West African STS warning given

Mar 06 2015

West African countries have started to take a keener interest in ship to ship (STS) transfer operations.

Those being scrutinised are usually taking place in national waters (12 mile zone) or in the countries Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ - 200 miles), warned leading insurance service provider Skuld.

The reasons for this involve a number of factors, including:

·         Concerns over smuggling and evasion of duties.

·         Security concerns with respect to piracy and other seaborne crime.

Skuld's correspondents in the Republic of Congo have advised that the local merchant marine authority must be given advance notification of any STS operation and provide approval, before it can go ahead. A fee of up to FCFA 5 mill (about €7,600) may be charged for this approval process.

A STS performed without an approval may result in significant fines and other legal action being taken.

Further information received indicated that the Angolan authorities also require advance clearance for an STS, which specifically means notifying the Angolan navy of any planned operation.

Information to be provided to the Angolan navy, includes -

·         Names and IMO numbers of involved vessels.

·         Likely date of the operation.

·         The location of the operation.

·         Identifying the name the cargo to be transferred and the quantity.

Upon completion of the operation, a statement of facts (SOF) should be submitted to the Angolan Navy.

A failure to comply with these requirements may lead to an arrest of the vessel, fines and/or other consequences.

The decision to agree to an STS, be it in advance of a voyage or on an ad hoc basis, should always follow a careful risk management analysis, Skuld said.

There are a number of physical STS issues that need to be addressed in order to ensure any such operation is done safely. Including a pre-STS assessment of the planned operation, as well as a careful monitoring throughout.

There is a continuing risk of piracy in certain areas along the West Coast of Africa. While most incidents appear to be in and around the Gulf of Guinea, there have been reports of incidents as far south as Angola.

Vessels that are stationary during a STS operation may be at particular risk, as they cannot seek to use navigation to fend off of an attack.

Furthermore there have been instances where a purported STS operation may have been a ruse to lure a vessel in to an ambush, Skuld warned.

Therefore it is advisable to seek to conduct operations in areas where protection can be afforded by authorised bodies of the local coastal state. It is important to note that it may not always be possible to have foreign security personnel on board a vessel, armed or unarmed.

**Skuld has also announced that the P&I club has added 10 mill gt following the mutual renewals, which were completed on 20th February.

Ståle Hansen, Skuld president and CEO, said: "The 2015 renewals demonstrate that we have a solid base of loyal members who not only renew their policies with Skuld but who also bring new tonnage into the club. On top of that, attracting new and high-quality members and welcoming some previous members back proves that Skuld is an attractive partner in the marine insurance market."

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