Piracy has re-emerged as a global security threat which, in the short-term, can only be tackled through the innovation of adequate, cost effective solutions to protect seafarers and merchant shipping.
Current methods in countering piracy are based on complying with advice from the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) as well as other regulatory bodies, together with the use of additional separate and standalone solutions. Many of the solutions are readily available, such as the use of barbed wire, water cannons, manoeuvring, and speed management. Although all of these methods are believed to have a positive effect on reducing ship vulnerability, little is known in quantitative terms. Therefore measures cannot easily be compared nor can the combination effects be determined or optimized.
Decisions onboard vessels are largely based on manuals of best practice such as Best Management Practice 4 (BMP4). However, no dedicated support tools for counter piracy systems and actions are widely available and a significant proportion of ships have been found not to use BMP.
There are a number of options available to shipping companies to mitigate the risk of piracy and to deter pirates, though the dominant factor is cost: insurance cost, fuel cost, cost of delay, cost of sailing at high speed, cost of re-routing, cost of onboard anti-piracy systems, etc.
Whilst calculating the various cost elements is possible, balancing them in combination is more problematic and there is scant information available regarding their operational effectiveness or the cost benefits of their use.
There in the development of a knowledge base, a shore-based pre-voyage planning and routing tool and a ship-based counter-measures tactical decision aid.
The development of such tools provides a solid foundation in taking a layered approach to planning, routing and threat reduction. The creation of a roadmap framework will assist end-users identify where additional investments in say, training and/or resources, will be required in order to achieve maximum benefit from each tool. The tools are web-based or semi-autonomous and interlock with hardware options in order to enable informed decision making with regard to layered defence and risk mitigation. The knowledge base system can assist in decision making at all stages of the process, including ship equipment, voyage planning and course of action when attacked. The up to date information within the manual includes predicative intelligence and near real-time metocean data.
The automated voyage planning support tool is an aid to shore-based authorities and aims to balance re-routing to mitigate risk against additional costs in fuel and time.
The tactical decision aid will provide seafarers with real-time threat assessment, evaluation and recommendation of possible courses of action. This tool can also be used by shore-based staff as a training aid.