News 10 Dec, 2018

Venezuela - Security Problems at Jose Terminal and Anchorages

The Club has noted, from our recent claims experience, and incidents reported within the industry and by the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre, an increase in security related incidents being experienced by vessels visiting Jose Terminal, and anchoring to the North and North East of the Terminal during 2018.

In one case, a bulk carrier at anchor waiting to load petcoke was boarded by four personnel who appeared to be wearing “National Guard” uniforms, carrying handguns. All of the crew were ordered to assemble in the messroom with their money and valuables, which were subsequently taken from the vessel by the armed personnel. The value of the money, mobile phones and laptop computers taken amounted to tens of thousands of dollars.

Another case involving a vessel visiting the terminal had two government personnel coming on board the vessel and “finding” a small plastic bag containing white powder during an inspection. The powder was subsequently tested in front of the Master and the colour change evident in the chemical test solution apparently revealed the powder to be cocaine. The inspectors then attempted to reach a cash settlement with the Master to make the problem go away. This was resisted, and the inspectors eventually left the vessel with only their plastic bag allegedly containing drugs.

The International Maritime Bureau Piracy & Armed Robbery Map for 2018 to date reveals three attempted vessel boardings, and six actual boardings of bulk carriers and product tankers anchored in the vicinity of the terminal.  Mostly the robbers were armed with knives, although on one occasion guns were reportedly sighted. Not all of the actual boardings were successful, with the robbers often making a prompt escape when realising the crew were aware of their presence. In one case, however, an Able Seaman was threatened with a knife and tied to a railing on the forecastle before his shipmates were able to free him.

When visiting berths at Jose Terminal, vessels should be alert to the possibility of improper conduct on the part of alleged government officials. In all instances where uniformed or other official personnel board a vessel, their identification documents should be closely checked, and their details carefully recorded, needless to say if they are unwilling to acquiesce to this request, their intentions onboard are extremely questionable. When any inspections are undertaken by government personnel, each inspector should be accompanied by an officer so that their actions whilst onboard can be closely followed.

Due to the robbery risk at the anchorages, crew members should always remain vigilant. Reports highlight that the anchor chain and the poop deck are favoured means of boarding for robbers in this area. The following points should be considered and implemented where practicable to enable early detection of those who may wish to try and come onboard, and to try and prevent any such boarding attempts:

  • Maintain a good visual and radar watch for approaching small craft.
  • Consider supplying the vessel with a pair of night vision binoculars.
  • Illuminate areas over the side, so far as possible.
  • If fitted, use searchlights to illuminate suspect craft, if not fitted, consider using the Aldis Lamp for this purpose.
  • Illuminate the main deck and all other possible points of access when at anchor, and so far as is safe and practicable when navigating in the area.
  • Keep pilot ladders and accommodation ladders stowed and secured at deck level when not in use.
  • Fit substantial hawse pipe covers when at anchor and consider continuously running the anchor wash.
  • So far as manning levels and compliance with STCW hours of rest regulations allow; have roving personnel on deck in contact with the bridge.
  • Securely lock all stores and accesses, whilst always allowing easy escape for personnel from inside working and living spaces.

Members requiring further guidance are advised to contact the Loss Prevention department.