Maritime security in the Strait of Hormuz and Sea of Oman
Updated 2 August 2019
In response to the maritime incident that took place in the Strait of Hormuz on 19 July 2019, all vessels are advised to operate with a heightened level of security in the Gulf of Oman/Strait of Hormuz/Persian Gulf region.
22 JUL 2019
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Recent attacks against commercial ships near the Strait of Hormuz, off Fujairah port and in the Sea of Oman have raised maritime security concerns and identified increased security risk to all ships operating in these areas.
- On 19 July 2019, a UK flagged tanker was seized by Iran in the Strait of Hormuz.
- On 13 June 2019, two tankers, flagged by the Marshall Island and Panama were attacked while in the Sea of Oman near the Strait of Hormuz and suffered hull damage and fire, see our alert “Incident in the Gulf of Oman”.
- On 12 May 2019, four tankers, flagged by Saudi Arabia, Norway and the United Arab Emirates, were attacked off the coast near Fujairah and suffered sabotage, see our alert “Maritime security update on Fujairah incident”.
General security recommendations
We advise ship operators and their masters to exercise extreme caution when operating in the Gulf of Oman/Strait of Hormuz/Persian Gulf region and follow the relevant guidance provided by BMP5 and the Global Counter Piracy Guidance, including:
- register with the UKMTO when entering the Indian Ocean Voluntary Reporting Area (VRA), see below for detailed guidance concerning reporting;
- undertake a new ship and voyage specific threat risk assessment before entering any region where there has been an incident, or the threat level has changed, and review the Ship’s Security Plan;
- consider issues such as safe speed, day/night transits, navigating with unmanned machinery space, etc. when undertaking the risk assessment;
- conduct security and damage control training/exercises prior to entering areas of increased risk;
- stay in close contact with ship’s agent and other local sources to obtain the most up to date and reliable information available at any given time; and
- otherwise comply with guidance provided by their Flag Administrations.
Many Flag Administrations require a heightened security level for the Gulf of Oman/Strait of Hormuz/Persian Gulf region, meaning that ships must implement additional protective measures in accordance with the formal Ship Security Plan (SSP). While the Norwegian Maritime Authorities on 20 July 2019 reaffirmed their previous instruction for Norwegian flagged ships arriving Strait of Hormuz within the boundaries of N25.257° - N28° and E054° - E058° to implement security measures as described in their SSP according to ISPS security level 2, the security level for British flagged ships have now been increased to level 3 in the Strait of Hormuz. In a letter to the United Nations Security Council dated 20 July 2019, the UK Department for Transport also states that it requests British flagged ships to avoid the Strait of Hormuz for an interim period until further notice. Other Flag Administration may advice differently.
The United States is developing a multinational effort, Operation Sentinel, to increase surveillance of and security in key waterways in the Gulf of Oman/Strait of Hormuz/Persian Gulf region. To ensure the safety of all vessels and allow navies to afford best protection of global trade, BIMCO, ICS, INTERTANKO and OCIMF have issued the following reporting guidance for ships transiting the Gulf of Oman/Strait of Hormuz/Persian Gulf region, stating that it is vital, that:
- Masters register with UKMTO when entering the Indian Ocean VRA to allow UKMTO to share information with the navies joining Operation Sentinel.
- 24-48 hrs in advance - Masters provide transit plans for the Strait of Hormuz and Persian Gulf to UKMTO including:
- Time of Entering/Exiting the Strait of Hormuz Traffic Separation Scheme.
- Outline of Navigation Plan whilst operating in the Strait of Hormuz and Persian Gulf
- Any constraints or speed restrictions.
- Crew Nationality.
- Chief Safety Officers (CSO) ensure all contact numbers for UKMTO and USNAVCENT NCAGS are correct.
- In the event of any incident or being concerned, Masters should call UKMTO immediately.
- Masters answer all VHF calls from coalition navies. Ch16 is becoming very busy, alternative channels will be offered.
- CSOs and Masters prepare, print and have available the correct response if called on VHF.
Useful contact details:
United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, UKMTO
Tel: +44 2392 222060
US Naval Cooperation and Guidance for Shipping, USNAVCENT NCAGS
24/7 Watch: +973-1785-0084
It is further recommended that the above guidance is posted on the bridge for ease of access to watch officers and covered in watch hand overs.
Navigational safety advice
Generally, ships are advised to continue to comply with the applicable navigational norms in the Strait of Hormuz, in particular Rule 10 of COLREG regarding Traffic Separation Schemes. According to a statement by OCIMF, ICS, BIMCO INTERCARGO and INTERTANKO published on 3 July 2019, the use of the inshore traffic zone for navigation should only be undertaken by those vessels calling at ports within the inshore area. The reason for this is that the risk of collision would dramatically increase if all vessels both inbound and outbound used the inshore traffic zone. However, the press release emphasizes that an inshore traffic zone may be used to avoid immediate danger, but the word “immediate” in this respect must be noted.
Members and clients should also note the additional risk mitigating measures provided in the statement:
- Maintain a full and vigilant bridge watch.
- Place additional lookouts to the navigation team and bridge wings with a specific remit to maintain visual watch for small craft approaching.
- Ensure the lookouts are briefed on maintaining a clear watch astern and over the side.
- Use night vision binoculars and consider carrying additional binoculars onboard.
- Maintain a strict communications watch and establish communication with all vessels coming close.
- Strictly observe any exclusion zones or guidance issued by coastal states.
- Ensure ISPS security levels are strictly followed.
- Consider the use of extra unarmed lookout to be carried in addition to any contracted security for HRA transits (note the northern part of the Gulf of Oman is not part of the industry designated High Risk Area for piracy).
- Ensure watertight integrity underway or at anchorage.
- Ensure watch officers save Voyage Data Recorder (VDR / SVDR) data in the event of an attack or suspicious event.
- If during transit, a threat from mines is announced, move all crew to above the waterline.
- Rig outboard lighting where possible provided they do not interfere with keeping a safe lookout, particularly over the stern and rig/use searchlights if available.
- Conduct visual checks of the hull.
- Monitor relevant VHF and other communication channels.
- Check that all fire-fighting equipment is available for immediate use. Make sure the emergency fire pump is available if any maintenance is being undertaken.
- Keep the Automatic Information System (AIS) on. There is no need to complete the field stating the last or next port of call.
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