GMI PhD student provides data for new report about state of maritime piracy

Oceans Beyond Piracy (OBP), a project of One Earth Future Foundation, has launched the fourth installment of its annual reports detailing the economic and human costs of African maritime piracy. The study titled ‘The State of Maritime Piracy 2013’ examines the costs incurred as a result of piracy off the coast of Somalia as well as in the Gulf of Guinea.

GMI student Dirk Siebels has provided unique insights about the private maritime security industry for the report. For his PhD research about maritime security issues in East and West Africa, he is working in close cooperation with the Security Association for the Maritime Industry (SAMI) and large flag states, collecting data about armed security teams on merchant vessels.

The new OBP report finds that attacks by Somali pirates are increasingly rare an that, at between $3 billion to $3.3 billion, the overall economic costs of Somali piracy are down almost 50 percent from 2012. Regarding Africa’s west coast, this report is the first comprehensive attempt by any organisation to quantify the total economic cost of maritime piracy in that region. Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea remained a significant danger in 2013, says the report, with levels perpetuated by a lack of open reporting and a lack of coordinated effort among stakeholders.

At $1 billion to $1.2 billion, the costs for security equipment and armed guards are significantly lower than in 2012 but are now the largest chunk. Moreover, they are a significant burden on the shipping industry. While there have been a lot of efforts towards regulation and certification for private maritime security companies, it is still a very young industry and only very few reliable figures are available.

‘The statistical data I have gathered together with SAMI and other sources is an invaluable contribution to ongoing discussions about private security at sea,’ says Dirk Siebels. Over the past couple of months, he has presented his research findings at various conferences and registered a lot of interest, both from the commercial sector and from government organisation.

The new OBP report ‘The State of Maritime Piracy 2013’ can be found here:


To find out more about Dirk’s research, you can contact him at

Fifty shades of … goods by sea!

Yet another advantage of studying at GMI is that we have two great ports within an hour’s drive of Greenwich. The further is the new London Gateway port, the largest container port in the UK, some 33 km downriver from Greenwich. The nearer, about 25 km downriver and forty minutes away across the Thames via the Blackwall or Dartford tunnels, is the historic port of Tilbury. Tilbury is still the third largest container port in the country but handles many other commodities, and is in many ways more interesting. London Gateway has only recently opened and getting a visit there is still difficult. But Tilbury is more varied, fascinating and a real eye-opener. On Friday 16 May, a beautiful clear sunny day, eleven staff and students headed for the port.


GMI Field Visit to Port of Tilbury, 16 May 2014.   GMI students and staff : from left to right: Michael Olanipekun, Nigeria, MSc Maritime Security; Ian Robertson, UK, MA Maritime History; Pengfei Zhang, China, PhD candidate; Prof Chris Bellamy, UK, GMI Director; Gina Balta, Greece, PhD candidate; John Whiteley , UK, Business Faculty and GMI Visiting Lecturer; Eniola Ogundele, Nigeria, MA International Maritime Policy; Leo Balk, USA, MSc Maritime Security; Akash Raj, India, MSc Maritime Security; Ahmed Mohamed, Somalia, MA International Maritime Policy. Behind: standard shipping containers – the Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit (TEU)- what else?.

John Whiteley from the Business School, who teaches the Maritime Business Environment and Economics of International Shipping on our International Maritime Policy and Maritime Security programmes, organised the trip, re-establishing a link with Tilbury which had somehow become broken. Thanks to John and to Natalie Coonz, the Port of Tilbury training coordinator, the link has been re-established and GMI hopes to organise another visit, probably in the first term of the new academic year.

The objective of the visit was to see how a multi-faceted port handling diverse types of cargo operates and, in particular, to look at the implications of implementing the 2004 International Ship and Port facility Security (ISPS) Code.



Breaking down the large container loads at the port and having customers pick up smaller items from a distribution area at the port reduces distribution costs and saves fuel. Simon proudly said that Greenwich had been named the ‘greenest’ port in the UK. Chris Bellamy told him that was appropriate as Greenwich – the ‘greenest’ University in the UK!

An example of the savings made possible by port-centric logistics came from the Italian beer manufacturer Peroni. Peroni had traditionally brought their beers into Felixstowe. From there it was transported to a distribution centre in the Midlands. But the biggest market for trendy Peroni beer is – where? Answer – north London. So the beer was coming into Felixstowe, being unloaded en masse, transported to the Midlands and then the largest consignment headed for London. Peroni therefore shifted their operation to Tilbury, where the green bottles arrive quite close to their final destination – the bars of Islington, Hampstead and Highgate!

Simon was followed by the Port Facility Security Officer and Port Security Officer, Tony Catling. Tony had served as an officer in the Port of Tilbury London Police, which is an independent police force, one of 42 in England and Wales. It is also the second oldest true police force in the country. The first was the Marine Police, founded in 1798, which is now part of the Metropolitan Police into which it was incorporated in 1839. The Port of Tilbury London Police was founded in 1802, and remains an independent force with 15 officers. They have the same powers as regular constabulary, and a few more besides, and carry similar equipment.


Tony had been appointed to his present post immediately before implementation of aftermath of the introduction of the 2004 code, in order to help the Port adapt. The costs of implementing ISPS were considerable: an extra 30 port security officers (in addition to the Port police) from the outset and £4m-£5m per year, he said. This information chimed with Akash Raj’s research on the implementation of ISPS in India, where cost had been cited as a key problem. The port normally operates at State 1, where the whole site is broadly open to the public and only certain areas are secure. State 2 – heightened security alert – is the problem. Areas which are normally open for the traffic of goods have to be sealed off and extra port security officers brought in. State 3 – imminent attack on that particular location – is less of a problem. In that event, the port simply shuts down.

The standard of security Tilbury is well above the norm. Every container that comes in is scanned. The global norm is one percent. The security officers cannot open sealed containers but, if they are suspicious, the Port Police can. Similar rules affect people who enter restricted areas. A security officer can warn them not to, but if they do, only the police can drag them out. Tony noted that there are wide variations in the implementation of ISPS. In British ports, all restricted areas are sealed off with fencing to the required standard – BS 1722. Some countries just paint yellow lines with warning signs.

The team then headed for the Enterprise Distribution Centre (EDC) which specialises in handling paper from Storenzo, a Finnish company. The EDC is the most advanced and sophisticated computer controlled storage and distribution facility in the UK, and possibly in the world. Storenzo’s paper is used by News International for newspapers and by many book publishers. Appropriately dressed in high-visibility jackets and new dark blue ‘bump-hats’, which resembled those now worn by competitors in equestrian events, we salled into the vast computer-controlled facility, 30 metres high, and containing 29,000 huge rolls of different types of paper, weighing about a tonne each. When the rolls need to be loaded, the request is passed automatically through to the giant robot arms which select the paper from one of the 29,000 locations – which may be up to 30 metres in the air. James Smoker, the Operational Supervisor for the Enterprise Centre, said that the paper was imported and stored for News International and Inland Revenue and Customs, for tax returns, among others.

‘When 50 Shades of Grey won a prize’, James said, ‘we had twelve trucks a day – 52 reels each. We had the same when Harry Potter went big…’


The team then took a tour of the rest of the port. As the team toured the port, our guide pointed out the ship Radio Caroline, one of the pirate radio stations active just off the British coast in the early 1960s. The ship is no longer seaworthy but she is in safe keeping in Tilbury. In those days the BBC, funded through the licence fee, had a state monopoly on radio transmission. However, – before UNCLOS in 1982 – territorial waters still only stretched three miles – the range of an old cannon. A ship outside that distance was on the high seas, and could broadcast with impunity and be picked up across the UK. Radio Caroline had worked just off the Essex Coast. The pirate radio stations provided such stiff competition for the BBC that the Government had to give way. Many of the Disc Jockeys who had braved the elements and stormy seas on board the pirate radio ships were recruited by the BBC and joined the new Radio 1. This was useful information for the Maritime Policy and Security students, underlining the significance of territorial waters and EEZs.

Another specialised terminal is the grain terminal, shown below. Grain is brought in by sea, stored, and then distributed through pipes into trucks waiting at ground level.


This is another specialised facility, underlining the ‘port-centric’ concept.

The variety of goods flowing into and out of Tilbury is highlighted by the last photographs. The next two show standard TEUs, which can contain anything.


The last picture shows raw steel. Whether for import or export is unclear, as is its ultimate destination. Clearly a recycled product, and one of the products fuelling globalisation, especially the development of the burgeoning economies of China and India.


The team left at about 3 p.m. It was a relatively short but hugely important day, highlighting many aspects we had studied in the classroom: ISPS, Law of the Sea and territorial waters, and port-centric logistics, as well as underlining the enormous volume and variety of goods carried by sea. GMI will return!


Chris Bellamy

Director, Greenwich Maritime Institute

A Visit to Royal Navy HMS Tyne

HMS Tyne came to Canary Wharf for Remembrance Sunday. The Royal Navy vessel was docked on Tuesday, 5th November in the run up to Remembrance Day. On the 8th November, It was a unique opportunity for the GMI Maritime Security students to explore the vessel and to give you a glimpse of a Royal duty in UK waters. The HMS Tyne is a River-class patrol vessel, which was built in 2002 and was commissioned into the Royal Navy in 2003. Thousands of people took advantage of the unique opportunity to step on-board one of the most versatile and modern warships in the Royal Navy.

Akash Image 1

It arrived in Canary Wharf at around 3pm, navigating West India Dock – with around four metres to spare each side while battling the Thames currents – to berth at Wood Wharf. Lieutenant Commander Robert Laverty, HMS Tyne’s Commanding Officer. “It is always a privilege to visit London but it’s a particular honour to be able to play a full part in London Poppy Day and the Remembrance Day Services, giving my crew a chance to help raise money for this important cause, while remembering the ultimate price paid by many of our fellow servicemen and women.”

Akash Image 2

The bridge is the main control console of the vessel, which can maintain navigation with just two people on the watch-keeping. The 79.9 meters long vessel with a displacement of 1677 tonnes can attain a maximum speed of 20 knots, with a range of 5000+ nautical miles (3 ½ times round the UK Mainland by sea). The 10-year-old ship, one of the busiest in Royal Navy fleet operating on average nine out of every 10 days, has a crew of 45 on the books with around 30 on-board at one time.

Akash Image 3

The weapon engineering department provides commands with the weapons, communication equipment and sensors that enable the ship to fulfil its operational tasks. HMS Tyne has been installed with a 20mm Gambo Gun, which is a fast reaction, high velocity and high rate of fire weapon, which does not require any external power supplies. It can fire up to 900 rounds per minute with a range of 1100 yards in an anti-aircraft role and 1300 yards in surface mode.

Akash Image 4

The 5.56 mm SA80A2 rifle is the British Armed Forces standard personal weapon, having an effective range of between 300m and 600m firing and a rate of fire of 700 to 800 rounds per minute. It can be fired in single or automatic modes and is used to protect the ship against close range threats.

Akash Image 5

Two 7.62mm General Purpose Machine Guns (GPMG) are mounted on each bridge Wing, these are gas and spring operated weapons which can be used as a personal weapons or as a part of ship’s fixed armament . These can also fire 900 rounds per minute with a range of over 900 yards.

Akash Image 6

Whilst on-board, the Maritime Security students from GMI and other visitors were able to tour the vessel, looking at the bridge, fire-fighting equipment and weaponry whilst learning about her capabilities and the important role that the RN performs at sea every day.

Akash Image 7

The ship, which is one of three patrolling estuaries around Britain, does not support the landing of an aircraft, instead does have space for winching from helicopters on deck and is regularly used for training. Many life rafts are installed on board the vessel, each one may able to keep afloat 50 people in case of any emergency situation arises, for instance abandon ship. The river-class offshore patrol ship HMS Tyne was built in Southampton to safeguard fishing stocks in the UK and her main role is to enforce national and EU fisheries legislation. She also operates in areas of environmental protection, search and rescue and maritime security.
This was my first visit to a patrolling vessel of Royal Navy in UK and I was mesmerised by the weapon engineering on-board the vessel and its active role towards the marine environment protection.

Akash Raj
MSc Maritime Security Student
Greenwich Maritime Institute

Veteran Scottish steamer recces vast new London Gateway port and deftly dodges 1.5 kilotons of High Explosive

On Sunday 29 September some of GMI’s staff and alumni  took the opportunity to explore the River Thames from the City to Southend and the mouth of the River Medway, including a unique close reconnaissance of the new London Gateway port which is due to open in November 2013, aboard the Glasgow-based steamer Waverley.

Waverley, completed in 1947,  spends her summers cruising on the Firth of Clyde into areas of spectacular natural beauty. She also spends spring and autumn sailing in other areas including  south-west England (Dorset and Devon),  the Bristol Channel, the south coast of England and the Thames estuary.  Since 1974 she has been owned by a registered charity (Waverley Steam Navigation Company) on behalf of the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society (PSPS), itself a charity, and operated by Waverley Excursions Ltd, a subsidiary of WSN. She is described as the ‘World’s last Sea-Going Paddle Steamer’, and sometimes cruises out of protected estuarine waters and across more open seas, including up the east coast to Harwich, Ipswich, Great Yarmouth and Southwold. She sailed across the Channel to commemorate the sinking of her predecessor, built in 1899, during the 1940  Dunkirk evacuation.  Being a paddle steamer she is extremely stable, but she only has one giant engine, which means she cannot turn very tightly by contra-rotating the paddles.  But she is manoeuvrable enough, even for the relatively constricted waters of the Pool of London.

The Paddle Steamer (PS) Waverley
The Paddle Steamer (PS) Waverley

And the engine is open for all to see, her immaculate, slightly greased metallic silver connecting rods, carrying the energy from the pistons, pumping rhythmically to turn the crankshaft in a stimulating display of raw power.

On that special Sunday she left Tower pier at 10.00 hrs sharp with about 200 passengers aboard.  She sailed west, towards London Bridge, swung round above the site of the old Roman  bridge, and headed out under Tower Bridge which opened for her. The Waverley cruise has become something of a GMI tradition over the last five years, but the prospect of a close encounter the new mega-port on the verge of completion made this year’s excursion particularly timely.  Aboard were Chris Bellamy, on his first Waverley trip accompanied by Jos McDiarmid, a friend specialising in antique prints and a qualified London tour guide, the usual suspect Dr David Hilling, a world expert on ports, Richard Scott, and graduates and continuing students from the Maritime History MA including John Allan,  John Mann and his son, Robert Milburn, Tim Carter, his partner Anne and friend, and Peter Jarrett, plus a representative of the new Maritime Security MSc, Leo Balk, who is a former Commander in the US Navy.

The weather was overcast and quite stormy, and on the wider river there was a strong wind which made using maps challenging, but blew any cobwebs away. After Tower Bridge, Brunel’s Thames Tunnel and Canary Wharf, Greenwich came into view.

Member of general public points out world-famous GMI offices
Member of general public points out world-famous GMI offices

Soon afterwards there was a good view of the Emirates AirLine cable car, which is a spectacular sight but might be more useful if it went somewhere, either to the

Excel Exhibition Centre, further east,  or directly to London City Airport.  But maybe that was just a ‘bridge’ too far.

‘Sail on, silver girl’.  Waverley passes under a bridge over troubled waters…
‘Sail on, silver girl’. Waverley passes under a bridge over troubled waters…

Then came the Thames Barrier, designed to defend the Capital against the power of the sea.  One of the barriers was obligingly raised in ‘defensive’  mode.  The Thames  Barrier,  which has been operational since 1982, has a finite life, and will need to be replaced at some point, but a March 2009 study suggested that it  would last decades longer than the date of 2030 when its designers thought it would have to be replaced. In part, this was because they had apparently overestimated the effects of climate change.  The barrier was designed with an allowance for sea level rise of 8mm per year until 2030, which has not been realised in the intervening years.  The Environment Agency have no plans to replace it before 2070 and a decision on its replacement, which might be further downstream, therefore needs to be made in the middle of the century.

Thames Barrier with one of the  flood gates raised in ‘defensive’ mode
Thames Barrier with one of the flood gates raised in ‘defensive’ mode

The route so far can be traced on the Google Earth photo, below. The next part of the trip was more revealing.  The Thames Barrier is not the only London flood defence by any means.  Two kilometres from the eastern end of London City Airport, ad Ordnance Survey grid 456817, on the left of the river (to Port), we saw the imposing and intimidating outline of the Barking Creek barrier, which can be dropped as a giant guillotine to seal Barking Creek against the same tidal surges from the North Sea that the Thames Barrier is designed to thwart.

First part of Waverley’s journey, 10.00-11.00 hrs. Google Earth, adapted and annotated by author
First part of Waverley’s journey, 10.00-11.00 hrs.
Google Earth, adapted and annotated by author
The Barking Creek Barrier (north side of the river Thames)
The Barking Creek Barrier (north side of the river Thames)

And then, further on, on the ‘right bank’ of the river (always seen from the direction of flow, remember…), the Dartford Creek (River Darent) tidal barrier. OS grid 541778:

Dartford (River Darent) Tidal Barrier (south side of the river Thames)
Dartford (River Darent) Tidal Barrier (south side of the river Thames)

Four kilometres beyond this point the Waverley passed under the Queen Elizabeth II (QEII) bridge, which carries the southbound carriageway of the M25 orbital road southward.  The northbound carriageway passes through the Dartford tunnel a little before. The central point of the bridge is at OS grid 570764.

The best shot of the bridge is probably taken from further east, as shown below.  The traffic is therefore passing southward, to the left, with the south bank on the left and the north on the right of the picture.  The overall position of the bridge can be seen in the adapted Google Earth view, which follows.


QEII Bridge, seen from the east, with the south bank on the left,  Traffic passing from right to left.
QEII Bridge, seen from the east, with the south bank on the left, Traffic passing from right to left.
View of the QEII Bridge and the approaches to Tilbury. Google Earth, adapted and annotated by author
View of the QEII Bridge and the approaches to Tilbury.
Google Earth, adapted and annotated by author

After Tilbury docks, Waverley passed Tilbury Fort, skulking behind its earthworks, and very difficiult to see (OS grid .  After the Dutch raided the Medway in 1667, King Charles II ordered a fort built here to defend London.  It was designed  on the latest lines, following the schemes of the great French military Engineer Sebastian le Prestre de Vauban.  It was built by a Dutchman, Sir Bernard de Gomme, and its fearful pentagonal geometry incororated the latest ideas in 17th century fortification.  Originally the fort, designed to withstand a serious assult from the landward side, was combined with batteries along the northern shore of the river, as shown in the artist’s impression of it in the eighteenth century, below.

Tilbury  Fort as it would have looked in the 18th century (Alan Sorrell)
Tilbury Fort as it would have looked in the 18th century (Alan Sorrell)
Tilbury Fort today, with the high tide filling the moat
Tilbury Fort today, with the high tide filling the moat

Beyond Tilbury Fort we rounded the bend in the river, heading north again into Lower Hope Reach.  The new Thames Gateway port, buyilt on the site of the former oil refinery at Shellhaven, which closed in 1999, came into view. As you can see from the air view, the new  port is vast.  Its shape is quite distinctive, and it is easy to reconcile the artist’s impression of the completed port with the air view.

London Gateway. Google Earth, adapted and annotated by author
London Gateway.
Google Earth, adapted and annotated by author
Approaching London gateway from the west.
Approaching London gateway from the west.

The Waverley moved close in to the north bank to give us a good view.  As we slipped past huge excavations were still underway. The technique used to construct the quay wall which will also support the tracks which carry the huge cranes is not  new but has not been much used in the UK previously. The shoreline was build out extensively, so that the quay wall could be installed below ‘dry land’ The fill behind the quay wall then becomes the fill under the quayside areas.

The start (west end) of the London Gateway  quay wall
The start (west end) of the London Gateway quay wall

The two lines of quay wall also double as the support for the enormous quayside container cranes so the capping beams have the necessary rails and infrastructure cast into them. Once the quay wall, anchor wall and tie bars are complete, the fill in front of the quay wall is dredged out leaving the quayside complete.  The cranes run on tracks that are 35 metres (115 feet!) apart, giving an idea of their enormous size.  The first phase of the quayside wall in 1,250 metres long.

First, fill it in…
First, fill it in…  
Then, dig it out… As above, adapted by author.
Then, dig it out…
As above, adapted by author.

One ship was already moored at the port, although it does not formally open until November. And two weeks before, on 16 September, it was reported that THE 10,062-TEU Zim Rotterdam, had diverted from Felixstowe to DP World’s London Gateway port for repairs after a fire aboard had consumed 20 containers. Industry sources said Felixstowe would not accept Zim Rotterdam because the vessel would tie up berthing space for a prolonged period, but Felixstowe officials were not available for comment. Instead, it was offered a haven at  London Gateway, which will not open until later this year.  As a result of an unplanned delay, London Gateway port agreed to accommodate the vessel at short notice. Three weeks before, ago, the master had reported a fire in 20 of its containers while en route from Malaysia to Djibouti.  The AIS vessel monitoring system showed that Zim Rotterdam was located off Cherbourg when the new London Gateway destination was determined.

As we passed the new mega-port the size of the cranes on their 35-metre wide track could easily be appreciated.

London Gateway, 29 September 2013
London Gateway, 29 September 2013

London Gateway comprises a large new deep-water port, which will be able to handle the biggest container ships, as well as one of Europe’s largest logistics parks, providing effective access (by road and railways) to London and the rest of mainland UK.  The complex will make use of modern technology to increase productivity and reduce costs for shipping lines and the logistics industries. It will significantly increase the ability of the Port of London   to handle modern container shipping, and help meet the growing demand for container handling at Britain’s ports.

The Red Ensign flies over London Gateway, which will make the Port of London a world-leading terminal for container shipping
The Red Ensign flies over London Gateway, which will make the Port of London a world-leading terminal for container shipping

DP World, a Dubai-based company,  received Government approval in May 2007 for the development of London Gateway. The proposals were identified by former prime Minister Gordon Brown  as one of the four economic hubs essential for the regeneration of the Thames Gateway.  The 2007-10 financial crisis created problems for DP World’s owners Dubai World.   However, in January 2010, DP World was given the go-ahead for construction of the port

London Gateway port will include a 2,700-metre-long container quay, with a fully developed capacity of 3.5 million TEU a year.  It is close to  the major shipping lanes serving north west Europe and will increase national deep-sea port capacity for the UK.  At present, the ports of Felixstowe and Southampton are  the first- and second-largest ports by container traffic in the UK, respectively, with the Port of London third.  There are a number of other smaller container terminals nearby, but the development will dramatically increase the capabilities of the Port of London in handling modern container shipping.    DP World has said that high-quality architecture, sustainability, and high levels of security and management will be key features of the park and will create an attractive environment for occupiers

DP World is planning to invest over £1.5bn to develop the project over a ten to 15-  year development period. It says (well, it would, wouldn’t it?) that London Gateway will deliver about 12,000 new direct jobs, benefit the local and regional economy, and assist the government’s regeneration initiative. In addition, there will be over 30,000 indirect and induced jobs.

Our intelligence mission complete, and by this time very windblown, we repaired below.  The Waverley served an excellent Sunday roast, and  the stability of the ship was noticeable as  she ploughed through a very choppy Thames Estuary towards Southend.  Some of the passengers disembarked there, but the Captain warned that he could not guarantee to get back at 17.00 hrs to pick them up.  At sea, no plan always survives contact with the elements.  We then headed  south, into the estuary of the Medway.

Google Earth, adapted and annotated by the author
Google Earth, adapted and annotated by the author

I was still below when we passed by the wreck of the Richard Montgomery,  a US Liberty ship that had gone down in 1944 with several thousand tonnes of ordnance on board. On 20 August 1944, it dragged anchor and ran aground on a sandbank around 250 metres from the Medway approach Channel, in a depth of 24 feet (7.3 m) of water. Liberty ships of this type – ‘general dry cargo’ –  had an average draught of 28 ft (8.5 m).  However,  the Montgomery was trimmed to a draught of 31 ft (9.4 m). As the tide went down, the ship broke its back on sand banks near the Isle of Sheppey 1.5 miles (2.5 km) from Sheerness and 5 miles (8 km) from Southend. The salvage operation  began on 23 August 1944, using the ship’s own cargo handling equipment. But the next day the ship’s hull had cracked open, causing the bow end to flood. Attemp[ts to salvage the lethal cargo continued until 25 September, when the ship was finally abandoned. Subsequently, the ship broke into two separate parts, roughly in the middle.  Some 1500 ‘short tons’ (the standard US measure for weight of  ordnance), or 1400 tonnes, were left on board.

The Richard Montgomery is a potential hazard to developments in the Thames Estuary.  The map below shows the position of the wreck vis-à-vis some planned developments – the various estuary airports beloved of, among others, London Mayor Boris Johnson.

Map showing position of the Richard Montgomery wreck and suggested airport developments:  1. Cliffe; 2. Grain (Thames Hub); 3. Foulness; 4. Off the Isle of Sheppey; 5. Shivering Sands (‘Boris Island’).
Map showing position of the Richard Montgomery wreck and suggested airport developments: 1. Cliffe; 2. Grain (Thames Hub); 3. Foulness; 4. Off the Isle of Sheppey; 5. Shivering Sands (‘Boris Island’).

In 1970 the BBC reported that the 1500 short tons – 1.5 kilotons – of explosives could, if detonated produce a 3,000-metre high column of water and a five metre tidal wave that would engulf Sheerness (population then 20,000).  By 2012 estimates of its possible effect were less sensational, but a one metre tidal wave might still result.  However, in 1998 The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) had said that as the fuzes would probably have been flooded for many years and the sensitive compounds were all soluble in water,‘ this is no longer considered to be a significant hazard.’

At least the wreck is clearly visible.  Given the weather conditions, Waverley did not pass very far down the Medway, just past the Swale, the stretch of water which separates the Isle of Sheppey from the mainland.  She got as s far as  Saltpan reach, south of the jetties and power station in OS grid square  8674, before turning round.

On the way back the Waverley passed east of the wreck site, before turning west.  The Richard Montgomery’s three masts are clearly visible.

Passing the Richard Montgomery, with Southend visible behind
Passing the Richard Montgomery, with Southend visible behind

The light was now beginning to fade and we repaired below for a while longer.  The Waverley did make it back to Southend, picked up some passengers, and then  headed back into London.  As darkness fell around 19.00 we headed back on deck and  the lights came on.  The imaginative use of lighting can utterly transform a landscape.  The Thames Barrier and to O2 were cleverly illuminated.  Beyond the O2, from the Royal Observatory, the Greenwich Meridian, the centre of the world, dividing east from west, was marked by a green laser pointing slightly upwards into the sky.  Unfortunately it would have needed a long exposure to capture this beam of light, and I missed the shot.  But an idea of the effects can be obtained from the kaleidoscope of colour bathing the O2, below.

O2, or alien spacecraft?
O2, or alien spacecraft?

The Waverley passed on, under Tower Bridge, and docked at 20.45.  It was a great day, and a marvellous opportunity to behold  London’s new great port.

I could not help wondering what would really happen if what remained of the Richard Montgomery’s cargo were detonated all in one go.  I am sure that Maybe a future Mayor of London, inaugurating an estuarine airport, might have the opportunity to find out.  Mind you, I am puzzled by the need to build vast concrete runways.  Why do we not go back to sea planes and flying boats, which could land and take off in this vast area with far less infrastructure investment.  And bring back more civilised travel into the bargain. But a future Mayor might still want to press the button, just for fun.

Hey!  That gives me an idea…

Chris Bellamy



Unless otherwise stated, all photographs by the author.
























Programme of Free Evening Seminars in Maritime Policy, Security and History

Greenwich Maritime Institute holds a range of events, seminars and conferences including the popular Public Research Seminar Series which are held in Greenwich at monthly intervals.

Experts are invited to give a presentation on areas that relate to the three broad themes that the GMI specialises in: Maritime History, Maritime Policy and Maritime Security. Presentations are then followed by questions from the audience. Anyone is welcome to attend these free seminars although advance booking is required via

This year we are pleased to announce a variety of topics such as:

  • Licensing Private Maritime Security Companies
  • Navy, Identity & Leisure in 20th Century Britain
  • Loss of the RB Angus
  • 1412 – The Year China Discovered the World
  • Designing New Vessels for 21st Century Tidal Thames
  • Human Rights Considerations in the Maritime Industry
  • China’s Ship Recycling


GMI Research Seminar Series 2013-14 – Download the brochure in PDF format

GMI PhD student talks about private maritime security at conference in Gdansk

With his presentation about challenges for private and naval operations in African waters, Dirk Siebels was the GMI’s representative at MAST Europe in Gdansk from 4 to 6 June. His talk was an insight into his PhD research and attracted a number of questions from senior naval officers and defence industry representatives in the audience.

Maritime Systems and Technology (MAST) is one of the most important conferences for the maritime security sector. The tenth edition of MAST was held in Poland’s largest port city Gdansk. More than 700 attendees from 40 nations attended the conference. Presentations included a number of highly specialised topics, ranging from autonomous underwater vehicles to countermeasures against pirate attacks.

In his presentation, Dirk compared developments in maritime security in East and West Africa. Highlighted by the rise of pirate attacks in the Gulf of Guinea, he explained efforts undertaken by the United States and the European Union and pointed out future challanges for navies and private security providers.

Regarding the use of private maritime security companies (PMSCs), the main focus was on differences between operations in East and West Africa. Another important aspect for an audience that included senior officers from various European navies was the cooperation between private companies and naval forces in the Indian Ocean.

The next part of Dirk’s presentation were efforts at regulation of PMSCs as well as measuring their performance. Currently, there are very different rules and regulations in different flag states yet there is no data regarding the actual performance of armed guards on merchant ships. For his research, Dirk is cooperating with the Security Association of the Maritime Industry (SAMI) and the Marshall Islands shipping registry. As the third-biggest flag state, the Marshall Islands are taking a keen interest in measuring the quality of security teams onboard their vessels and have developed a questionnaire for ship operators and masters.

At the end of his talk, Dirk gave a brief outlook to the future of private maritime operations. After the industry has grown into a billion-dollar industry within just a few years, it seems unlikely that it will go away as soon as the piracy problems on both sides of the African continent are under control. Oil and gas production is moving more and more offshore, even East African countries such as Mozambique or Tanzania are on the verge of becoming major exporters. It may open up another potential market for private security providers. There are, however, a lot of legal and other challenges involved so it will remain an interesting topic for the foreseeable future.

One-Day Courses: Maritime Business in China; Maritime Crime; Maritime Genealogy

Three Course Leaflet

Maritime Crime: Piracy, Smuggling, Wrecking and Watery Whodunnits (A one-day short course)


The Greenwich Maritime Institute invites you to dive into a dark whirlpool of wrongdoing, past and present. Piracy, committed for private gain, is a form of maritime crime often in the headlines, but it is far from the only one. Led by Professor of Maritime Security Chris Bellamy, Dr Cathryn Pearce, author on wrecking, and Dr Helen Doe from Exeter University, an authority on smuggling, you will navigate through the depths of mankind’s misdeeds on the high seas, rivers and ashore.

The course will explore four main types of sea crime: piracy; wrecking; smuggling; and the wide variety of crimes committed aboard cruise ships, merchant ships and luxury yachts. Among the issues covered will be:

  • What is maritime crime?
  • Piracy then and now
  • Wrecking then and now
  • Smuggling then and now
  • Maritime murder

The course will take place on Wednesday 12th June 2012 from 9.30am – 4.30pm. The cost is £90 per person which includes lunch, refreshments, course materials and a certificate of attendance. A booking form can be found on the Greenwich Maritime Institute website:

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Not Chatham House Rules!

On Friday 10 June HMS Illustrious, the second of the Royal Navy’s three Invincible class light aircraft/helicopter carriers, was moored just upriver from GMI. At 22,000 tons, and at 209 metres long, she is a big ship – but just half the size of the Prince of Wales and Queen Elizabeth that will replace her – eventually. Initially conceived as a Harrier-carrier, and able to carry 22 of the Short-Take-Off-Vertical-Landing (STOVL) planes, she has been both a light aircraft carrier, in that role, and a helicopter carrier, able to carry 22 helicopters. There could be no more appropriate place to hold a conference to mark the 70th anniversary of the turning point in the Battle of the Atlantic, which took place in May 1943.

The Battle of the Atlantic, which lasted from 1939-1945 was probably the most crucial part of the Second World War for the UK’s survival and the subsequent liberation of western Europe. It lasted, from 1939-1945, when the last German submarines surrendered at (London) Derry, in Northern Ireland. The ‘Battle of the Atlantic Anniversary Seminar’, organised by the Royal Institute of International affairs, Chatham House, took as its theme, appropriately enough, ‘The Navy’s Role in resilience and Prosperity’. Unusually, the famous ‘Chatham House rule’ – that information gleaned might be used but not attributed to Chatham House, the speaker or the occasion, was waived. This one was on the record. So you can cite this blog!

When Royal Navy ships put it in to port for supplies, the purser and his or her team scour the hinterland for the best provisions, and London had been no exception. The Navy cooks – always superb – had produced the most impressive lunch, including truly spectacular dressed crab. With the new Billingsgate fish market just two kilometres away, at Trafalgar Way, West India Docks, Isle of Dogs, that would have been a no-brainer!

HMS Illustrious at Greenwich, 9-13 May 2013

After a welcome by Commodore Neil Brown of the Naval Staff, and Commander Keri Harris, the Second-in-Command, Professor Andrew Lambert from King’s College London opened proceedings with an account of the momentous conflict, and some interesting comparisons with now. The United Kingdom had not been self-sufficient in food production – never mind luxuries like tea and wine – since the 1780s. By 1939 the United Kingdom needed one million tons of provisions a month imported by sea.  In contrast, the United States was – and still is – self sufficient.  But, Professor Lambert noted, even at the worst moment of the Battle of the Atlantic there were more reserves of food and fuel in the UK than there are now, with our ‘just-in-time’ economy! 

A key point, reinforced in the questioning, was that the Royal Navy had responded well to the experience of World War I and the battle with the U-boats, including, for example,  the development of sonar.  But the plan was to contain German U-boats in the North Sea – which the Navy succeeded in doing until the fall of France in May 1940.  As Professor Lambert  laconically observed ‘you don’t plan for your Allies to collapse’. Good point.  After May 1940 the U-boats could operate out of French ports and far into the Atlantic (including off the coast of the United States). With U-boats loose in the Atlantic convoys bringing Lend-Lease and other  supplies from North America became targets. The stakes were suddenly raised. 

However, another crucial and countervailing development in 1940 was the German invasion of Norway.  Again, it is not widely known, but as a result most of the Norwegian merchant fleet headed for the UK, and became available as part of its merchant navy.  It took two years for the Germans to sink an equivalent number of ships.

By May 1941, however, the Germans believed the convoy system was cracking under the strain and sent the powerful surface raider the battleship (BB) Bismarck out to finish the convoys off. The sinking of the Bismarck was one crucial point in the battle.  The entry of the United States into the war in December 1941 further changed the dynamic.  The United States and Canada were no longer just supplying the UK. From then on, in operation Bolero, they were turning the UK into the jumping-off point for the invasion of north-west Europe.

Professor Lambert identified the Russian arctic convoys as the Royal Navy’s greatest ever success.  Those supplies got through in the face of a surface, submarine and air threat and the appalling weather. 

During the Battle of the Atlantic 783 U-boats were destroyed.  Laconically, again, Professor Lambert concluded,  ’75 percent fatal casualties was the German U-boat breaking point’. It was a  tough business.

Another Lambert, Dr Nicholas, from the Royal United Services Institute picked up the theme of the UK’s dependence on the sea. In 1914 the world economy was as ‘globalised’ as now, as a result of several revolutions.  In addition to the introduction of steam ships, there had been the introduction of undersea and trans-oceanic cables, permitting instant communication, and a revolution in financial services with credit easy to obtain and manage.  The UK’s national debt in 1914 was £650 million, a huge sum for the time. This global, interconnected system was rudely shocked by the First World War. Between 1914 and 1939, with the financial crises of 1929 and 1931, the world economy actually shrank.  As a result it was easier to keep it working in 1939. By 1940-41, some 55 percent of the UK’s GDP was devoted to war production, a figure never exceeded anywhere else, apart from the Soviet Union later in the war.  There was a draconian system of price controls, labour controls and rationing.  By 1941 the UK had exhausted its overseas credit.  Everything was sacrificed to win the war, without thought for the future.  The Atlantic became a pipeline along which war materiel was pumped from the US and Canada to the UK.  Yet, paradoxically, the UK’s vulnerability to disruption of its imports and supplies is greater now than it was in 1914.

After an excellent presentation by Dr Douglas Guilfoyle of University College, London, on modern challenges and the Law of the Sea, the seminar then addressed they key modern issues of the role of navies in resilience and the role of navies in prosperity. Rob Bailey from Chatham Hose explained the role of the oceans in food security, explaining that although we tend to think of the key chokepoints in terms of energy security – the Bosphorus, Suez Canal, Bab-el-Mandeb and Strait of Hormuz – they are just as vital for shipments of grain, which does not grow well in the Middle East. As a historical not, we might also recall that some 400,000 people died of malnutrition in Germany in 1914-18 as a result of the Allied blockade. In 2008-09 30-40 percent of Somali food requirements were met by UN food aid, so Somali piracy, which forced cessation of these shipments hit Somalia very badly.

Adjoa Anyimadu of the Africa Programme at Chatham House  addressed the naval response to piracy and the lessons to be learned from the Indian Ocean. She began by summarising the international presence, with three forces:  the EUNAVFOR and Operation Atalanta; the US-led Combined Task Force (CTF) 151 and Nato’s Operation Ocean Shield. To this we should add the one-nation contributions of China, Russia and Japan. She cited Oceans Beyond Piracy’s estimate that in 2012 Naval operations in the Indian Ocean cost more than £1 billion. Given that Somalia is a failed state, international naval action is legitimate.  The situation in west Africa and the Gulf of Guinea, where, in contrast to the Indian Ocean, piracy is on the increase, is quite different.  Here, there are Governments with authority over their territories and some rule of law. Therefore, a similar type and scale of Naval operations is unlikely.  However, there are still lessons to be drawn from the Indian Ocean. These are:

  • Capacity building – helping the local authorities to help themselves –  is crucial.  This not only applies to building coastguard and marine policy forces but the helping the shore authorities as well;
  • Intelligence gathering and information sharing is vital, including the use of new technology such as Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs), helicopter cameras and so on.  This is not only useful for providing advance warning but also to assist prosecution later on;
  • Conducting multinational operations helps develop relationships between navies and nations;
  • Navies must engage with the coastal communities whence piracy and armed robbery at sea emanate. In Somalia this has taken time but encouraging the coastal communities to see themselves as stakeholders who will benefit from seeing an end to piracy has worked.  In one case, international forces have intervened to provide medical treatment for sick Somalis on board ships.  Although this was regarded as possibly too dangerous, it worked. 

Bob Dewar, also of the Chatham House Africa programme, then addressed the key issue of IUU (Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated)(the Us in that order, OK?) fishing .  He began by citing Kofi Annan, that ‘human security’ was ‘not purely military’, in terms of political violence, but also embraced health, food, the environment, human rights and the rule of law.

IUU fishing is the worst maritime threat that west Africa faces, costing that part of the world an estimated $1 billion  (as against between $9 bn and $22 bn worldwide). In West Africa, however, fish resources are really important.  The UK MoD has set up a centre in Nigeria to support the ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) Maritime Strategy, and countering IUU fishing plays an important part of this.  It is not just the value of the fish, but also the lost revenue from licence fees and landing fees. 

Alex Vines OBE, the Head of the Africa Programme at Chatham House added to the unwelcoming picture of the Gulf of Guinea, pointing out that in addition to IUU fishing, other maritime crime accounted for another $1 billion.  Nigeria, Benin and the surrounding area are in the same insurance category as Somalia.

Douglas McWilliams, Chief Executive and Professor of Commerce at Gresham College, gave the final keynote speech. His World Economic League Table forecasts were fascinating. In 2012, the US was still the world’s largest economy, with China second,  Japan third, Germany fourth, France fifth and UK sixth.  In 2022 the top three will remain the same, with India fourth and Brazil fifth, Germany sixth, Russia seventh, UK eighth and France ninth.  But China will overtake the US in about 2025, as many have predicted. The prospect for the UK was surprisingly optimistic.  Consumer spending currently accounts for 70 percent of the UK economy and exports 30 percent.  By 2022, his group’s forecast indicates, consumer spending will have dropped to 50 percent and exports risen correspondingly. Eric Grove, from Salford University, a well-known maritime historian, was sceptical.’And what’, he said, ‘are we going to export?’ But Professor McWilliams stuck by his figures, guessing that ingenuity and high-tech I inventiveness would create the products.  Seaborne trade was down from its 2007 peak but was now growing again.  There will be plenty of imports and exports for the Royal Navy to protect.

The seminar concluded at 17.00.  The following days – Saturday and Sunday – Illustrious was open to the public.  If you want to see what the public saw, click on the links, below.


Chris Bellamy.


A Student Perspective: The Role of the UK Border Force and its Component Parts

Nowadays, the interconnection of the world is becoming much more frequently and closed than ever before. Consequently, the security of the each country’s territory prioritises the other activities across the nations. It is clear that the effective home land security has been playing the vital part in the overall country routine management across the world. Securing the borders and protecting the communities from crime is a huge challenge and vitally important to the UK. The UK government perceive that it is urgent for authority to codify the guideline and to establish a specific agency or law enforcement to implement the government’s policy. The UK Border Force is such an arm of the government which was to counter the national border issue, e.g. human trafficking, drug and other counterfeit smuggling, counter-terrorism and illegal fishing.

The UK Border Force, acting as frontline force to tackle operation of air, sea and rail port, was a part of the Home office. The UK Border Agency was set up in 2008 following Labour Home Secretary John Reid’s 2006 declaration that the Home Office’s immigration directorate was “not fit for purpose”. On 20 February 2012, it was announced that the force would be separated from the UK Border Agency in March that year. The decision to split the two organisations was made by Home Secretary Theresa May following the publication of the Vine Report into unauthorised border checks. Since 1 March 2012, the Border Force has become the sole law operational unit apart from the home office which is led by the Director General and directly liable to the Minister. The new interim head of the Border Force, Chief Constable Brian Moore, officially took up office on Thursday, 01 Mar 2012 who will lead the newly formed Home Office operational command and will be responsible for immigration and customs.

The UK Border Agency will be responsible for immigration casework, in-country enforcement activity, the immigration detention estate and British overseas immigration operations. Since transform of the agency, the main task of the Border Force is to maintain the security of the UK’s border as well as the passage and cargo’s normal circulation. However, the immigration policy work will be separated from the operational unit which imply that the policy maker would not know the press and obstacle of the implementation front line unit. The bad example was demonstrated last year during the Olympic time when the traveller had to queue for four hours before they entered into the UK at airport. In spite of this, the UK Border Force still makes tremendous effort to manage the flow of passengers and goods through the border and maintains border security by straining the control in France and Belgium as well as modernise the workforce with technology. To some extent, the work of Border Force also facilitates legitimate travel and trade, helping to protect UK tax revenue and support economic recovery. Hence, to meet these high demand both in peak and tough season, the Border Force take relevant measures, e.g. annualising hours contracts, deploying staff more efficiently by developing a resourcing model and matching staff skills with the level of work being undertaken.

To sum up, to transform the operations and make sustainable large-scale cost reductions, the following approach will be taken by the Border Force: (a) issuing an operating policy on the use of Secure ID fingerprint checks as well as implementing a new operating mandate for border control; (b) creating a Strategy and Intelligence Directorate in order to analyse intelligence; measure performance; develop rules, procedures and guidance; and monitor compliance with those rules; (c) the operation of a newly established Training Academy in order to raise professional standards and to create a whole new management culture. Furthermore, later on this year, the new National Crime Agency will be charged with improving the intelligence capability at the border, investigating serious and organised border crime, and tasking law enforcement assets across all the relevant agencies; and (d) a greater use of technology: implementing a range of technology-based changes under the e-borders programme, including extending the use of e-gates and several changes are going to take place in the coming years. Changes will include increased use of e-gates and other new technology under the e-borders programme, with greater reliance on intelligence and carefully managed risk-based controls at the border.

With a new chief executive and a plan for comprehensive change, the UK Border Force is in better hands for the future and will become the disciplined law enforcement organisation it was established to be.

Yifeng Liu, MA International Maritime Policy Student