Recent Piracy Activity Onboard Oil Tanker Exposes Need for Greater Security on Ships and at Ports

The Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) has reported a sharp increase in the number of incidents from this past quarter (January-March 2015) in relation to the same time period in 2013 where there were 29 incidents reported; 38 have already been reported for Q1 2015. When compared with the same period from 2014, the amount of incidents has doubled in the precarious Southeast Asian waters of the Straits of Malacca and Singapore-commonly referred to as SOMS- as well as at some ports in Vietnam. Unfortunately, with a recent piracy attack on a Malaysian oil tanker on May 15th, the growing security concerns for ships at sea or docked in this region has heightened, leaving a very urgent need to enhance vigilant security measures.

Oriental Glory, a 3,000dwt oil tanker was en-route to Tanjung Manis in the South China Sea when its course was averted by a group of 30 pirates in six small crafts who then proceeded to board the vessel, rob the crew of their personal effects and siphon 2,500 tons of bunker fuel. This marks the seventh incident this year of fuel siphoning in Asia, a serious concern for authorities as this is a highly involved process that if performed by untrained individuals using the wrong equipment, can result in environmental disasters, fire or even an explosion. While all crewmembers onboard were unharmed, the increased incidents in this very busy and important shipping route has reinforced that while piracy has been contained in some areas, it is still very much alive in others.

Every year ports and merchant ships are preferred targets for pirates because of their economic importance and vulnerability both at sea and docked due to the difficulty in securing vast, open waters and coastlines. While some strides have been made in legislation for the protection of ports and waterways, unfortunately, they remain largely exposed to these dangerous threats. Traditional security measures like radars are not effective in combating against piracy as they are unable to detect the smaller, wooden boats that are commonly used. A solution that is rugged and able to stand up in the corrosive and unforgiving environment of the sea that can detect RHIBs, swimmers, and wooden boats would be the most viable tool for anti-piracy counter-measures.

HGH Infrared Systems’ Spynel panoramic infrared thermal imaging system is uniquely apt for both port surveillance and self-protection of ships against anti-piracy. The Spynel sensors are the only thermal cameras on the market that can provide a wide 360° field of view with very high resolution and up to 15 km detection range for RHIBs. The proprietary built-in software, Cyclope, automatically performs detection and tracking of an unlimited number of threats while advanced algorithms with built-in sea-specific image processing allows for a low false alarm rate and effective differentiation between distant small boats, waves, and maritime wildlife. With an autonomous gyro-stabilized platform, the Spynel cameras can successfully and reliably operate at sea state level 5/6-rough to very rough seas.

The Spynel systems have been deployed since 2007 and have provided persistent, superior maritime surveillance for a critical shipping port in the Gulf of Guinea, West Africa as well as on French Navy frigates deployed in the Gulf of Aden. With a simple to use interface, Spynel can also be integrated with AIS and radar systems in place. As a stand-alone, low maintenance and cost-effective option or as an added layer of protection to established security equipment, the Spynel systems are an ideal strategic solution to ensure heightened security in the maritime environment, protecting assets and people.

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