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Ships with armed guards have never been hijacked by pirates claims LSS – SAPU

Modern-day piracy is one of the most important issues the global shipping industry is having to deal with. Hijackings by pirates operating in vast sea areas, both in East and West Africa, in areas like Somalia and Nigeria, are always a danger vessels are faced with. In an interview with Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide, Mr. Alexandros Theodosios Kontos, Operations Manager of LSS – SAPU leading maritime security experts (http://www.lss-sapu.com/), argues that not a single vessel with armed security on board has even fallen prey to pirates, despite the attempted attacks. This comes to show the effectiveness of armed guards on a vessel, as pirates have evolved their techniques and are targeting easier targets.. Mr. Kontos holds a Bsc in Transport & Shipping and an MBA. He is now a S. Lieutenant Commando – Paratrooper (Res) and has an extensive operational experience in maritime security services in the Indian Ocean Region and is also experienced in such services for the Gulf of Guinea.

Could you provide us with a few details regarding the company’s background and experience in providing security services?

LSS, a Special Forces operatives security company, was founded in 2004 where it safeguarded Athens 2004 Olympic Games. LSS focused on the Somali Piracy phenomenon and founded the Special Anti Piracy Unit (SAPU) as a response.
SAPU is made up of Hellenic Nationality – English speaking professionals, trained in the Special Forces of the Hellenic Army and/or Navy, highly experienced, constantly trained disciplined and trustworthy.
Nowadays, LSS – SAPU is certified by ISO 9001/2008 and is up to date with all latest IMO and BIMCO instructions, insured and approved by all underwriters and practically safeguards the largest portion of the vast Greek owned fleet.

With piracy a major issue for global shipping, how important is the use of armed guards on board vessels, something considered “taboo” for modern commercial shipping, up until a few years ago?

Plain and simple armed security for the IOR and GOO are nowadays a must. Not employing a regulated armed security unit/team on board your vessel will eventually have it hijacked, crew tortured or killed, cargo stolen, vessel set ablaze, millions of ransom demanded all according to where and when the piracy takes place.

Is the employment of armed guards really that effective?

No vessel with armed security on board has ever been hijacked. Ever.

What services does your company offer to ship owners? In which areas around the world are you able to provide protection?

We provide maritime security consultancy services and armed/unarmed maritime security globally.

We’ve seen that pirates have been quite resourceful and flexible in terms of adopting new tactics. How have they evolved over time, especially after an increase of navy patrols?

First, we need to discriminate between East and West Africa.
Somali pirates operate as south as the Mozambique Channel, as far east as the Indian coast and as far north as the 17N parallel in the South Red Sea and the Straits of Hormuz in the Gulf of Oman.
As we speak, Somali pirates are ambushing an ill prepared vessel transiting anywhere in the Indian Ocean Region by taking tips from sources like Suez and Singapore regarding the presence or absence of an armed security team on board, its next port of call, its type and cargo, etc. They also still hold 9 vessels in captivity with 154 seafarers as per IMB in dire conditions sometimes torturing or killing the crew for a faster and higher ransom payment.
In a nutshell, transit your vessel in the IOR with no armed security on board and you will eventually find yourself negotiating with pirates.
Regarding W. Africa, a menacing region where piracy has actually never seized to exist, piracy is now booming. Seafarers are kidnapped, vessels are being hijacked, cargos’ are stolen and almost everybody is organizing for what is next to come. Human life has no real value there and therefore is taken away easily by the pirates.
They are poor, hungry and desperate, seamen who know their way around these waters and have realized, through the Somali piracy example, they have money in their back yard.
Piracy is like cancer. Ignore it and it will kill you.
All vessels transiting the Gulf of Guinea and especially when at anchor regardless how far away from the shore must be BMP4 prepared and have at least an unarmed security team on board – hence armed security teams are not yet allowed in any port of the region – that will fortify the vessel to the maximum level, train and drill the crew and provide a 24hr watch. Take note that as mentioned in Combating Piracy Week in London where LSS-SAPU was a programme partner, app. only 1 in 9 vessels being boarded has being hijacked when the crew seeks refuge to the citadel.

During its latest report, International Maritime Bureau (IMB) said that reported attacks from pirates have retreated. Is this the case according to you and why has this happened?

In E. Africa where all parties involved have realized the scale of the problem and hence deployed Naval vessels, we are now facing a statistic low in pirate attacks due to the combination of Naval presence, Best Management Practices BMP4 prepared vessels and armed security teams on board.
But we are also facing a triple attack/hijack ratio, compared to last year.
This occurs because Somali pirates are now best equipped and experienced and mainly go for easy targets like a slow steaming, low freeboard vessel with no armed security on board.

Do you believe that this falling piracy trend will be sustained in the coming months/years?

LSS – SAPU viewpoint is that reported attacks and I cannot stretch the “reported” term enough, will remain at a lower level than previous years and that the attack/hijack ratio will remain at 1 out of 7 vessels being attacked ending up hijacked or even increase if vessels let their guard down by not employing armed security teams on board. Having said that, one can never be sure when it comes to pirates.

How important is for a security company to be accredited by the Security Association for the Maritime Industry (SAMI)? Which are the qualifications a company must have to receive this accreditation?

SAMI accreditation comes in stages. In the first stage certain documents and information must be provided. The later stages have not been implemented yet for the ISO 28007 is soon to be circulated and work as a compulsory regulation measure and hence these stages will be influenced and adapted to it.

Which are your clients in the maritime industry?

LSS-SAPU safeguards the largest portion of the vast Greek owned fleet and also cooperates with International shipping companies from all over the world like Japan, Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, Middle East, etc.

Which are the main areas where vessel operators need to stay alert for the event of a piracy attack?

The Indian Ocean Region and the Gulf of Guinea are Red waters in the sense of high risk. Indonesia has also picked up the pace with two vessels being hijacked just recently.
Vessel operators have enough trouble in their daily work without the pirates. They should select a regulated PMSC to safeguard their vessels and go on with their work.
LSS – SAPU has safeguarded hundreds of transits, deterred pirates dozens of times with no injuries at all. With highly experienced Hellenic Special Forces operatives both ashore and at sea, with 25 qualifications/certifications each and with 15 armed guards emb/disembarkation points globally we can safeguard a vessel efficiently and deter pirates anytime/anywhere.
Greeks know very well how to manage their vessels; SAPU knows equally well how to protect them.

Nikos Roussanoglou, Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide

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