Frontline tales from the high seas

An AdvanFort security team under suspicious approach
by Kuido Ever

Our team, two men and a woman, all with previous combat experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, had embarked on the MV Spar Gemini in Port of Salalah in Oman. The vessel's destination was Port Maputo in Mozambique; however, our security team's disembarkation point was Port Nacala in the same country, a 12-day journey.

At the beginning everything seemed nice and peaceful. The sun was shining every day and the sea was very calm. However, a seemingly peaceful sea also means greater threat of pirate attack, especially because the monsoon season had just ended. Before then, seasonal winds that bring torrential rainfall result in the sea becoming very rough. The physical risks involved meant that pirates were reluctant to embark on their sinister adventures.

Two days before the security team's disembarkation point, near Comoros Islands, AdvanFort's watch officer spotted two approaching skiffs. Immediately all other team members and the MV Spar Gemini s duty officer were notified.

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AdvanFort secures a client's voyage on the Bab-el-Mandeb channel
by Ermo Kruus and Viktor Sarap

The MV Glory Mercy, on its way from the Red Sea to China, was embarked last August 17th, at 17 N, before sunrise (1-2 a.m. local time) by an AdvanFort armed security team to provide safe voyage through a high-risk area. The highest risk area is, of course, right along the shores of Somalia. In recent years, the attacks have been occurring in the vicinity of the narrow Bab-el-Mandeb channel, where Red Sea meets Gulf of Aden and whose shallowest point is located at the northern end of the strait. Because the attacks are occurring more in the Red Sea, the vessels are picking security teams up in this area and not from Djibouti, as they were just a year ago.

The AdvanFort guards settled in, held a meeting with the ship's master and a conducted a mandatory walk around the vessel to make notes of possible improvements needed to further secure it and began their duty. Around noon the same day, the team and the crew were given the reality check all too common in that part of the maritime world.

Masters are required and advised to have additional look out on a vessel's bridge wings. This is to provide a constant lookout, even as the guard on duty is either monitoring the radar or having a walk-around on one or the other side. On this particular day, the chief officer had the crew working outside, as some improvements were necessary.

Around 1 p.m. a speedboat was observed coming straight at the ship, at high speed. Usually the fishermen in that area are easily identified by fishing rods standing tall on their boats, but this was no fishing boat. A general alarm was sounded to summon the crew from the deck.

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    Always at the ready: AdvanFort witnesses latest Gulf of Oman pirate threats; moves quickly to protect clients

    At approximately 0950Z on 20 December 2012, a suspicious approach by suspected pirates was reported by a merchant vessel as being at position 24:46N 057:54E, some 72 nm east of Fujairah, UAE.

    The potential threat came just five days after other pirate activity -a pirate boarding and a suspected pirate approach, the latter taking place approximately 50nm northeast of Muscat, Oman, in what is normally considered the safe side of the Persian Gulf.

    That suspected pirate approach put AdvanFort into high alert, especially as its SG Ohio counter-piracy ship was positioned not far away from where the skiff had approached a tanker underway.

    The SG Ohio ship captain immediately sent a warning to all client vessels, while AdvanFort decided that the SG Ohio move quickly up north to meet one of its clients much earlier than previously arranged, before it entered the HRA.

    Putting into effect its state-of-the-art multi-layered protection, AdvanFort made sure that its own guards were at the ready for visual ID of skiffs or mother ships in order to protect its clients and other shipping in the area. At the same time, the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence issued a special advisory warning that "mariners should remain vigilant for the potential presence of a pirate attack group in the Gulf of Oman. The area will remain at high risk for at least the next 48-72 hours."

    Although the monsoon season is approaching, AdvanFort's most recent Piracy Threat Analysis Report notes that sea states are still currently conducive to pirate small boat operations.

    The AdvanFort Company is privately held and headquartered in the Washington, D.C. area with offices in London and Tallinn, and soon in Germany, Greece, Turkey, Japan and China. AdvanFort provides world-class global security solutions as well as government relations consulting. Its staff and consultants have the technical skills, capabilities and international experience to meet the complex needs of its clients.