from the waters off Somalia, that is an entirely different situation.

Department of Defense (2010) Quadrennial defense review report. Washington DC: United States of America Department of Defense.
IMO (2002) The International Ship and Port Facilities Security (ISPS) Code. Safety of Life at Sea, Chapter XI-2. London: International Maritime Organisation.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

August 10: Dramatic sinking in central Stockholm

The ship had just left for its maiden voyage when it capsized and sank in front of the huge crowd. Onboard were not only crew, but also VIPs and family to the crew. Almost one third of the 150 persons onboard died in the accident. The accident was of course a result of a great amount of errors in the design, construction and preparation processes. No one has been blamed yet, and no one probably will. However, conflicting and too specific requirements are regarded as contributing factors.

Now, closing in on 400 years later, the ship is the central piece in one of the world most visited maritime museum: The Vasa Museum in Stockholm. The ship sank in 1628 and was salvaged 333 years later surprisingly intact (the biggest damaged was done in the years after the sinking when the canons was salvaged).

Vasa at the Vasa Museum in Stockholm. Photo: H. Liwång
The ship was commissioned by the Swedish king Gustav II Adolf, who also set very high demands on the ship. Gustav II Adolf was committed to protecting Sweden’s Lutheran confession with wars in many places in northern Europe. The wars also laid the foundations for Sweden as a great power in Europe in the seventeenths century. Vasa was therefore built in a very international environment with a king almost always abroad in one of his many wars, but also built for a king accustomed to giving precise directives and expecting them to be followed to every point. As IMO writes in the HSC code prescriptive directions are only effective for basic design, not for novelty. That also seemed to be the case 1628. Vasa was built under new strategic and tactical challenges and was therefore bigger and with more cannons than was the case for other ships of the time. Dutch expertise was hired to build the ship and with that came a tradition to build ships without drawings and only based on quantitative relations and rules. Therefore the design was done under a lot of does and don’ts probably not suited for the intended ship size.
Of course there was stability test, but it had to be stopped so that the ship didn’t capsize. So the crew knew that the ship was unsafe! But there were no one powerful enough to take the decision not to sail. Therefore, the ship capsized (or rather heeled so much that the open cannon doors filled the ship with water) at the first gust of wind and sank quickly. However, the sinking give us today an interesting snap shot of the development of complex or military systems in 1628.

What I have realized a couple of times, when using the Vasa case, is that surprisingly many aspects are valid also today; solving future challenges with yesterday’s technology and also that you don’t always needs new technology but need to apply known technology in new ways (there were also ships like Vasa was built at the same time without problems). One difference compared to today is the closeness between the political level (the king) and the building of the ship. However, this difference makes for an easier analysis of the ship design process.
The Vasa ship is a fantastic disaster that Sweden offers to the rest of the world as an attraction, but also as a case to get inspired by when taking on development of complex systems!

(The last time I visited the Vasa museum I got especially affected by how marked by life and sickness even the young and rich was, life can’t have been easy and the everyday pain must have been challenging at least)