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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.

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