A View from the Dockside : The KRAKEN wakes
The average person, on hearing the words “maritime security“ will automatically think of the blue waters of the Indian ocean, of the still too frequently romanticised pirate, swarming over the side, cutlass in teeth, looking for doubloons.
Nowadays, this vision has been blurred for the more discerning, not least by the detention of six British personnel guarding ships transiting the Gulf, who were arrested on arms charges in India. Their release is welcome, though the problem of armament remains.
For those looking, however, at the almost invisible aspects of Dockside security, peering into the dirty muddy brown and often smelly waters from the harbour wall, there has often been, along with the smell, a feeling of being the “ Cinderella “ side of maritime security. Unlike our colleagues in Aviation, who have been feted as professionals, top level personnel for whom the SIA Blue badge is not a qualification, merely an invitation to be considered for training and advancement, Dock security personnel have often been considered as awfully basic.
We have all heard or even seen first hand, occasions when absenteeism has been increased as the local shopping centre held interviews for security personnel, as staff slopped off or took a “ sicky “ to apply for the higher paid jobs in the Retail sector. That a dock or harbour, regarded, rather glibly, as “ Critical National Infrastructure “ by Government, can be guarded on the national minimum wage is, itself, surely, a cause for concern. It could be wondered, really, how much initiative and conscientious duty can be performed against such a low standard. Ironically, many of those tasked with this duty perform it well, but for what reward, other than self satisfaction, is unknown.
How did we get to this pass? Initially, the whole purpose of having Docks with walls and gates, rather than just unloading on a quayside open to all, was precisely to control the rampant theft of goods inwards to the Country. In the early 1790s, when there was piracy in the river Thames within sight of the Tower of London, part of Parliament’s answer to the million Pound plus annual theft bill was the guarding of the Docks. This formed part of the marine police establishment, and , whilst everybody has seen or heard of the Thames police, since 1839 part of London’s Metropolitan Police, the subsequent Dock Forces are, rapidly, passing into history. Cost, of course, demolished them and , latest word on the street, as they say, will do so for some of the few remaining soon.
Cost cutting is fair enough providing replacements are efficient. However, as, sadly, with so much cost cutting, it doesn’t quite work out like that. Hence the need to slip off to get a higher paid job. Some of the blame, of course, has to be put onto Port Operators, who have resisted any specialist training for dock security personnel. Some onto some security Companies who have eschewed such training as costly, unnecessary (in that the Operator does not require it) and some, of course, needs to be borne by Government’s failure to insist. Whilst on a standards working party, the writer was able to contrast the official views of Government on Dock security with those of the CAA, backed by the powerful MONTREAL convention and International Air security standards . There was and is no comparison. Whilst it is easy to accept that Aircraft pose an immediate, serious, target, they can be hijacked, blown up, or even, taken over and crashed into buildings, things that really make heavy and heavy calibre security very necessary, it has to be argued that the potential for life disrupting threats exist in the Maritime World. This has not, always, seemed to occur to anybody. The equivalent to the ICAO and the MONTREAL convention is ISPS and the UN’s International Maritime Organisation (IMO). For the IMO ,there has not been the emphasis on security that their Aviation colleagues in ICAO have. The safety of lives at sea, the worries about buoyage, pilotage and navigation marks, matters, frankly, very germane to the daily lives of seafarers, obviously have taken precedence until comparatively recently. Also, obviously, life saving (SOLAS) and inter Governmental co operation in that field. The IMO is based in London, and in all the above fields, the UK punches exceptionally above it’s weight. Of course, with the insurance market, the salvage Association, Lloyds Register, the Hydrographic Office,the International Lifeboat organisation headquartered at the RNLI in Poole, and our history o
Coastguard and Trinity House navigation and pilotage, the IMO fires on many cylinders at top speed.
It is now time, therefore, to start to punch at least to our weight in the Port security world. Our tradition of walled Docks is no less relevant than Trinity House’s tradition of navigation marks. Our history of Dock patrolling is no less longstanding than our lifeboats or our navigation Charts. We should be World leading. The writer was amused, on the Indian subcontinent, to note that a port Authority still relied on security systems first imported in the mid 19th century from Sunderland and the river Wear, whilst, of course, in Sunderland itself, long gone. In fairness, so has most of the Port of Sunderland, but not replicated in newer ports.
European standards have been strengthened, and the European security body CoESS, recently did much good work on that. However, as with everything European, the exact status of all that is very much up in the air. In theory, with continuous professional development, which should be the norm in all security functions, especially Management, a “Marinisation" programs to ensure that staff understand how Ports work, which might be thought to be pretty much a Health and Safety requirement anyway, (although the UK has removed Ports from the HSE list of most dangerous places to work, itself an inexplicable decision) most observers should find the European ideas hardly revolutionary and really sensibly based. However, as with any idea involving training and expense, there are bound to be detractors. It would be good if individual Companies were to embrace the ideas, to try to gain competitive edge over others when tendering or renewing contracts.
Are there reasons to be cheerful? Well yes, as with Ian Dury, of memory to those of us old enough, three.
Firstly, we are blessed with Project KRAKEN and, to a lesser extent, Project YALI. KRAKEN was basically set up to cover the Coastline, it has varied from area to area, depending, to an extent, on each Police Force’s commitment to it. When ACPO, the Association of Chief Police Officers, existed , their lead officer on maritime and port crime was keen to spread it, but, of course, each Force’s priorities varied. There was, at Christmas 2015, for instance, the delightful story of an old lady on the Coast who, unaware of KRAKEN, still felt something was “ not right “ about cars flashing their headlights at small boats and the boats landing on deserted coastal beaches. So, she dialled 999 for her local Police, and was told this was not an emergency, and to redial 101. After doing so, and waiting 40 minutes to get through, she realised it was past her bedtime, her Cocoa was getting cold ( she should have put some Baileys in it, it doesn’t keep it hot, but, frankly, you get past caring !) and none of the people she had seen was still there. Cars had gone, boats had gone, people had gone. As a result of this IPSA started issuing cards , which was at it’s own cost, to people in the Coastal areas. These had the telephone numbers, not only to telephone 101 and say that Project KRAKEN applied, presumably if they could get through (the Chief Constable concerned in this incident promises people will in future, as a result of MPs and Councillors, and more importantly, Journalists, taking an interest) but IPSA cards also gave the number of the Customs hotline, the Transport Police and the Anti Terrorist hotline. Experience has taught that , in the event of the local police not sounding too keen, that a call to the Customs hotline causes ripples. The Transport Police, also, have always taken an interest in groups of people waiting at remote Railway Stations in the early morning for trains , near the Coast. This has happened and, on their arrival at Main Stations, these groups have been found to be illegal immigrants. Because, it has been found, the activities giving rise to the alert can be anything, from people dumping rubbish to Drug smuggling.
It is therefore a pleasure to report that the project has been taken over by the National Crime Agency, helped by Border Force’s maritime command, which is being well run, and endorsed by the National Police Chief’s Council. We hope this is the portent for greater vigilance , more “ joined up “ thinking, and a boon to those Security personnel who have already been alert when near water, and in Ports. Several good tips have been received from security sources, in one case leading to a money laundering claim and cash being ordered to be forfeit to the Crown by a Court.
Whilst Project YALI has not spread, having been set up as local initiative by Humberside and subsequently Essex Police Forces, that continues to gather intelligence where it is in existence, from those using Ports like lorry drivers, dock workers and, increasingly, by security personnel. However, absent a YALI operation, KRAKEN is now so catch all that information from any Port , from Southampton down to the smallest Fishing harbour, can be put into the system.
Secondly, the ISPS code is now biting. The first successful prosecution of a person interfering with Dock security equipment has taken place. Whilst the Judge only imposed a community punishment, he did so on the basis that the interference was ill tempered, not with any intent to disrupt security for nefarious purposes, theft or similar. A lorry driver, no doubt after a long day and recently arrived, pushed a CCTV camera off it’s projected angle. The Crown Prosecution Service actually had no template or precedent for the case, but they have now and all security personnel operating in Docks must be grateful to hear it. The ISPS code sets up a system, supplemented by each Country’s Government, of Port Facility Security Officers, known as PFSOs. They have responsibility, can delegate to both “ in house “ and contracted staff, and some Companies have now trained PFSOs to the necessary standard. Ironically, IPSA has trained more PFSOs for overseas than for the UK, evidencing the World’s perception of the UK as the cutting edge of security services, including our historical role in Maritime matters. It would be nice if continuous development or refresher training was made compulsory, for PFSOs, too, but it has to be accepted that that decision would require the Government to move on it. It may then spread, Country by Country, and it would be good if the UK was to lead on this. The IMO has always made clear that it moves at the speed of the “ slowest swimmer “ but it is to be sincerely hoped that, once Countries do start to impose CPD or refresher training on PFSOs, this will become the norm.
The third piece of good news is that, as a not for profit organisation, and now in the course of setting up on line learning, we, in the IPSA, with our own in house Ports team headed by a PFSO, are able to deliver training to assist Port security providers. Also, to assess Ports for anyone who wishes to tender, or just have a review of existing measures. Everyone, really, is conscious that security remains a “ grudge purchase “ unless and until security scares and breeches become too common. There is a level at which losses become too great, threats too serious to ignore. At that, or before that, point, a good security Manager may find that, to capture the attention of those holding the purse strings, a quick survey and assessment may help. (To IPSA members, of course, even cheaper)
It may sound obscure, but it is self preservation, really. The next gun smuggled in may be the one brandished at security personnel in a Robbery, the next terrorist outrage may be fuelled by explosives smuggled in, the next fix of drugs may be any of our relatives’ problem.