I held off writing a full post about this as I wanted to check it was OK to say some things. It’s not a big secret – so I can share some things with you. I alluded to it in this post, but will write in full here.
As you know, my ship sailed from Athens to Hong Kong via Singapore. In order to get there, you have to go through the Suez Canal and then out into the Red Sea, then into the Indian Ocean. The first ‘bit’, where you leave the Red Sea into the Indian Ocean is the most dangerous part…it’s because to the East is the Yemen, and the South West Somalia, both dangerous waters for pirates.
Luckily our ship had a ‘high freeboard’ (steep sides), which apparently makes it hard to board. We were also capable of travelling 25.5 knots, which is apparently very fast.
In order to save on fuel costs, most ships these days have been told to slow down so that they burn less. After Suez, we were cruising at a speed of 14 knots, sometimes less. This makes ships more vulnerable to an attack…hence the need for security (it is still cheaper to hire a security firm than burn copious amounts of fuel).
And so, on Tues 09JUL, a team of three security personnel joined our ship.
Two of Britain’s and one of South Africa’s ‘finest.’ Let’s call them ‘Huey, Dewey and Lewey’ (guys, if you’re reading this, don’t take offense).
They boarded the ship the way a pilot might, ie: from a motorboat that came alongside, just after we exited the Suez Canal into the Red Sea.
It felt a bit weird at first: the dynamics of the ship changed — there were these three guys on board who’ve been in, let’s face it, not your ‘every day’ situations. But they seemed to also have some sort of training into how to fit into all situations (or maybe they just naturally did), because within no time it felt like having three big brothers on board, three pretty fit big brothers ;0)
The first thing they did was to give us a mini lecture about why they were there (as I mentioned above). And essentially how to distinguish pirate skiffs (boats) to fishing boats. Don’t wanna make that mistake!
And every day life continued — except with their reassuring presence. Instead of just one person on watch on the Bridge, there were now three: the Duty Officer (Chief, 2nd & 3rd Mate by shift rotation every four hours), a lookout (one of the Deck crew) and one of the Security personnel – at all times.
They were with us for 10 days in total – we ‘dropped them off’ (not literally over the side) near Sri Lanka. We maneuvered the vessel near to land and another smaller boat pulled up alongside, allowing the guys to leave.
How did I feel? Well, if I thought about it, I got a bit freaked out: pirates might board our ship and take us hostage! But the reality was, these guys became just like any other member of crew, and were extra people to talk to. And they also liked the food Cook made (it really was excellent).
It felt a bit sad saying goodbye to them: when you’re in a concentrated environment, even for a relatively short time, you build a connection with people…I know I miss the crew of the ship.
Facts: By having security on board for those 10 days, and slowing down the ship, we saved USD$100,000.
And they were good company too – interesting guys (and not too bad to look at either. Have to be polite when I say that, they might be reading this! Hope they are).
I learned a lesson: don’t be too judgmental of people who’re in the armed forces…they’re not all gung ho.