Defending ships and crew from organised crime

05 February 2018

The Company Security Officers (CSO) of the maritime industry are faced with a mammoth task as they try to defend ports, ships and crews from global organised crime.

Collectively, CSOs are responsible for the security of 50,000 merchant marine assets and over 1.2 million crew, which are vulnerable to a wide range of crimes. In response to this challenge the CSO Alliance was formed to bring together CSOs and give them vital, real-time information, practical advice and updates from military and reporting bodies in the affected regions.

“The job of any CSO is hard. They have to be the eyes and ears of the company to find out what’s going on, conduct risk assessments for planned voyages, write the ship’s security plan and make sure the crew are security aware. It is an enormous responsibility and many CSOs receive little support or training in key areas,” says Mark Sutcliffe, Director of CSO Alliance.

The CSO Alliance gathers data from a wide range of credible sources, including military and regional reporting bodies, intelligence providers, sources within various regional governments and it also collects data from its members. Covering a wide range of criminal activity from piracy to terrorism; militant activity to stowaway attempts; opportunistic cargo crime to vessel theft; drug-related incidents to cyber crime.

It logs all this criminal activity, wherever it happens in the world, so it can share the information on its growing database through online and verified maritime and cyber crime reports.

The CSO Alliance says it aims to save CSOs time, their companies' money, ensure better mutual assessment of risk and raise the stakes in the fight against organised crime.

It says its ambition is: “That all CSOs, wherever they live and however large their fleet, will ensure their captains and crew are all fully briefed on the risks they face, in order to maintain their security and that of their vessels and cargoes wherever they sail.”

Unreported Crime

However, the CSO Alliance faces obstacles in achieving this ambition, not least the fact that 30% of maritime crime remains unreported, according to the International Maritime Bureau.

Sutcliffe says: “If we can bring together all the CSOs in the world into one community, using modern technology, we can strengthen their role by giving them new ideas and information which they can share with their CSO peers. It would also enable us to ensure we are fighting a true enemy. Get people to confirm crimes because one of the biggest problems we’ve got is that people simply don’t report crime.”

He continues: “The shipping community is worried about fines, delays, increased insurance and how to assess the risks. We’re worried about intimidation. What really worries people is loss of reputation.”

The CSO Alliance has responded to these concerns by keeping the identity of the companies reporting incidents to it completely anonymous if requested, hence the investment in a pilot for an industry-supported incident and cyber crime reporting portal whose servers are in Iceland in partnership with Airbus.

Communication is key

However, the CSO Alliance says communication is fundamental and believes that, through talking to each other, providing information and discussing issues they encounter, its members can help each other.

The CSO Alliance’s platform has a number of ways for members to communicate, each tailored to meet the needs of different aspects of their role. These include CSO Chatter, a variety of special interest groups, a webinar facility and meeting in over 25 workshops they have run throughout the world.

Sutcliffe concludes: “The genesis of CSO Alliance was to connect companies and confirm crime. We can really focus on issues that CSOs care about. We listen carefully to all CSOs need and using the latest technology help them to collaborate globally and so deliver security through community".

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For further information please contact Sean Woollerson, Senior Partner on +44 20 7558 3864 or email