The Dangers of Shipping in Foreign Waters

The dangers of shipping in foreign waters are manifold. After you navigate all of the complicated legal matters involved in moving anything into another country across the ocean, you have to deal with many other factors, including natural cataclysms such as storms, which, in remote areas of the ocean, can cause problems that no rescuers can save your vessel from. You could lose your cargo or worse in some extreme nature-caused situations far in international waters. The dangers of shipping in foreign waters also include the risk of piracy. Over the last few years, piracy in certain areas of the world’s coasts—including Somalia, Indonesia, and elsewhere—has increased. These pirates are becoming increasingly desperate, as conditions in their homeland deteriorate. They are more motivated to steal cargo from large ships than ever before. These pirates are smart—they know that cargo ships and their crews are lightly armed if at all, and their goods are relatively easy prey.

Piracy became an internationally known danger due to the highly publicised piracy incident off the coast of Somalia a few years ago, and the critically acclaimed film dramatising the incident, “Captain Phillips” starring Tom Hanks. The film was fairly accurate in its depiction of some of the potential dangers of shipping in foreign waters. Despite the captain’s best and smartest efforts to evade his pursuers, the pirates were able to board the ship and take the captain hostage. Only international intervention by the US Navy was able to save the captain and retake the freighter. Piracy concerns are real. When the pirates boarded the ship, the crew and the cargo were essentially at their mercy. The pirates were heavily armed and the ship’s crew was unarmed. This imbalance of force is what is truly dangerous.

Large cargo ships and freighters are ungainly in the water. They won’t be able to outrun small skiffs usually used by pirates to board ships. They certainly won’t be able to outmaneuver the pirates for very long. In “Captain Philips”, we see the titular captain attempting to shake the skiffs off by using his ships immense wake, a real anti-piracy tactic, but it only repels one of the two attacking skiffs. Anti-piracy tactics are sometimes useful, but wholly not comprehensive or completely effective in fending off attacks. The best defense against determined pirates is to radio in the emergency, and wait for the cavalry.

Pirate attacks are random and difficult to see coming until it is too late. The famous incident off the Somali coast is an example. The US Navy already knew there was an increase in piracy in that particular area of the world, but it can’t constantly monitor every small vessel that is dispatched from the Somali coast. By the time the crew spotted bogies on radar, they were already too close to outrun. While many piracy procedures are in effect on all cargo ships, they are not always effective. These emergency measures may shake off some pirates, but if the wrong group is chasing a ship, there is not much the ship can do other than call for help.

There are some strategies that ships can take to avoid such risky situations. Usually, professional ship brokers can help mitigate some of the dangers of shipping in foreign waters. Shipping in certain areas of the world can be dangerous. If your cargo is passing through some of these areas, make sure to inquire about piracy mitigation from your ship broker. Contact Wake Marine, the best freight ship brokers in the UK, to see how their representatives can help you and ensure that your cargo is safe.