The total number of kidnaps for ransom during 2016 in the Gulf of Guinea has already surpassed the total number of incidents recorded by the International Maritime Bureau for 2015, the Oceans Beyond Piracy Report has revealed.
As a result, pressure is mounting on the industry to ensure that shipowners, ship management companies, Company Security Officers (CSOs) and crew members have access to experienced and professional advice regarding kidnap response management.
“Owners can make serious mistakes, with potentially dire human and financial consequences if they attempt to negotiate with kidnappers on their own, or if they engage advisers who do not have the requisite experience and expertise,” warned Stuart Edmonston, Head of Loss Prevention at the UK P&I Club.
The report has urged for bespoke training for shipowners, shipping management companies, CSOs and crew, and suggests that training should focus on:
- Ensuring crews understand the risks of kidnap in the region;
- Providing crews with the confidence that, in the event of a kidnap, their management is well prepared and professionally advised, and their families will receive the support they need;
- Training seafarers to behave in a way most likely to ensure their safety and quick release;
- Giving shipping companies the information and tools they need to be in the best possible position to respond to a kidnap;
- Offering the necessary psychological support to crew following the resolution of a kidnapping.
Training should cover more than just kidnap survival, though, the report hightlights; saying that with the correct and specific training, a seafarer’s confidence will be enhanced. Talking of the human element of the possibility of kidnap, the report makes a case for seafarers’ families’ involvement in the training, and how to deal with kidnappers and to ensure the best possible outcome.
“With appropriate training and preparation, companies can ensure their crisis management teams and communicators have up-to-date knowledge, workable policies and the right people in the right places, both at sea and onshore, to respond effectively to a kidnap,” Mr Edmonson added.
The report concluded that with good preparation, this means that a company often recovers more quickly and more completely than would otherwise be the case.