Update from Dateline:
The waters offÂ Somalia in east Africa are the most dangerous in the world. 92% of pirate hijackings in 2010 took place there… over 1,000 hostages and 49 vessels were seized.
INSURERS in the City of London are finalising plans to set up a private fleet of armed patrol boats in the Gulf of Aden, in a new drive to stamp out Somali piracy.
London insurers’ private fleet to fight Somali pirates
The naval protection force was conceived by leading figures in the Lloyd’s of London market. They have been working with ship owners, freight operators and governments for months, marshalling support for their plan.
The goal of the Convoy Escort Programme is to provide protection for tankers trying to navigate the seas off war-torn Somalia while also reducing the soaring costs of insuring vessels, cargo and crews against increasingly vicious attacks by pirates.
Key representatives of the shipping industry, including the Baltic and International Maritime Council (Bimco) have agreed to explore the idea further. Giles Noakes, the chief maritime security officer of Bimco, said that he would be briefing American politicians in Washington on the plan next week.
Success for the venture, which has tried to shun the “private navy” tag, would mark a gear change in international efforts to clamp down on piracy. Despite a successful recent intervention by the Royal Navy, the pirates have escalated their activities sharply in the past fortnight, seizing an oil tanker and its 125 million-pound cargo and killing two of its Filipino crew.
Under the plan, which has been developed over two years, a non-profit association involving private and public sector members would be set up. It would control a fleet of 18 vessels, each with a fixed gun position and an armed crew authorised to engage the pirates in battle.
Each vessel would carry eight armed security personnel and four additional crew as well as inflatable speedboats, known as “Ribs”, which could be dispatched into combat if the tankers they were protecting came under attack.
Although it would be managed separately, the fleet would be under the operational control of the relevant national navy and the crew would have to conform to international rules on combat and engagement.
One of the key architects of the CEP is Sean Woollerson, a partner in the marine, oil and gas division at Jardine Lloyd Thompson, a leading Lloyd’s broker for companies seeking insurance protection, particularly for war risks and kidnap and ransom. KLT is organising the fleet through BGN Risk, a global security consultancy.
Mr Woollerson estimates that the programme would need about $US27.5 million to pay for 18 second-hand vessels, believed to be Swedish patrol boats. It is understood that the plan is to try to tap a $US200 million anti-piracy fund managed by the EU.
“It has taken an extraordinary amount of hard work and effort over the past two years, but we hope we’re about 70 per cent of the way there,” Mr Woollerson told The Times.
JLT has been working on the project with insurance underwriters, including at Ascot Underwriting, another leading Lloyd’s insurer.
Mr Woollerson said that the association would draw its members from shipping associations, charterers, oil companies, insurance underwriters, lawyers, governments and navies. With a rotating chairman, expected to be elected from among international ship-owning companies, it would have its own chief executive and management team. In theory, any ship seeking the protection of the fleet on a trip through the Gulf of Aden would be able to do so through her Lloyd’s of London broker, Mr Woollerson said.