For safety's sake

Scrutiny of the region's ports, ships, and supply chain has never been greater. How is the Middle East's maritime business meeting the challenge?


The signing of the SAFE port act in October codifies a raft of recent American trade security programmes under a targeted Federal Act.

Equally significant to the industry, the ISO 28000 quality assurance standard is witnessing a global take-up, pioneered by the Middle East’s own DP World.

However, while keeping an eye on supply chain security is a valid and necessary goal, it must go hand-in-hand with a focused approach to protecting assets and staff.

“Essentially, what the Americans are trying to do with SAFE is push their borders out beyond their own territorial waters, so that shipments are checked before they set off for US shores,” observes Simon Falkner, managing director, maritime services, HART Security.

“What that will drive is competition between ports in other parts of the world that want to handle exports to the US.”

Infact, Falkner believes that for global operators, “the new act will encourage people to join these programmes.

Although not compulsory, this holds real incentives for shippers with consignments going to America to ensure their security really is of the highest order.”

Much has been written about the integrity of the supply chain for goods travelling to American ports but the issue is a global problem and one that cannot be ignored even by intra-regional forwarders.

The benchmark required, and the responsibility that falls on organisations to measure their vulnerabilities and assess that risk has, until recently received inadequate attention, but the tide appears to be turning.

The International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS ), conceived to strengthen maritime security and prevent acts of terrorism against shipping, was implemented two years ago, but did not go far enough.

The ISPS Code requires that each shipping line must have a Ship Security Officer (SSO) and a Company Security Officer (CSO), to supervise overall implementation, and that ports must employ dedicated Port Security Officers.

Whilst the Code sets a consistent framework for the industry, it lacks any standardised evaluation of these individuals.

“The standard of CSOs and SSOs varies hugely,” explains Falkner.

“One of the problems with ISPS is that it’s only policed, regulated or verified within each country, so the organisation that accredits facilities, and issues approval that its ports are up to ISPS standards also varies.”

The introduction of the ISO/PAS 28000 (security management systems for the supply chain) removes the confusion over standards and compliance levels.

The ISO is not directly linked to any one country or industry group, and has been developed through committees consisting of industry experts and interested stakeholders from around the world.

The standards are therefore impartial, and compiled objectively to provide a common platform to work from.

The crucial difference is that the ISO 28000 has to have international verification.

This comes from an accredited auditor such as RINA or Lloyds Register.

Any company can volunteer to be a part of it.

The hope is that this should encourage processes that will be adopted worldwide, regardless of final export destinations.

DP World has been a member of the ISPS security initiative since its inception, and more recently it became the first major port operating company in the world to achieve the ISO 28000 for complete supply chain security.

“DP World, for example, wanted to illustrate that it was taking security very seriously across all of its ports (52), and that security was high on its agenda,” Falkner elaborates.

“So the management asked HART, as their strategic security partner, to assist them in assuring they were ready and compliant, so when the independent auditor carried out the inspection they exceeded all basic requirements.”

There are two parts to meeting these standards.

Firstly, there’s the physical application of security on the ground.

That subdivides into technology, processes and training of the people involved.

The second part demands HQ integrated planning and that business solutions factor-in security.

“It does involve a slight shift in thinking at boardroom level, but it soon becomes second nature,” asserts Falkner.

“For example, DP World head office drives what happens at all of the group facilities across the world, and it’s been very successful in doing that.”

Specialist security companies can offer guidance and carry out initial audits of individual facilities.

“DP World needed some assistance in bringing the Djibouti facilities up to standard, so HART sent a training team there to assist them in doing that,” he says.

Far from being a cyclical process of consultation the real aim should be one of education and knowledge transfer.

“Our intention is to pass on the knowledge, expertise and skills so that local operators are in a position where they can manage this themselves,” says Falkner.

Maritime security is very serious business for HART security.

“The ports that are going to be successful in the future are the ones which can actually put their hands up and say: We take our security very seriously,” Falkner emphasises.

“The reason I’m here in Dubai is to convey the message that there is a way of making security a benefit in terms of cost.”

Shiaba Industrialised Zone in Kuwait, the Iraq ports, and DP World are among those port facilities that have benefited from specialised security advice regionally.

Middle Eastern line NGSCO and Singapore’s Evergreen have also used HART shipping security to reduce their operational vulnerability.

Ensuring the integrity of shipments in the supply chain is just one side of the security coin.

Of paramount importance to the industry is the safety and protection of the mariners charged with getting the goods from A to B.

The frequency and ferocity of attacks to crew at sea is increasing, and many of the attacks that have occurred globally take place on the major shipping routes that take port in the Middle East.

For example, the September figures released by the IMO show that nine separate acts of piracy took place off the Bangladeshi port of Chittagong, and another off the Tanzanian coastal port of Dar-es-Salaam in just one month.

The September incidents mentioned above consisted of night attacks involving teams of up to eight men boarding with long knives, crew intimidation and theft of goods, spares and ship’s stores.

Piracy in general is becoming much more dangerous.

“In the past where it may have been a small group with a couple of pistols trying to make away with the contents of the ship’s safe, what you now find is that groups can be armed with 50 calibre machine guns or rocket propelled grenades.

They will take hostages and have no compunction whatsoever about killing crew members,” warns Falkner.
He adds that in the last two or three years, the risks have increased onto a much more dangerous scale.

Security, rather like insurance, is something people don’t particularly want until the worst actually happens.

The cost benefits are very real though.

“It’s very easy these days with the various management systems in place to actually integrate security into a corporate strategy, and in doing so protect your brand, and your customers from unwanted surprises,” Falkner reminds.

The best protected shipping companies can benefit from a reduction in insurance premiums, and the value of business assurance will buy potential customers peace of mind.

The nightmare scenario of a surprise attack while at sea, such as that against the French super-tanker Limburg just four years ago, is hard to predict and prevent for even the most mindful shipping companies.

Such events should act as a reminder to an industry that must at all times remain conscious of the fact that it is coming under mounting international scrutiny.

Suggestions that ships could be employed to transport anything from operatives, weapons, hazardous materials, and attack larger vessels again, should be given more regional attention.

If the worst should happen, it will be the industry as a whole that is held accountable.


Profile: HART

HART is a global risk management services firm.

It provides strategic security solutions and operational services in land, sea and air environments to governments, NGO’s and multinational companies.

HART is a leading supplier of maritime security services to the marine transportation and port industries.

The company employs 2000 people spread over 10 offices worldwide and had anoperating turnover of over US$100 million in 2005.

The company provides a wide range of training seminars covering topics such as planning supply chain security, ISPS consulting and auditing, and full port facility, ship and company security officer training.

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