Ship security alert systems are a statutory requirement, but conforming only to the minimum standards undermines their practical value when ships are under threat. Fortunately, with a little thought and application, ship security alert systems can be vastly more effective.
What is the point of a Ship Security Alert System (SSAS)? Since 2006, when all ships were required to have installed ship security alert systems, shipping has been subjected to a significant rise in serious organised crime: Somali piracy and piracy in West Africa being the most public examples. In the last two and a half years, we have responded to nine cases where tankers have been hijacked for the purpose of stealing their cargo, providing investigation and incident management services. And in all but one case, crews have either not activated the SSAS, or when they have done so, it has been disabled apparently by the vessels’ assailants. Consequently, a technology that could and should have been of substantial assistance in terms of incident response and investigation, has failed.
The IMO adopted the International Ship and Port Facility Code (ISPS Code) in 2002, principally as a response to international concerns about terrorism following the events of 9/11. The ISPS Code incorporated an amendment to SOLAS – Regulation XI-2/6 – which requires passenger ships and cargo ships of 500 gross tonnes and upward and mobile offshore drilling units to have ship security alert systems.
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