Frederick Smet: The main high-risk areas include the Gulf of Guinea, the Bight of Benin and the Bight of Bonny. This includes the territorial waters of Togo, Benin and Nigeria, which has seen a recent expansion by suspected Nigerian pirates into the waters of the Ivory Coast.
As for West Africa, piracy is rising in the Gulf of Guinea, with 58 incidents recorded in 2012, including ten hijackings and 207 crew companies taken hostage. Pirates in this area are particularly violent, with guns reported in at least 37 of the attacks.
Nigeria accounted for 27 incidents in 2012, with four vessels hijacked, 13 vessels boarded, eight fired upon and two attempted attacks. Togo has also seen an increase from five reports in 2011 to 15 in 2012, including four hijackings. Off the Ivory Coast, five incidents were reported in 2012, up from one in 2011. In the last quarter of 2012, a panamax product tanker was hijacked by suspected Nigerian pirates off Abidjan, the first such recorded vessel hijacking off the Ivory Coast.
That's why Security Overseas Services decided to create its headquarters in Togo. We want to stop the following from happening:
Items that are taken can include cash, valuables and personal possessions, as well as the pilfering of containers. The primary targets are refined petroleum products, particularly gasoline.
We offer security outside territorial waters with teams of three to four former NATO soldiers, embarkation from floating armouries and escort gunship support. We also provide security from inside territorial waters, with teams mixed with local national security from the army or navy. In addition, we offer onboard armed guards or dedicated escort boats. Finally, security from international or national waters is another company speciality.
Our mission is to organise the passive security according to BMP 4 (best management practices for protection against Somalia-based piracy), and predict and prevent any attacks or suspicious activity to allow escort boats safe passage, accompanied by armed security teams. Basic surveillance is an unarmed service, and we also use CS-spraying, cutting and non-lethal weapons, personal mobile radio and class IV protection gears. The team is made up of one former NATO soldier and up to five local national security officers.
Our patrol boat security services exist to detect, prevent and deter pirate attacks or suspicious activity by patrolling four times every 24 hours. Each patrol supplies a control data sheet to be filled in by the security officer of the protected vessel. We use a bulletproof rubber patrol boat, as well as automatic and semi-automatic machine guns. Again, we have one former NATO solider or navy officer, and up to six local national security officers.
A regular transit outside territorial waters usually begins from the floating armoury near Cape Verde, a bulk or a
ship-to-ship at Lome. Here, we disembark our weapons and take an escort boat for two to ten days alongside the port. After that, we re-embark our weapons and proceed to Durban for the end of mission; that type of mission will cost an average of $5,000 for 24 hours.
Due to current legal constraints in West African countries, it is not permitted to land men and arms in territorial waters. So the operations department of Security Overseas Services based in Togo has to manage multiple solutions.
Thanks to specific collaboration with Africamar, Gato group, OLS shipping and the MARSEC Union, Security Overseas Services is able to offer a genuine security package for shipowners that respects the different territorial laws - and at a competitive price. We can look at any particular request, and provide a tailored security and logistic service.
According to the International Maritime Bureau, incidents of piracy are now more common in West Africa than Somalia. Oil and Gas Agenda talks to Frederick Smet, managing director of Security Overseas Services, about the current situation and the best forms of prevention.
Security Overseas Services is a signatory of ICOC, the International Code of Conduct for private security services providers. We are certified Stage 1 by the Security Association for the Maritime Industry (SAMI), which functions as an independent regulatory trade association for maritime security companies.
We use the GUARDCON Contract, the Bimco standard contract for the employment of security guards on vessels; this contract is completely approved by assurers. The company is also a member of the Geneva Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Services.
Finally, we are ISO/PAS 28007:2012 accredited, obeying the guidelines for private maritime security companies (PMSC).
We partner with Africamar, the official representative of Panalpina and Groupe Gato, which provides logistic and shipping services along the West African coast. Security Overseas Services has a unique partnership with this group, which allows us to provide not just safety, but well-organised logistical shipping and security support from A to Z.
We're also the only official partner of OLS shipping, which allows our company to provide security services with armed guards according to the laws of the countries in West Africa. Finally, we are one of the most active members of the MARSEC UNION in West Africa. This collaboration allows us to use eight floating armouries and facilities over the different high-risk areas.