Industry » Features » Sequel - Migrants and ISIS: Proactive Measures

Sequel - Migrants and ISIS: Proactive Measures

Rod Hatch7

Sequel to my OnboardOnline article of 21st April 2015 - On 22nd April included in its news bulletin a feature giving an update from MYBA regarding the Dryad analysis of 18 March 2015.

I quote in part:

“Since then Ian Millen, chief operating officer at Dryad Maritime, has been approached to comment on any changes in the situation. On 14 April 2015 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 2015, 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). In Dryad, we will continue to monitor developments and report on any emerging concerns.”


MYBA’s action is commendable in asking Dryad to reconsider their earlier assessment, and also in checking on ISPS Security Levels with some major Flag states for yachts. Dryad has a multiplicity of sources, and their assessment of Low Risk is not contended.  And Security Level 1 is not something to lose sleep over: it does not demand much more precautionary alertness than would be shown by a prudent householder.

Security Level 2 is a big step up, and if ever issued for the SE Med basin it would no doubt happen in sync with an upgrade from Dryad and other security consultancies. However, Low Risk does not mean zero risk. It is transparently obvious that in 2015 to have no plan at all for a SE Med terrorist security level upgrade, and for a migrant boat encounter, is unconscionably imprudent.

Consider an extract from the above quotation from Dryad: “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.”

Easier said than done. Remember how long it took to establish a “No-fly” zone in Libya, and how long the arguments raged on about establishing the same over Syria?

Further, does anybody recall the USS Cole incident in the port of Aden, in the year 2000?  Suicide attackers rammed an explosives-laden small craft into the side of this guided-missile destroyer, crippling its operational capacity, killing 17 US sailors and injuring 39 others.

USS Cole DDG 67 Departs

The combined might of the US 6th Fleet and other NATO naval assets committed to the Med., are helpless against a Cole type attack on a single vessel in transit across the potential danger zones. Any action on their part would be a reaction. The initiative lies always with the aggressor.

There is just one particular sector of the SE Med. basin where a pro-active policy is feasible and in force. Have you ever approached the coast of Israel from seaward? I’ve done so several times over the years. There are requisite checks and call-ins to be made with the authorities and your agent and the port or marina, at 100 miles and 25 miles from the coast.

Notwithstanding these preliminaries, as you close the coast a fast gunboat will appear, order you to stop, and circle you with its foredeck gun constantly trained on you while you repeat all your data via VHF.  Once the gunboat is satisfied, you will be given permission to proceed.

If not satisfied, you will be boarded (no argument), a helicopter will be only minutes away, and an F-16 will already be en route. It is not feasible to police the entire SE Med basin in the same manner.

MK 38 25mm gun system

(As an aside, one of the ICTS instructors referred to in my articles had been a Master with ZIM, the Israeli shipping company. He told me that it was ZIM policy always to fly a large Israeli ensign while at sea, and to illuminate it with floodlights at night. The implied message was very clear, and would-be villains stayed well clear).


1) From your onboard Ship’s Security Plan perspective re an IS threat, (i) draw up a risk assessment;  (ii) keep it updated; (iii) list all sources for pre-voyage advisories; (iv) delineate what you consider to be particularly high risk zones and mark them on your passage plans as appropriate; (v) establish a routine for regular situation appraisals in your high risk zones (could be as simple as monitoring CNN every hour on the hour); (vi) consider amending the bridge standing orders re calling the master, to give an OOW discretion in the event of an alert to wind up to full speed and bring the ship’s head away from a suspected danger before the master even arrives on the bridge after being called; and (vii) have your SSO consult with your CSO and/or other security adviser  on the preceding items.

2) Draw up a similar preparedness plan for a migrant boat encounter, including the items set out in my 21st. April 2015 article.

Then go about your lawful occasions and enjoy a summer’s cruising. But make your plans, don’t leave home without them, and don’t conceal from owners or guests why you have such plans in place. No matter your role, shore-side or onboard, if you conceal and things go wrong, then a vulnerable part of your anatomy will be in a sling.

*Image credits: UK Wikipedia Wikipedia CC2.0

Previous article:
Migrants and ISIS: Whatever the Risk, are you Prepared?

Captain Rod Hatch, B.A. (Hons.) Econ., AMNI

MCA Master (Yachts) < 3,000 GT, Master (LEA) <10,000 GT, OOW Unlimited
ILO certified Trainer of MLC  Inspectors
MCA approved Maritime Auditor and Lead Auditor, ISM and ISO
CSO, Vectis Maritime, West Palm Beach, Florida

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