Why was a British security guard on the Iran ship attacked? – analysis

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An alleged Iranian drone struck the Mercer Street ship near Oman on July 30, killing two crew members, including a British security guard. However, security personnel were not present on the ship to protect it from Iranian attacks, but from piracy.

According to the BBC, security contractor Adrian Underwood was a distinguished-service British Army veteran working for British company Ambrey. Ambrey is one of the many companies that secures commercial vessels and is part of a larger security industry that has grown in importance following a wave of modern piracy.

“There was an initial peak in the 1990s, then another major peak around 2010,” Dr. Jan Osburg, senior engineer at the RAND Corporation, told The Jerusalem Post. The latter “is where the modern interest in piracy comes from, as well as in the fight against piracy”.

Much of the upsurge in piracy emanates from Somalia, starting in response to state and private actors in Somali waters.

“There was a lot of illegal fishing in Somali waters, especially by fishermen from Yemen and other neighboring countries, and the country did not have a strong central government,” Abdi Yusuf, an anti-terrorism expert based in Somalia, told The Post. Nairobi. “The fishing community has started to take up arms and defend its waters. “

Once the unofficial Coast Guard began to seize the ships, “they realized this was an opportunity and they had to take advantage of it.” They captured a ship early and they got paid, ”Yusuf explained. It was worth doing business and they kept going.

Entrepreneur pirate lords appeared, who would finance trips in part. Organized pirates armed with AK-47s, RPGs and skiffs.

Hackers communicated via satellite phones “while posing as fishermen,” Yusuf said. They were gathering intelligence on their targets, and once they had “all the information they needed, they carried out a surprise attack and captured the ship.”

Pirates used ladders to hang on to boats and get on board. Low-deck ships were the easiest to board. Once under their command, the pirates would redeem the crew, the cargo, and the ship.

When the captains began to avoid the Somali coast, they turned the trawlers into “mother ships” for their skiffs, thus extending their range.

Piracy was also lucrative for hackers, but it cost the global economy billions of dollars.

While hacking in the region “has declined dramatically, it has lasted basically … seven years to be a big deal and action has been taken including having private security contractors,” Osburg said.

Security firms have sprung up to address the issue, recruiting veterans as security. This included not only British and American veterans, but Israelis as well. Several companies were predominantly Israeli, although often based in the UK.

Teams of 3 to 6 people would encounter commercial vessels at the edge of high-risk areas, loading small arms from floating armories. Often, it was enough to show weapons to send pirates in search of easier targets.

“If someone starts shooting at you from the boat, you tend to turn around and try to hijack another ship,” Osburg said. “No commercial vessel with an armed security detachment on board has ever been successfully hijacked.”

In collaboration with contractors, shipping companies have also developed fenders for ships.
“Other steps have also been taken,” Osburg said. “For example, putting barbed wire along ships to make boarding more difficult.”

Often, ships would electrify the wire and install seawater spray hoses to repel climbers. Still others – to enhance deterrence or a false security presence – would create scarecrows.

Commercial ships would use maneuvers to protect themselves such as “convoys or staying close to … navy warships,” Osburg explained.

Entrepreneurs were far from the only reason for the decline in piracy. “The navies of Europe and the United States, for the most part, have had several warships in critical areas, particularly off the Horn of Africa.”

While piracy has declined, maritime security contractors have continued to ensure that pirates do not hijack ships.

Now commercial ships and security companies face a new threat. Underwood was killed by an alleged Iranian drone. On August 4, the tanker Asphalt Princess was hijacked by armed Iranians.

“If there is a state actor or the equivalent of a state actor … it’s a whole different ball game.” Osburg said. “Your handful of guys with M-16s won’t be able to do much about that.”

Osburg explained that there were “potential legal and political and diplomatic challenges that could arise when a ship defends itself against a country like Iran,” which “will say it is a … attempt boarding law ”and, therefore, the contractors probably would not do so. t be allowed to engage.

“The maritime security industry must be vigilant, ready to do anything to safeguard the safety, security and freedom of navigation,” said Yusuf. “They must be ready … to face the Iranian threat.”

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