Shipping companies are hiring unarmed security guards for voyages through the Strait of Hormuz following a wave of attacks on oil tankers in the region, reports the Daily Star.
British maritime security company Ambrey typically has 600 guards on ships sailing through the Red Sea and Indian Ocean, who are primarily armed, the firm’s operations director Gavin Lock said.
In the past three weeks, however, an additional 80 to 120 unarmed advisers have been deployed on ships transiting through the Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz.
“It’s an assurance for the master as not all of the crews are tested as our MSOs [maritime security operators] have been in real-time operational situations,” Lock said.
“We have certainly seen Middle East-flagged ships come to us to provide teams of advisers,” he said, declining to provide further details.
This comes amid escalating tensions between Iran and the West, after a spate of attacks on tankers in May and June around the Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf of Oman, which the United States has blamed on Iran. Tehran denies involvement.
On Saturday, Iran seized a UK-flagged oil tanker in the Strait, claiming it had violated international maritime regulations.
The situation has led to a sharp spike in shipping costs and insurance premiums, but has not yet had a destabilizing effect on shipping in the region.
Shipping firms are either avoiding the area or keeping journeys to a minimum due in part to the risks, industry sources said.
Additional insurance premiums are up tenfold, adding as much as $100,000 in costs for a supertanker sailing on a seven-day trip, ship insurers added.
Shipping companies generally do not comment on their security arrangements onboard, but Maersk Tankers told the Daily Star it was taking precautions in line with industry guidance.
“Maersk Tankers is monitoring the situation closely and taking precautionary measures in line with flag state and industry guidance,” the Danish group said in a statement.