Aware of the increasing concern over reports in the media about a potential ISIS threat to yachts at sea in the Mediterranean, both amongst its members and in the wider superyacht community, The Worldwide Yachting Association (MYBA) commissioned a special report from Dryad Maritime, specialists in maritime security intelligence, to assess the situation.
“MYBA took the decision to commission an expert report from a well-regarded, independent maritime intelligence and operations company because we take questions of safety and security extremely seriously,” explains Fiona Maureso, MYBA president. “MYBA believes that its members, and their clients and yachts, deserve to receive objective and fact-based information in order to make informed decisions.
“This is the same policy as MYBA applies in other specialist areas of interest to our members such as tax and law where an issue is perceived to be important to the industry but where at the same time MYBA recognises that we do not have the specialist expertise in-house to comment. It was therefore decided to commission an external report from a reputable and qualified specialist, and release this (unedited) to our members.”
The report, which can be read in full here, was originally published by Dryad Maritime on 18 March, 2015 and is refreshingly pragmatic and practical in tone – something that is often absent when it comes to the ’security on superyachts’ discourse. Since then Ian Millen, chief operating officer at Dryad Maritime, has been approached to comment on any changes in the situation. On 14 April, 2014 he made the following statement:
“There is an unhelpful and inaccurate picture of concern building in the Mediterranean with regard to threats to shipping. Whilst there is no doubt that certain port and inshore areas should be avoided, for example in Libya and Syria, the narrative that the Med is about to fall prey to a wave of terrorists and pirates engaged in maritime attacks is not one that is underpinned by hard evidence. Mariners of all types should continue to take sensible precautions, based on good situational awareness, regardless of where they are operating, including the Med. The problem with media speculation, which we saw back in February, is that it understandably generates discussion and concern amongst the yachting community; the viral effects of social media spread these concerns widely and at some speed. The situation is further exacerbated by those who have a commercial interest in a deteriorating security situation or the fear that springs from it and also by journalism that seeks to make two and two add up to five.
“Since we issued Dryad’s analysis of the ISIS threat on 18 March, we have no reason to believe that the situation has changed in any material way, other than in a positive one, as the Italians who have shouldered the greatest burden in coping with the humanitarian situation with Mediterranean migrants, have committed to a force of naval, marine and air force assets, forward deployed, to monitor the situation in Libya in operation ‘Mare Sicuro’ (Safe Seas). Should a threat develop against any form of shipping from Libya it would inevitably be met with an extremely robust response by these and other regional and international maritime and air forces. In Dryad, we will continue to monitor developments and report on any emerging concerns.”
Knowing that Security Levels are set by Flag and Port State authorities based on national intelligence service reviews of the available intelligence (which are not publically available), MYBA also approached a number of authorities regarding the threat of international terrorism both in port and at sea.
The Marshall Islands published on their website that, as of 21 March 2015, the Security Level is Level 1 (the lowest level) for all areas of the western Mediterranean with the exception of ports in Libya, which should not be visited by yachts, and also recommends additional precautions for yachts entering Egyptian and Moroccan ports, without formally raising the Security Level there. No other areas have Security Levels above Level 1 in this notice.
The Cayman Islands Registry was unable to confirm or comment on the present Security Levels set for Cayman Islands’ yachts but were able to issue this statement; “At this time we are unaware of any plans by the UK Government to increase the Security Level in the area, or issue any other security advice or recommendations as a result of the newspaper articles or the notice published by the Marshall Islands [CISR 21st March 2015].
MYBA also contacted the Defence, Security and Economic Intelligence Department of the French government, who commented that, “At this time, the French Mediterranean ports are currently at ISPS Level 1”.
For a full analysis on the threat with conclusions and recommendations for superyachts cruising the Mediterranean, read Dryad Maritime’s Superyacht Special Advisory ‘Central Mediterranean: ISIS Maritime Threat Assessment’ report in full here.
Maritime Security News:
Nice to see calmer heads prevailing on the much hyped ISIS ‘threat’ to shipping in the Mediterranean. Far too many people have assumed that terrorist groups need no training and simply have the capability to launch attacks from small boats on shipping. And the notion that ISIS would resort to hijacking Superyachts was always an odd one.
The threat of maritime terrorism is, of course, one to take seriously. However, this one appeared to have been amplified by those with a vested interest in offering protective services to shipping and Superyachts in the Med, despite the legal issues pertaining to the use of firearms.
If ISIS does develop the capability to operate at sea, there are far more spectacular ways for them to achieve their aims rather than simply hijacking a vessel owned by a millionaire.