This is interesting news and JLT has been fighting to get this funded and operational for awhile now. So it will be great to see this in action. Although a couple of ‘what ifs’ have popped up as I read through the plans.

The CEP is planning to buy seven 150-foot fast patrol boats, understood to be ex-Swedish Navy, and has already earmarked 11 former offshore supply vessels for purchase and conversion.
The ships will be equipped with fast semi-inflatables, called ribs, an array of non-lethal counter-measures, and 0.50 calibre heavy machine guns. They will be operated by a crew of five and carry eight armed security personnel each.
The programme will result in convoys of up to four merchant ships closely escorted by one CEP craft along the IRTC, with additional CEP ships in support, covering east and west-bound traffic.

So this will be 8 armed security personnel covering down on convoys of up up to four merchant ships?  These armed guards will be in small boats to deploy and intercept pirate attack groups?  Ok, so I imagine 1 guard and the commander of the guards will have to remain on the patrol craft in order to guard that and do command and control, and that would leave 6 guys in probably two inflatables (with 3 per craft). So that is two inflatables and one patrol craft to cover down on four merchant ships? Or 2 guys for each inflatable, for 3 craft?

With that kind of force structure, pirates would have quite the juicy target (four merchant ships) with bare minimum force protection (8 guys?). And what is interesting is that pirates usually attack in groups of two skiffs. But there is also precedent for pirates attacking in packs of up to 10 skiffs. (a recent attack with 6 skiffs and 40 pirates was stopped by the Iranians)

So I have to say that this CEP sounds nice, but I question the manpower levels, and especially given the possibility of an attacking force using a swarm.

It might even be worth the investment for a pirate action group to figure out a way to sink the CEP vessel, like using guided missiles purchased on the black market. (thanks to conflicts like Libya)  The reasoning here is that an investment in a couple of missiles, might result in the sinking of a CEP vessel and the capture of four merchant ships that could all bring in about 4 to 5 million dollars a piece. Maybe more if those vessels are highly valuable. So the folks at JLT should know, that a determined pirate force might attempt such an attack because of the potential for profit. Is it wise to just use one CEP patrol vessel per convoy, and especially if it takes awhile for air assets or reserve CEP vessels to show up and help?

The other thing is that JLT is trying to sell this as a cheaper option than guards on boats.  Which is fine, but only assigning one CEP patrol vessel to a convoy of four merchant ships is one of the reasons why they are able to go cheap. I mean ideally you would want enough vessels to cover down on both sides of the convoy. Either CEP vessels that cover port and starboard sides, or aft and  fore of the convoy. That way you don’t have vessels running from one side to the other to repel an assault.

Another point is that what if the one CEP vessel covering down on the convoy, breaks down?  Do all of the merchant ships stop while the CEP vessel waits for repairs? That is another advantage of keeping armed guards on the boats. Perhaps JLT should write into the contracts that in those cases of CEP vessels breaking down, that the armed detail could board the vessels and cover that way so they can continue on with the trip? Who knows and I imagine this stuff has been worked out.

Finally, the other reason why they are pushing for this convoy concept is because it get’s the firefight off of the merchant vessels and out in the open between the CEP and the pirates. That’s so companies can distance themselves from the liability of these types of engagements. It also keeps the firefight away from merchant vessels that have explosive or flammable materials on them. Although with a swarm attack, if a CEP vessel is occupied, then how do they expect to stop other pirate vessels from attacking while they are busy? So pirates will shoot at these vessels anyways, just to signal them to slow down or draw the attention of the CEP boats.

Now one option, that might be more expensive but would definitely cover down on 4 vessels properly, is a patrol craft with helicopter launching capability. Much like the Bob Barker vessel in the Sea Shepard fleet, or the MacArther vessel. Having an eye in the sky to watch over the convoy, as well as engage multiple targets from that helicopter would be an excellent capability. That is owning the high ground!

It’s a numbers game guys, and pirates will take advantage of that. At least with guards on the boat, the advantage is with them because they have the high ground and own a pretty stable platform to fight from. That, and the enemy has to deal with that guard force if it wants to take the ship. With no guards on the boat, pirates could distract and overwhelm the CEP in order to get folks on that boat. The probability of this happening is pretty low, but it is possible.

I am also wondering what is cheaper? Slower vessels with armed guards, consuming less fuel because of a reduced speed, or this convoy model? We will see, and the market of these protection types and the pirates will dictate how this goes.

Also, nice try JLT for trying to dispel this idea that the CEP is not a private navy. lol It certainly is a private navy, that’s unless a government now owns and runs the CEP and will be collecting all of the profit from this venture? -Matt

 

Private navy planned to counter pirate raids
David Black
May 13, 2012
A private navy costing US$70 million (Dh257m) is being set up to escort merchant ships through the pirate-infested Gulf of Aden.
It will comprise a fleet of 18 ships, based in Djibouti, and will offer to convoy merchant vessels along the Internationally Recognised Transit Corridor (IRTC).
This is the world’s most dangerous shipping lane, between the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea. The fleet will be operated by the Convoy Escort Programme (CEP), a British company launched by the international shipping insurers Jardine Lloyd Thompson (JLT) and the Lloyds of London underwriters Ascot.
Full funding will be in place by the end of next month, and the CEP hopes the fleet will be operational by December.
“The shipping industry needs to stand up and be counted,” said Angus Campbell, the CEP’s chief executive and a former director of Overseas Shipholding Group, the world’s second-biggest listed oil tanker company. “The time is now, not in four or five years’ time.”
Piracy in the region is costing the global economy an estimated US$7 billion a year. For the ship owners alone, every vessel sailing through the waters off Somalia is charged additional insurance premiums of between $50,000 and $80,000.


Ships opting to carry their own armed guards can be charged an additional $18,000 and $60,000 per voyage by security companies.
Although the European Union is spending more than €8m (Dh37.94m) a year to maintain a naval force in the waters – EU NavFor – its warships still cannot provide close support to all merchant vessels.
The CEP, however, offers substantial savings to owners as well as protection from pirate attack. The CEP will buy insurance and use that to cover the ships in its convoys, so owners will no longer need to pay premiums, or hire security.
Instead, they will just pay a flat $30,000 to $40,000 per ship in the convoy.
The CEP is planning to buy seven 150-foot fast patrol boats, understood to be ex-Swedish Navy, and has already earmarked 11 former offshore supply vessels for purchase and conversion.
The ships will be equipped with fast semi-inflatables, called ribs, an array of non-lethal counter-measures, and 0.50 calibre heavy machine guns. They will be operated by a crew of five and carry eight armed security personnel each.
The programme will result in convoys of up to four merchant ships closely escorted by one CEP craft along the IRTC, with additional CEP ships in support, covering east and west-bound traffic.
Once in operation, the force will capable of escorting up to 470 ships a month through the Gulf of Aden, equivalent to about 25 per cent of current traffic.
“Our crews will undergo intensive training in how to implement a graduated response. We will be compliant with maritime law and will observe the International Maritime Organisation conventions, such as the Safety of Life at Sea treaty,” said Mr Campbell. “We have had detailed discussions with the Royal Navy, who were a little concerned at first, but are now supportive, as are the British government.”
Sean Woollerson, a partner in the marine, oil and gas division of JLT, said the description “private navy” did not apply to the CEP fleet.
The aim is to stop the pirates before they reach the merchant ship, and the emphasis is on non-lethal measures. Use of offensive weapons will be a last resort. “This is not a navy,” said Mr Woollerson. “What we’re trying to be is a deterrent force. Prevention is within our reach.”
The plan has been put together during the past three and a half years and now involves 21 companies, including law firms, auditors and risk managers, as well as JLT and Ascot.
The CEP has agreed with the Cyprus Maritime Administration for its vessels to sail under the island’s flag.
“Anything that can prevent piracy in this area is to be supported,” Pottengal Mukundan, the chief executive of the Commercial Crime Services arm of the International Maritime Bureau, told the British newspaper TheMail on Sunday.
JLT is a leading British insurance business and was first established as a division of Jardine, Matheson and Company, which was founded in Canton [now known as Guangdong], China, in 1832.
Although floated off, Jardine still owns 40 per cent of JLT, which specialises in risk insurance, such as shipping, kidnap and ransom. JLT insures 14 per cent of the global shipping fleet and is a traded on the FTSE 250 Index.
“While this peril has always existed on the high seas, the scale and intensity of piracy in the Gulf of Aden has focused the attention of the shipping and insurance industries on this exposure,” said the company’s website regarding its involvement in the programme.
Story here.