Securing Dredging Operations in a Hostile Environment
Large Dredging Project in the Middle East Requires Security Consulting
MAX Security was contacted to propose and provide consulting to a large dredging project in the Middle East. This part of the Middle East involved complicated risks and threats. The MAX operations team needed to ensure that the project could be completed efficiently and safely.
RISK, THREAT, & VULNERABILITY ASSESSMENT (RTVA)
Given the instability of the region and the numerous incidents that had taken place within it, MAX conducted a comprehensive RTVA to gain a complete picture of the threats facing the project and the likelihood of each threat’s occurrence during the operations. It was determined that criminal and terror activity such as IEDs (improvised explosive devices), sabotage, active shooting incidents, theft and extortion were the main threats against the project and its team. The availability of local security forces was also deemed inadequate and their deployment in case of emergency could not be counted on. By understanding the various threats to the project, MAX was able to design specially tailored procedures to ensure the safety of the workers, project managers, equipment, and dredging sites.
With the threats in mind, the MAX operations team developed several solutions to ensure project security. With both water and land-based areas to secure, regular patrols (boat, foot, and vehicle) were implemented throughout both terrain environments. Security perimeters were created with access controls and checkpoints, and clear guidelines on the reporting of abnormal events were established. Coordination and communication were also enhanced between the project coordinators and local security forces. For extra layers of protection, all movements by project staff were assisted by MAX Security personnel, and a quick reaction force was retained in the event of serious security incidents. A MAX Security senior operations manager was embedded within the project staff to supervise the security implementation.
With decades of experience in planning and executing large-scale security projects, MAX was able to assist in ensuring the safety of workers, project managers, and the construction site. Providing effective physical security solutions means planning every small detail around the client’s needs and tailoring those to the operating environment. MAX’s operators along with a world-class intelligence team create a synergy unmatched in the industry and can account for every detail from the macro to the micro to create the safest atmosphere possible.
The more chaotic the world becomes, the more you can rely on MAX to keep your business running as usual.
Special Report: How Social Media Activism is Threatening the Reputation and Physical Security of Global Companies
This report was written by:
Ollie Wiltshire – MAX Security’s Regional Director of Intelligence, Europe and the Americas
Adam Charlton – MAX Security’s Senior Analyst for Europe and the Americas
While protests, boycotts, and other forms of activism have always been a threat to the private sector, recent developments in social media technology and political trends have uncovered a series of evolving risks. Traditional activism towards the private sector often involved the targeting of businesses due to practices deemed to be unethical or opposed to certain political or social movements. In recent years, activists and political movements have expanded their methods of protest in a series of evolving ways, which can have a significant impact on private enterprises.
As research on the operations of any businesses becomes easier through various online resources, in addition to the ease with which findings can be shared on social media, potential links between private businesses and controversial governments or policies can be identified by a growing number of individuals. This enables smaller groups to easily find businesses that they can present as opposed to niche causes, dramatically increasing the number of companies potentially targeted.
Similarly, the private comments of employees or individuals associated with businesses also play a more significant role in catalyzing protests than in the past. Controversial statements can often lead to the company being associated with a wide variety of political positions not representing the values of the business, some of which may spark the interest of various activist groups.
For further information on how you can track and protect your company’s reputation and physical security through Brand Monitoring Services please contact Max Security Solutions at +44 (0) 203 540 0434 and [email protected]
Risk: Protests targeting companies for the actions of associated governments
Increasingly, activists target companies due to controversial actions of associated governments, either in the company’s country of origin or in a country of operation, despite limited connections between the business and the controversial actions.
One catalyst for these types of risks is the ease with which activist groups can research and disseminate information online regarding an organization’s associations and operations. Through social media and rudimentary online researching capabilities, activists are able to quickly build a list of companies deemed to be linked with controversial governments who are then targeted for protests. Additionally, activists, particularly in young or radical groups, may not research with diligence to understand the extent of the association between the private company and the government in question.
The decision to target private companies, instead of government buildings, is often one of convenience. Private facilities are far less secure and easier to identify than government offices. Protesting a business that may have multiple offices or stores with minimal security is typically more accessible than targeting embassies or consulates, which already have established security structures and are typically better equipped to handle demonstrations.
Activists often perceive protesting against companies based on the actions of governments in areas of operation as a way of putting pressure on the targeted government indirectly. Especially in countries reliant on foreign investment, protesters aim to threaten companies through physical disruptions and boycotts in an attempt to affect the economic situation of the country and compel the government to change its policies. Given the multitude of grievances against any one government, these protests can follow seemingly random trends which necessitate a deep understanding and close tracking in order to adequately predict threats and risks before they manifest. Even if a company is not involved in a controversy, it is important to monitor brand reputations, particularly if the company can be, even loosely or falsely, associated with controversial government policies.
Case Study: Anti-Turkish protests against private companies in Europe amid military operations in Syria
Since Turkish military operations in Syria began to expand in January 2018, there has been an uptick in anti-Turkish sentiment within Kurdish and Anarchist communities across Europe. This sentiment has manifested in mass protests, most notably in Germany, as well as vandalism and incendiary attacks on Turkish government buildings, including embassies and consulates across Europe. However, pro-Kurdish activists have not limited attacks to government institutions. Activists have targeted multiple private companies linked to or seen to cooperate with Turkey. For example, on March 11, a mass brawl broke out in Dusseldorf Airport, Germany as demonstrators protesting against a Turkish-based airline clashed with passengers. On April 10, activists planted and detonated a bomb outside of a bank with links to Turkey in Bologna, Italy.
Such protests were facilitated by online groups which would aggregate information on companies that were deemed to somehow support Turkish operations in Syria and disseminate findings to protesters in order to encourage attacks and demonstrations.
Risk: Protests against companies for unofficial positions and sponsorship
Due to the increasing use of social media and online news, the opinions of a company’s senior leadership are more available and under closer inspection than in the past. This opens private businesses up to scrutiny for opinions or political positions held and expressed by employees, which potentially do not reflect the official values of the company. As such, the personal opinions of company leaders and lower-level employees alike can overshadow or even undermine company policy.
Focusing on quotes from employees or controversial sponsorship links allows more casual observers and activists to easily find targets for protests and can often quickly galvanize public outrage. Similarly, due to social media trends, political positions of individuals linked to or sponsoring particular organizations can quickly encourage negative sentiments and widen the scope of protest movements, especially when the subject of the controversy is particularly sensitive. Such risks require rapid detection in order to fully formulate a public relations strategy which can quickly solve the issues and reframe the reputation of the company along its actual values.
Case study: Sponsors targeted for taking positions on both sides of debate over national anthem protests by US athletes
In 2017, controversy arose in the US sporting world surrounding a movement which saw many players kneel during the national anthem in protest of various policies deemed to negatively impact African-Americans. This trend gained significant attention nationwide and given the extensive corporate sponsorship in the US sports industry, quickly led to calls, from both sides, to target large businesses over their stances on the issue, either official or unofficial.
One sponsor’s CEO reportedly expressed his disappointment in a league’s response to the players’ protest on social media and subsequently reported a decrease in quarterly sales. The CEO linked the poor sales to the league’s public image. Another company reportedly faced significant physical and online protests for refusing to comment on the controversy.
In this case, companies were boycotted for sponsoring the league, as well as for their position on the kneeling protest, whether it was an official position or that of a prominent employee. The case demonstrates the risks which can be mitigated by paying particular attention to local, regional, and international political and social trends, as well as the public image of private businesses with links to any controversy. Particularly, it is crucial that companies not only see the public image they create but also how it appears in the eyes of the consumer, especially during times of political sensitivity.
Manifestation of Protests
Boycotting allows for protesters to demonstrate their grievances in a direct way and is increasingly common across the political spectrum, due to its relative ease, wide legality, and potential impact. Boycotts offer activists an easily organized form of protest, in which results are often less tangible than counting the numbers attending a rally. This allows activists to avoid the possibility of poorly attended demonstrations, which often give the impression of the grievance being a niche cause or lacking in support.
Physical protests are becoming easier to organize via social media, spreading details far beyond typical activist circles. That said, protests can vary significantly both in size and nature. Companies with multiple locations or offices may find protests less well attended but affecting a larger number of offices or stores. Conversely, companies with well-known central offices or locations may witness protests with significant turnout outside these locations, while smaller or peripheral locations remain unaffected.
Spray painting or other means of vandalizing a physical company asset is often intimidating for employees, especially if it involves or threatens violence. Increasingly in southern and central Europe, as well as South America, vandals use Molotov cocktails or other incendiary devices, which, while intimidating, tend to only cause structural damage. These attacks can often be difficult to prevent completely, however, typically occur at night.
New military campaign in North Sinai likely linked to upcoming March 2018 presidential elections – Egypt Analysis
On February 9, the Egyptian Armed Forces (EAAF) Spokesperson announced the commencement of a large-scale “comprehensive” military operation to “eliminate all terrorist elements” across the country, called “Operation Sinai 2018”, with special emphasis placed on the Sinai Peninsula, Nile Delta, and Western Desert. The Spokesperson also announced an increase of the country’s alert level due to the operations.
As part of the of the campaign, the Egyptian Air Force (EAF) intensified the frequency of its airstrikes targeting militant hideouts throughout North Sinai Governorate, especially in the Rafah-al-Arish-Sheikh Zuweid triangle and Central Sinai District. The Egyptian Navy increased its activity along Sinai’s coastal region, while heightened security protocols were recorded at ports and border crossings. Security forces also increased presence in the vicinity of vital infrastructure and installations. Reports from February 9 indicate that civilian Suez Canal crossings from mainland Egypt to the Sinai, including by vessel and through tunnels, have been closed to civilian traffic due to the military campaign.
On March 8, the EAAF Spokesperson stated that Operation Sinai 2018 had yielded the deaths of 105 Islamic State (IS)-affiliated Wilayat Sinai fighters and the arrests of hundreds of the group’s militants, and that 16 soldiers had also been killed since the beginning of the campaign. The Spokesperson also announced that the EAAF destroyed 1,907 hideouts and weapon storehouses.
Assessments & Forecast
The Egyptian government has achieved partial success in containing militancy threats over the past year, with a reduction in the overall number of attacks. However, the persistence, albeit reduced frequency, of attacks in North Sinai Governorate and mainland Egypt likely motivated this recent operation, demonstrating efforts to mitigate threats from multiple groups, particularly the IS-affiliate Wilayat Sinai. The large-scale attack at a mosque in North Sinai’s Bir al-Abd on November 24, 2017, which killed over 300 people, also likely triggered the operation, and it took a period of months to prepare and mobilize for the current operation.
However, considering the timing of its commencement and execution, the primary motivation for the military campaign is likely political and connected to the upcoming March 2018 presidential elections, in which President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi is the leading candidate. President al-Sisi likely initiated the operations in order to boost his status among the Egyptian populace and project an image of power, stability, and intensified efforts to tackle the threat of militancy. Al-Sisi also likely timed the operation to deflect domestic and international criticism away from the election’s perceived lack of legitimacy and toward the issue of counter-terrorism, following the withdrawal or arrest of most of his electoral opponents over the past several weeks. To a lesser but still significant degree, the operation was also likely launched to draw attention away from Egypt’s poor economic conditions and towards a different public issue, namely militancy, and measures taken by authorities to tackle it.
The operations also follow international media reports about Israeli airstrikes against Wilayat Sinai in North Sinai in recent years. The Egyptian government likely intends to use the operations to demonstrate their sovereignty over North Sinai Governorate and their ability to mitigate militant threats with their own forces. This is particularly likely in light of the heightened criticism regarding al-Sisi’s close cooperation with Israeli authorities vis-a-vis the threat of militancy stemming from Wilayat Sinai elements.
Strategically, the nationwide campaign aims largely at isolating Wilayat Sinai militants in North Sinai Governorate. The reported closure of Suez Canal crossings to the movement of civilians, as well as the intensified activity by the Egyptian Navy along the Sinai coastal region, are meant to prevent reinforcements and smugglers from aiding Wilayat Sinai militants, thus putting further pressure on the Sunni jihadist militant group in North Sinai Governorate. The heightened security measures in the vicinity of vital infrastructure and installations likely were put in place to prevent reprisal attacks by militants, which in turn, would embarrass the Egyptian authorities.
FORECAST: The EAAF will likely continue implementing a strategy aimed at further isolating Wilayat Sinai militants in their aforementioned strongholds of Central Sinai Distinct and the Rafah-al-Arish-Sheikh Zuweid triangle. By carrying out simultaneous assaults on these two areas, the EAAF likely seeks to fix militants in their positions, preventing them from reinforcing the two respective areas or conducting attacks to the rear of security forces. The intensified aerial bombardments are meant to hamper militant movements, which in turn, may impede their ability to regroup or conduct attacks in order to force the deployment of Egyptian troops away from the frontlines. Furthermore, tighter inspection is liable to be enforced between Egypt and Gaza at the Rafah border crossings.
Israel permitted Egypt to deploy a large amount of forces into Sinai, as according to the 1979 Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty, Israeli permission is required for such a move. This highlights the increased coordination between the two countries, as they both perceived Wilayat Sinai as a strategic threat. In order to complicate and discourage the security coordination between the two countries, Wilayat Sinai may target southern Israel with rocket fire over the coming days and weeks. While in the short-term, the number of Wilayat Sinai attacks may decrease, given precedent of previous operations by the EAAF in North Sinai Governorate, over the coming months the Sunni jihadist militant group will likely renew its elevated activity in the region. The group will likely lower its profile in order to facilitate this, which would enable it to regroup and carry out multiple attacks against Egyptian security forces.
Avoid all travel to the North Sinai Governorate and border areas with Libya, Sudan, and Israel due to the persistent risk for militant attacks, kidnappings, and general lawlessness.
We further advise to avoid nonessential travel to the Southern Sinai Peninsula, while maintaining heightened vigilance in the Suez Canal Zone, the Upper Nile area, and the Nile Delta region due to an increased risk of unrest and the heightened risk of militant attacks. Before traveling to Sharm al-Sheikh, confirm that flight operations are continuing and have not been impacted by recent militant threats.
As a general security precaution, remain vigilant in areas surrounding and avoid the immediate vicinity of government installations, police stations, and religious centers, particularly churches, as these locations remain under elevated threat of militant attacks. When traveling in central squares, or in areas with persistent police deployments, avoid the immediate vicinity of security forces, particularly fixed traffic booths, as such personnel and facilities have increasingly come under attack by militant elements.