If a silent ship alert is activated, who would hear it?
Silent security alert systems may offer little hope in thwarting or minimizing the devastation resulting from a terrorist attack onboard a ship.
That’s the preliminary conclusion of a study commissioned in October by the Nanyang Technological University’s S.Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) in Singapore and led by Thomas Timlen, a visiting research fellow at the university.
The study examined the use of the ship security alert systems required by the SOLAS Convention, explored how flag states manage their alerts, and reviewed the potential for developing regional or global networks to improve responses to ships activating these alerts.
“If the ship is positioned near a densely populated area, residential and/or commercial district, or alongside a cruise ship with thousands of passengers, no one on shore will be alerted and therefore no opportunity to evacuate will be available,” Timlen told Shippers’ NewsWire. “The decision being taken by the flag state potentially very far away would likely come way too late.”
A continuing problem with many false alerts sent from ships has led to a degree of complacency among the recipients of the alerts, which exacerbates the problem.
“Meanwhile, on the ship itself, perhaps only the person pushing the button will know that the SSAS (ship security alert system) was activated,” Timlen added. “Everyone else on board, crew and passengers, and port officials will be completely unaware.”
A rapid response is needed when a security breach occurs. When confronted by pirates, ships have been able to obtain timely assistance by contacting the International Maritime Bureau directly, as well as NATO and coalition forces operating off East Africa.
“If ship security alert systems made direct contact with the actual responders, such as nearby naval forces, this would improve response time significantly in comparison with how the system is set up now,” Timlen said.
The report will be completed in January and available from the RSIS Web site www.rsis.edu.sg/.