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Maritime security and Covid-19: impacts and implications

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a huge influence on the global economy and on international trade. In the maritime industry, many segments have been affected, but to extremely varying degrees. Whether – and to what degree – Covid-19 will impact maritime security threats, however, is a separate question.

In this whitepaper, we explore the current maritime security situation in ten regions around the world. While the characteristics of areas such as the Gulf of Mexico, the Eastern Mediterranean, the Red Sea or the Gulf of Guinea are vastly different, there is one common denominator: there are at least some operational concerns for merchant shippings operating in these areas.

Shipping operations will continue to face certain challenges in the next three to six months. Moreover, local conditions are important to determine threat levels which in turn may be influenced by measures to curb the spread of Covid-19, by low oil prices or by a broad range of other factors. Overall, this highlights the need for good situational awareness to mitigate risks to maritime operations as these can change within a very short timeframe.

At the same time, Covid-19 is far from an average crisis. Very few contingency plans that were in place in 2019 included the risk from a pandemic. The final section of this whitepaper therefore provides a brief look at preparations that are vital to be prepared for the next emergency.


Turkey's 'great game' in Libya: conflict scenarios and maritime implications

The instability caused by the ongoing conflict in Libya has offered an opportunity for Turkey to project its power in the region. Turkey's support for the Government of National Accord (GNA), which is the 'official' and UN-recognised government of Libya based in Tripoli, arises from its strategic interests in the East Mediterranean basin.

Ankara and Tripoli have signed memorandums of understanding on the delimitation of maritime boundaries in the Mediterranean and on security cooperation. On 2 January 2020, the Turkish parliament approved a one-year armed intervention in Libya. Turkey has to provide weapons, military training, and air power in support to the GNA against the forces of General Khalifa Haftar, who commands the Libyan National Army (LNA) and currently occupies the eastern and central areas of the country. The agreement gives Turkey a strong foothold in North Africa with the possibility of operating military bases from Libya. It also establishes maritime borders in Turkey's favour both in security and economic terms.

Supply chain disruptions in Mali and beyond

As a landlocked country, Mali is extremely dependent on economic trade via road and rail corridors with neighbouring countries in West Africa, including access to ports. The movement of vehicles in this conflict-affected country needs step-by-step recommendations and is dependent on the specific area of operation. In general, the threat of attacks in northern and central parts of Mali is higher than in the southern region. Security escorts for logistical convoys are especially suitable north of the line Kayes-Koulikoro-Sikasso.

The mining industry in Mali, as well as in other Sahel countries, faces threats of direct attacks and kidnappings. Risk management and mitigation becomes increasingly important for companies involved in the mining sector or in the provision of logistics. ‘Hardening’ the supply chain includes gathering knowledge and conducting comprehensive threat and risk assessments. This whitepaper provides an insight into the challenges of securing supply chains in Mali in the midst of conflict.

Shipping operations in the Persian Gulf

The attacks against tankers off Fujairah in May and in the Gulf of Oman in June had a direct impact on the threat to shipping operations in the Persian Gulf. More recently, a crude oil tanker reported harassment by Iranian boats, an apparent retaliation after a tanker carrying oil from Iran had been seized in Gibraltar.

This whitepaper examines the events leading up to these incidents and provides a short analysis of the current situation. Several scenarios outline the potential impact on shipping operations in the Persian Gulf over the coming months, highlighting the need for contingency plans and relevant mitigation measures. These are necessary for individual vessels, but also on the company level and should be based on a comprehensive security risk assessment, including the relevant threats, vulnerabilities and consequences.


Managing risks in global supply chains

“Disruptions to supply chains, whether they are natural, accidental or intentional, are increasingly distorting supply chain performance. Given that such disruptions are unlikely to decrease in the short term, risk management will play an increasingly significant role in global supply chains.”
- Prof. Dr. Omera Khan

The whitepaper, written in an easy-to-read, accessible style, explores the dangers posed to land-based cargo movement through theft, ‘false pickups’, terrorism, hijackings and other threats. Highlighting real-life instances of actual incidents, it interviews security experts and other authorities on supply chain risk in order to identify ways to mitigate and neutralise such threats.

Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea

Nigeria – and particularly the Niger Delta – has been the main concern for ships operating in West Africa in the past. This situation is very unlikely to change. However, the analysis of individual attacks or incidents that have been reported as suspicious has to take into account general patterns of life and other types of criminal activities, such as fuel smuggling or illegal fishing. It is otherwise impossible to determine accurate threat levels for specific areas.

Governments throughout West Africa are unlikely to prioritise maritime security issues, yet the topic has at least received an increasing amount of attention in recent years. Improving maritime security will nevertheless be a long-term challenge, involving both the public and the private sector. This whitepaper provides a brief look at current problems and potential solutions.

Securing the end-to end supply chain

Businesses’ perspective on supply chain risk has matured. Yes, ‘macro level’ risks such as currency exposure, supplier failure, commodity price volatility, and political instability still matter. But so too do a whole series of threats to logistics operations and processes—threats such as sea piracy, cargo theft, violent activism, terrorism, and transhipment through ports where organised crime is endemic.


Yet it’s not necessarily the direct costs of lost or damaged cargo resulting from these threats that keeps senior executives awake at night. The reputational costs, and the damage to businesses’ brands, can easily outweigh these many times over. The risks of physical harm being caused to staff during any incidents is another important motivation.


But in seeking to mitigate these threats, the dilemma faced by businesses is an awkward one. The threats are real, and so are the costs. Knowing how to protect their supply chains, though, is another matter. The problem: lack of information about where exactly the threats lie in the end to end supply chain—a supply chain that can stretch from faraway factories to ‘final mile’ deliveries to the end-consumer. On land, at sea, and in ports.


Talking to experts, and probing the lessons to be learned from real-life case studies, this Whitepaper explores the issues involved, and asks: how can businesses protect themselves?