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Piracy: Norway's role in combating the threat

The maritime threat from piracy is on the rise. According to the ICC International Maritime Bureau (IMB), the number of attacks for the first nine months has already exceeded the total for last year. Norway has responded by sending a Norwegian navy frigate to the Gulf of Aden under EU command and becoming the first country outside Asia to join the piracy organisation ReCAAP.

 The IMB’s Piracy Reporting Centre showed a total of 306 piracy attacks worldwide in the first three quarters of 2009. Of these, 114 vessels were boarded, 34 hijacked and 661 crewmembers taken hostage. The rise in the number of attacks is directly related to piracy activity off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden.

Around 1,000 of the 20,000 ships that pass through the Gulf of Aden have some Norwegian link, either under Norwegian flag, ownership or operation. The Norwegian shipping industry has personally experienced through the hijacking of tanker Bow Asir (operated by Salhus Shipping) how brazened pirates have taken on bigger and more remote targets than before.

Norway has taken the threat seriously. In August, the country sent Norwegian navy frigate KNM Fridtjof Nansen to the Gulf of Aden under EU operation. The frigate will help guard the international ship traffic in that region and help ensure that food supplies from the UN World Food Programme reach Somalia.

Norway has also taken over the rotating chairmanship of the UN Contact Group on Piracy until January 2010. The group coordinates measures in the fight against piracy off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden.

 

Norwegian Navy Ranger Command in front of KNM Fridtjof Nansen in the Gulf of Aden. © APG/Forsvaret

 

Contingency Planning
The Norwegian Shipowners’ Association (NSA) has been helping protect the fleet by providing a regular information service to its members on threats. The NSA’s Contingency Planning Division gathers analysis and background material from various sources, including the European Union command in Northwood, UK.

“Shipping companies are more familiar now with the threats, geography and the risks,” said Arild Wegener, head of NSA’s emergency preparedness secretariat.

The NSA has been providing this kind of information in the past for other hot spot regions, such as the Niger Delta. But the current piracy situation off the Horn of Africa is significantly different from Niger, according to Wegener. This time it takes place in international waters and in a 98% transit area, emanates from a failed state, and has a purely monetary objective.

One of the companies NSA garners information from is Bergen Risk Solution, a security and geopolitical risk advisor. The Norwegian company provides analysis and risk mitigation strategies to oil, gas and shipping companies, government agencies and humanitarian organisations investing and operating in high-risk environments, particularly in Nigeria and the Niger Delta.

Its most recent case was the Bonny River risk assessment in January 2009 in which it provided a shipping company with detailed security maps and a full risk assessment to help management and vessels’ crews take appropriate decisions.

Asian Piracy Hunt
But piracy is not just a threat offshore Africa. It also remains a concern in the Asia region. According to the IMB’s Piracy Reporting Centre, there were 10 reported attacks in the South China Sea for the first nine months of this year, the highest recorded number of incidents compared to the same period over the last five years.

Norway recently became the first country outside Asia to become a member of the organization ReCAAP (Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia). The other members include Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Republic of Korea, Laos, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam.

The agreement means that Norway will be able to get assistance from other member states in connection with an attack, such as rescue, investigation and possible criminal prosecution. Wegener believes the agreement will provide access to more information about security threats in general, and piracy in particular, in Asia.

“Historically, it is especially Southeast Asia, and in particular the Malacca Strait and South China Sea, where the issue has been big,” said Wegener. “Norwegian membership opens up for more first-hand threat assessments and specific recommendations for shipping companies.”

 

Pirates in the Gulf of Aden.                 
© KNM Fridtjof Nansen/Forsvaret

 

War Risk Insurance
Regardless of where the attacks take place, Norwegian vessels have relied on the Norwegian Shipowners’ Mutual War Risk Insurance Association (DNK) to insure them against terror and war risks, such as piracy.

Founded in 1935, DNK is the largest and oldest provider of war risk insurance to the Norwegian shipping community. The association was initially established in 1914 as a response to the outbreak of the First World War to ensure the marine sector access to adequate insurance cover against war perils. It was liquidated a few years after the war, but was re-established in 1935 to its current form.

The association covers 2,900 ships and rigs in its portfolio, from small fishing vessels to large cruise ships. Vessels can be entered with DNK if they are NOR or NIS registered and under Norwegian or international ownership or management, either directly or through a joint venture that meets the requirements. Membership can also be granted if the vessels sail under foreign flag as long as there is Norwegian ownership or management or if the owner has significant interests in Norwegian companies.

DNK recently collaborated with the Norwegian Hull Club to offer a realistic crisis management exercise focusing on piracy free of charge to its members. The exercise was based on real life experience in the Gulf of Aden from its involvement in recent incidents and latest developments in this risk prone region. To make it as realistic as possible, the four-hour training session took place at companies’ offices.

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