MARAD Issues Advisory for Transiting Straits of Hormuz

Responding to the “explosive incident” experienced by the tanker M. STAR while transiting East in the Straits of Hormuz on the night of 27-28 July, the US Maritime Administration (MARAD) has issued Advisory 2010-08. The official press agency of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), citing a UAE Coast Guard source, had earlier reported that residue of “home-made explosives” had been found in a dent in the hull of the tanker, leading to the conclusion that the ship probably “had encountered a terrorist attack from a boat loaded with explosives.” An obscure group previously associated with al-Qaida has claimed one of its “martyrs” had conducted a suicide-boat attack.

Advisory 2010-08 recommends that all ships transiting the Straits “exercise increased vigilance and caution,” particularly at night “with increased monitoring of small vessel/boat activity.” US-flag vessels observing “suspicious activity” in the area should report “hostile or potentially hostile activity” to the USNAVCENT Battlewatch, as well as reporting “all suspicious activities and events” to the USCG National Response Center, as required by Maritime Transportation Security Act regulations. In addition, a Ship Hostile Action Report (SHAR) should be sent to the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency “as soon as possible” after the suspicious activity or incident, including “apparent surveillance” by small craft.

The Advisory further indicates that (US) vessels transiting the Straits have to comply with USCG Maritime Security Directive 104-6 (Rev. 3) by conducting a pre-voyage risk assessment and incorporating “appropriate protective measures” into their security plans. The Advisory does not, however, remind owner/operators of the regulatory requirement that VSP amendments be submitted to the USCG Marine Safety Center for approval.

The M. STAR incident is still under investigation. If the conclusion that it was an act of maritime terrorism holds up, this would apparently be the first suicide attack on a ship at sea since an October 22, 2008, attack off the Sri Lankan coast near Mullaittivu, North Eastern Province on October 22, 2008, presumably by members of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

TIP OF THE HAT: I learned of this Advisory from my good friend Dennis Bryant’s most excellent information resource, Bryant’s Maritime Blog.

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By Professional Mariner Staff