This ship security advisory was issued on May 2nd, 2023.
It is addressed to all ship owners, operators, masters, company security officers, and recognized security organizations.
Operators of vessels transiting the Persian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz (SoH), Gulf of Oman, Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden, and Red Sea are requested to circulate this Ship Security Advisory (SSA) to their Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI)-flagged vessels by the most expeditious means possible.
As has been widely reported, on 27 April 2023, the RMI-flagged crude oil tanker, ADVANTAGE SWEET, was forcibly seized by the Iranian Navy while transiting international waters in the Gulf of Oman. The vessel is currently being held by Iranian authorities in Bandar Abbas.
Vessel operators transiting the SoH, Persian Gulf, and Gulf of Oman should maintain a heightened level of vigilance and follow the guidance contained in this SSA.
Heightened military activity and geopolitical tensions in these regions continue to pose serious threats to commercial vessels. Associated with these threats is the potential for miscalculation or misidentification, which could lead to aggressive actions.
In response, the International Maritime Security Construct (IMSC) has been established to maintain freedom of navigation, international law, and free flow of commerce to support stability and security of the maritime commons in the Persian/Arabian Gulf, SoH, Gulf of Oman, Gulf of Aden, and the Bab al Mandeb (BAM).
For further information and important guidance, please review the IMSC brochure and IMSC Bridge Reference Cards.
Boarding/Detention/Seizure by Foreign Military Forces:
While some recent incidents in this region may have targeted specific merchant vessels due to their association with certain countries, cargo, individuals, or companies, the potential remains for miscalculation or misidentification that could lead to aggressive actions against any merchant vessel.
Multiple commercial vessels transiting through the Persian Gulf, SoH, and Gulf of Oman have been boarded and detained or seized by foreign military forces over the past several years. Incidents include the recent seizure of the ADVANTAGE SWEET, the seizure of two Greek-flagged tankers in 2022, seizure of a South Korean-flagged tanker in 2021, and the seizure of a United Kingdom-flagged tanker in 2019. Local military forces have utilized small boats and/or helicopters during boarding operations and have attempted to force merchant vessels into their territorial waters.
Risk mitigation measures
Shipowners and operators are advised to always exercise a high level of vigilance in these areas. Vessels should take the following precautions when operating in the area:
Undertake a pre-voyage threat and risk assessment before entering any region where there has been an incident or if the threat has changed.
After performing the pre-voyage security threat and risk assessment, review the Ship Security Plan and amend if necessary.
Ensure Automatic Identification Systems (AIS) and Long-Range Identification and Tracking (LRIT) systems are switched on and functional.
Privately Contracted Armed Security Personnel (PCASP) should not be used as a risk mitigation measure in the northern Gulf of Oman, SoH, or Persian Gulf.
Ensure voyage data recorder (VDR) data is preserved in the event of a boarding, attack, or suspicious event.
Conduct security training/drills/exercises prior to entering areas of increased risk.
Strictly observe any promulgated exclusion zones or guidance issued by coastal states.
Maintain a full and vigilant bridge watch for small craft approaching.
Monitor relevant very high frequency (VHF) and other communication channels.
Vessels should follow the advice of coalition military authorities (United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO), Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), and/or IMSC).
The Maritime Global Security website at www.maritimeglobalsecurity.com offers industry-issued best practices, including BMP5, guidance to mariners by geographic region, and provides contact and subscription information for regional maritime security reporting centers.
BMP5 and the Maritime Global Security website should be consulted prior to operating in the above-listed geographic areas.
Answer all VHF calls professionally. DO NOT IGNORE.
Vessels should be aware that US and other coalition naval forces may conduct maritime awareness calls, queries, and approaches to ensure the safety of vessels transiting the Persian Gulf, SoH, Gulf of Oman, and the Arabian Sea. If a vessel suspects it is being hailed from a source falsely claiming to be a US or coalition naval vessel, UKMTO, and IMSC should be immediately informed.
If hailed by non-coalition forces, provide vessel name, flag State, and affirm that the vessel is proceeding in accordance with international law as reflected in the United Nations Law of the Sea Convention (UNCLOS). The Master should immediately inform UKMTO and IMSC. Please also refer to www.imscsentinel.com and IMSC Bridge Reference Cards for additional guidance and standard responses.
If non-coalition forces seek to board a vessel navigating these waters, the ship’s Master should, if the safety of the ship and crew would not be compromised, decline permission to board, noting that the vessel is proceeding in accordance with international law, as reflected in UNCLOS, and immediately inform UKMTO and IMSC.
If non-coalition forces board a vessel, the vessel should immediately contact UKMTO and IMSC. The crew should not forcibly resist the boarding party. Refraining from forcible resistance does not imply consent or agreement to that boarding.
Simultaneously register with both UKMTO and IMSC 24-hours prior to entering the Indian Ocean Voluntary Reporting Area by sending UKMTO and IMSC, via a single e-mail, the Initial Report from Annex D of BMP5. Include the estimated times of arrival at the Suez Canal, BAM, and SoH in line 10 of the report and add a line 14 for comments as needed (e.g., speed restrictions or other constraints; anticipated time of entering/exiting the SoH Traffic Separation Scheme; an outline of the navigation plan for operating in the SoH and Persian Gulf, etc.). Utilize other reports included in Annex D of BMP5 as necessary.
In the event of an incident or suspicious activity, contact UKMTO and IMSC and activate the Ship Security Alert System (SSAS) immediately.
Vessels operating in this area are advised to establish contact with both UKMTO and IMSC, and to include both on all updates or incident report emails, as detailed above. By including both as addressees on each email, awareness will be enhanced without creating an additional reporting burden.
All security incidents must be reported to the RMI Maritime Administrator.