Alexandria, VA: With the Suez Canal suddenly very much in focus Maritime CEO has got in touch with the head of an American security firm that has been among the quickest to respond to the escalation in violence along the key trade artery following the RPG attack on the Cosco Asia containership nine days ago.
“I’ll be honest,” says Kevin Doherty, president of Nexus Consulting, “I hoped the attack in the canal and events unfolding around the canal weren’t as bad as they are.”
As we are talking, the Ministry of Interior in Egypt is being bombed.
“The world isn’t getting any safer,” says Doherty, “and finite commodities are becoming more coveted. That’s a dangerous mix.”
Nexus had a team on a ship that was approximately 48 hours behind the Cosco Asia going through the Suez.
“The good news is they reported nothing unusual with a larger military presence,” Doherty says.
Nexus has advised all ships transiting the canal to minimise shoreside interactions and to ensure the canal pilot team and riding gang are confirmed and identified prior to boarding. The security firm also strongly recommends that pilot ladders be utilized only on the western side of the vessel (northbound rig on port side, southbound rig on starboard side). Crew are advised to stay off deck unless necessary, use ballistic film for windows if available and wear protective clothing when on bridgewings.
Doherty is the the son of a master mariner, brother of a 2nd engineer who is currently working on US ships that transit the world, including Suez and Gulf of Aden. He was granted his US Coast Guard “Z-card” in 1989 (what now has become a mariner’s book), but decided to become a US Marine instead of a mariner. He trained as an infantryman and was groomed into nuclear security. Doherty got a degree in psychology and went on to be a Special Agent with the US government focusing on nuclear non-proliferation. He started Nexus in 2005 as a contractor working in Iraq protecting the US ambassador there and in 2007 saw the piracy problem in Somalia growing faster than the mariners could mitigate.
“We put our first armed security team on a ship in 2009, right after the Maersk Alabama and have secured over 200 ships on over 600 transits since,” he recounts.
There’s a lot of security firms touting there business to shipowners all of a sudden, but Doherty is adamant his company is different.
“Nexus isn’t just a security firm working in the maritime domain, we are a maritime-security firm,” he stresses. Senior staff have served as masters on tankers, roros and even as a safety officer for the cruise lines. Employees have testified as subject matter experts on US congressional panels from issues of safety on the Costa Concordia to security on the Maersk Alabama and even as auditors for one of the largest tonnage flag states in the world.
“We know what an Inert Gas System is,” he says, “and why it is paramount to preserve on a tanker. We know that HAZMAT containers need to be loaded as far away from the smoke stack as possible. We know putting security sandbags on a ship over the liferaft isn’t a good idea.”
The industry is moving quickly into certified standardization, which Doherty welcomes. “But,” he warns, “just as mariners’ documents have been found to be fraudulent, so too are some security firms.”