9/11 saw the ISPS code, but 26/11 saw none – IMO
On the lines of the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code, there is need for another regulation to ward off terrorists attack like in the case of 26/11 that took place on Mumbai according to Capt Andrew Winbow of IMO
Comparing the horrendous September 11 attack in 2001 (referred to as 9/11) launched by the Al Qaeda Group upon the United States, a series of security measures have been brought into place. On the maritime side the International Maritime Organization (IMO) came up with the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS Code), a comprehensive set of measures to enhance the security of ships and port facilities, developed in response to the perceived threats to ships and port facilities. Terrorist attacks around the world have become a reality that cannot be ignored. And although an equally horrific attack took place on 26 November almost a decade later, (known as 26/11) which witnessed a shooting and bombing attack by 12 terrorists on Mumbai by members of Laskhar-e-Taiba, there has been no security measures put in place by IMO following the incident.
Capt Andrew Winbow, Asst Secretary General & Director of Maritime Safety Division of the IMO, referring to the incident confessed that if a similar attack were to take place where terrorists overwhelmed a vessel and use it to attack a nation there is presently no such security measures being implemented to prevent the attack. He regrets that there is nothing that can be done in similar situations.
Seaborne piracy against transport vessels remains a significant issue (with estimated worldwide losses of US$13 to $16 billion per year) particularly in the waters between the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean, off the Somali coast, and also in the Strait of Malacca and Singapore, that are used by over 50,000 commercial ships a year. It only indicates how fragile and defenseless ships are including tankers carrying highly explosive cargo, involved in international trade. God forbid that terrorists take advantage of the situation and use commercial ships for their heinous operations.
Capt Winbow contended, “Pirates taking over a ship and terrorists taking over the vessel are two different things as far as IMO is concerned. What if the terrorists take it? I don’t have an answer to that. India has had some experience in Mumbai and India could take an initiative in this regard. Terrorists using vessels and boats are what India has better idea on what can be done. But more seriously after 9/11 besides the changes made to the airline industry, IMO opened the maritime side and adopted its International Ship and Port facilities Security Code (ISPS) which requires ship security officers, port security officers and a whole regime built up requiring member governments and their ports to take action to improve security. Nothing like that has happened after 26/11. We still spend sometimes with various governments giving advice.”
In response an official from the Ministry of Shipping, Government of India replied, “Putting security measures in place could be contemplated, but then at what cost? Can countries afford it?”
Considering the piracy menace, Mr. Winbow said, “Our focus nowadays is very much on West Africa particularly on the Coast of Guinea, West Africa. The situation is better on the East coast at Aden than it was. What we have done is we work very much with the African countries and help them with the new code they have against piracy on conduct and always on individual countries. This includes everything including coast guard, fishing and all issues that call for good maritime administration, good coordination between the administration and the coast guard. For this we will run workshops and set the scene and try to ascertain how they would respond with role playing events so that they can see where the gaps are and once they have got that we try to help them. This is in the Gulf of Guinea and countries on Central West Africa,
IMO was very proactive in supporting the industry’s Best Management Practices giving government support to navies to take action in their specific regions, providing advice to armed guards on board and other allied issues. So IMO did a lot of work on that.
On the East coast there hasn’t been any piracy attack for nearly a year now in the Gulf of Aden and off Somalia. The navy is still there which is very good. I don’t think that IMO can take credit for the reduction but certainly with the navies there and the ships getting protected better it has made it difficult for piracy attacks to take place so this inevitably brought down the piracy attack rate. The business model also may be changing in Somalia.