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Security: Illegal boarding – theft while the vessel at anchor

What happened?

An intruder armed with a knife boarded a vessel at anchor in Luanda, Angola. The intruder was discovered during the hours of darkness when a member of the crew was conducting a security patrol. An unidentified individual was observed on the starboard side of B-deck. The crew member immediately reported the sighting to the bridge and the alarm was raised, alerting others to the presence of the intruder who was armed with a knife. The general alarm was activated, and the Master was called to the bridge.

Upon hearing the alarm, the unidentified individual jumped overboard escaped aboard a skiff. Before fleeing, the individual removed one life buoy with a lamp and two life buoys, and threw them into the water.

The bridge team monitored the skiff’s movements on the radar as it approached another vessel, which was anchored adjacent to the vessel’s port side. Communication regarding the skiff was made to the vessel via VHF radio. Subsequently, the skiff disappeared from radar tracking.

In response to the situation, the Master implemented double watch duties onboard the vessel to enhance security.

What went right

  • The crew member immediately reported the sighting to the bridge and the alarm was raised;
  • The incident was promptly reported to port control and to the adjacent vessel;
  • Security patrols were being carried out in accordance with the Ship Security Plan.

What went wrong

The immediate cause of the security incident can be attributed to the vulnerability of the vessel, as there are many places where individuals with the intention of theft can use to board the vessel;

  • The outer anchorage of Luanda has recently experienced several incidents of illegal boarding/theft;
  • The vessel’s team had discussed the security threats in the Luanda anchorage area during their Toolbox Talk prior to dropping anchor, however, no additional measures were implemented before the fact;
  • Evidence suggests that the unidentified person boarded the vessel by climbing the vessel’s tyre fenders/rescue boat area;
  • This particular vessel is equipped with a boat landing which increases her vulnerability.
  • The number of fishing vessels in the outer anchorage area makes it difficult for anchored vessels to identify those posing a security threat or intending to engage in illegal boarding or theft;
  • The vessel’s team was advised to take additional security measures when dropping anchor at the outer anchorage area in response to the recent security incidents, however, no additional measures were implemented.

Lessons learned

  • Vessels should conduct thorough security briefings and analyses before anchoring, especially in areas known for security risk. This includes reviewing recent incidents and implementing appropriate measures to mitigate potential threats;
  • Coordination with port control and neighbouring vessels is vital during security incidents. Reporting the incident to port control enabled appropriate authorities to be informed and take necessary actions. Additionally, informing nearby vessels via VHF radio enhances collective awareness and response capabilities.
  • Continuous monitoring of radar and vigilance in observing suspicious activities are essential to track potential threats. In response to the incident, implementing double watch duties demonstrates a proactive approach to enhancing security measures onboard.
  • A security alert was circulated to the fleet to maintain a vigilant lookout;
  • Crew should be familiar with the security threats wherever the vessel may be;
  • Ship’s deck and areas surrounding the ship should be illuminated sufficiently;
  • Consider the following:
    • Increasing the frequency of security patrols, as well as requiring closer monitoring of CCTV cameras (where fitted);
    • Maintaining an all-round lookout from an elevated position;
    • Enhanced vigilance/additional lookout for exposed areas; ship’s fenders, the boat landing;
    • Careful watch on radar and monitoring of all navigational warnings;
    • Better barriers to prevent illegal boarding using the boat landing or rescue boat area.

 Members may wish to refer to

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