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As an example of sheer blithering incompetence, arrogance and heavy handedness

of our "Intelligence Services" ( my quotation marks..!) read about the m.v. Nisha which these idiots thought was, or decided to portray as a terrorist ship. From what I've heard that several of the Indian crew were beaten up by the naval authorities. I'm not sure that I had heard even a mention of this in the mainstream news but these articles are scanned in from Lloyds List last Thursday and Friday.

Mr Sudhir Muiji of the Great Eastern Shipping Company, in India a company as well respected as, say, P&O, is, I think, incredibly restrained in his careful explanation as to how anyone who knew a little about maritime business would not have jumped to the childish and sensational conclusion that they did.

And not long ago Britain was the number 1 maritime nation in the world. It makes you sick doesn't it.

And as a marine industry professional myself, I have to deal with largely well-meaning Iranians, Koreans, Japanese, Malaysians, Indians etc etc in the marine industry who don't now so readily accept my attempts to distance my nationality from the international embarrassment for themselves that the Americans have created.

Best regards

Richard

Nisha caught up in the 'manifold' of terror

IN THE philosophy of Kant, the "manifold" is the unorganised flux of data presented to the senses.

This information has to be structured by means of concepts before it can be dealt with. At the level of terrorism, my own view of the Nisha incident is that an absence of knowledge about shipping led to an unfortunate misunderstanding on the part of the authorities.

It began with the notion of al-Qua'eda aiming to attack London with a ship carrying terrorist paraphernalia.

Then it was assumed that such a ship was likely to be armed in territories neighbouring al-Qua'eda strongholds.

When, therefore, the Nisha was discovered to be heading for London from Massawa in the Red Sea she was seen as fitting the bill and being a potential threat. What was perhaps less well understood was that ships cannot just come to London and dock in British ports for no purpose or at the whim of the master or crew. The Nisha is a tramp ship and moves from one place to another depending on the business she obtains. Like all such vessels, she has no fixed schedule and the prospect of her turning up in London was dependent on various events, the chronology of which was highly relevant.

Matters were further confused by subsequent reports that the ship had disap-peared for two months. What she was actually doing at the time is therefore important for assessing the facts.

The vessel had been Sudhir Muiji, chairman of Great Eastern Shipping (UK), owner of the Nisha, which was boarded by security forces in the English Channel, reflects on the pre-Christmas events chartered in August to carry a cargo of diammonium phosphate from Tampa in Florida to Djibouti in the Red Sea.

She arrived there on September 5 and completed her discharge on the 16th. She was then chartered to lighten, or take off, cargo from another ship that cannot berth because of her dimensions at the discharging berth -American aid wheat from the Liberty Spirit, also anchored in Djibouti, to Massawa in Eritrea.

Having completed that discharge on October 5 she was chartered for a repeat performance to discharge wheat from a second US vessel, Trinity, from Massawa Reads to Massawa.

The fact that she spent two months lightening ships meant that she was not moving between different ports. Such "stationary" behaviour may well have confused the computers of international tracking sy~tems, leading them perhaps to conclude that the vessel had disappeared.

It might have also bemused military intelligence personnel into concluding that the vessel was being concealed to conduct nefarious activities.

The train of events meant that the Nisha was in the Red Sea for more than two months, shuttling between Djibouti and Eritrea.

But, no matter whether she had been in the Red Sea or the Black Sea, she was not destined for London during the months of August, September and October. Her regular brokers, Howe Robinson, pro-posed various alternative cargoes like Aqaba to India but none of these possible voyages took place. Business for London from Mauritius was also a possibility but unlikely, as No one could have foretold a London voyage before the charter these shipments now normally move on newer vessels.

For my part, as representative of the owners, I was seriously examining scrapping the ship, for she is 24 years old and, although many who have seen the ship on television have remarked on her excellent condition, she may well have reached an age of economic obsolescence.

Whether we could run her profitably was, and is still, a matter of some doubt. She was very nearly destined for India or Pakistan's scrap yards (with or without terrorist paraphernalia). Unfortunately, scrap prices collapsed.

The point of relating all these uninteresting thoughts that had been going round in my mind is to show that al Qua'eda could not have ensured that the vessel could be used for damaging London during all those months when the ship was thought to have disappeared. Not until the moment when she was actually chartered for London could they guarantee that she would go there. That event did not begin to take place until November 4, when the Mauritius sugar syndicate advertised a cargo from Port Louis to London. Howe Robinson again proposed the Nisha and this time concluded the business by November 5. The ship was informed on the night of the 6th. Since the vessel departed from Massawa on the morning of the 8th, terrorists would have had precisely one day to think, organise and place weapons on the ship for any possible attack. The main theme of this argument is that even the most irrational terrorist would need to behave differently under conditions of uncertainty from what he would do if he had the knowledge of hindsight. This general proposition was the main theme of Keynes' attack on classical economists. We have wrongly learnt to ignore him in our economic~, and now seem to be making the same kind of mistake in our attempts at countering terrorism. It is common knowledge to the humblest shipbroker that a tramp ship generally has to be specially contracted to carry cargo. The activity known as "chartering", though routine, does involve a certain degree of rigmarole. There are at least three principal parties, namely the shipper or exporter of the cargo, the receiver or importer of the cargo and the ship-owner, the carrier of the cargo. All three parties have to agree to the terms and it is generally the case that if any one of them disagrees the contract cannot be finalised.

There was therefore an obvious logical disconnection between the period before the vessel was chartered and after the charter. No one could have foretold a London voyage before the charter. It was probably an error in assuming that a terrorist purpose was planned on the off- chance

Even if the authorities were convinced that the Nisha was a potential threat, there were many less extravagant counter steps that could have been taken that the ship might have been fixed for London.

Once the ship was fixed for a voyage to London, she certainly could have been used for criminal purpose, but then there was very little time for terrorists to plan and organise it.

It follows that, even if the authorities were convinced that the Nisha was a potential threat, there were many less extravagant counter steps that could have been taken. In this case the owner was a British subsidiary of an Indian public company, the supplier of the cargo was the Mauritius Sugar Syndicate and the receiver was the household name of Tate & Lyle. All were authorised by contract to survey the ship before any cargo was loaded.

Further, the authorities, at any point of her ope month voyage from Mauritius to London, could have detained her at a small cost. Finally, the authorities have ordinary powers for searching a vessel for contraband goods before entering British waters. No owner could refuse such a search. It has been said that, as the owner's representative, I have objected to the severity of the attack on the ship.

This is quite untrue. So long as the ship was considered to be a terrorist ship, force might well have been justified.

My complaint is that any investigation through a few telephone calls in London should have been sufficient to reduce the doubts.

It is perhaps proper to end with Kant. He argued that it is not what we know that matters but how we put together what we know.

The Nisha incident is one of the saddest tragedies of unnecessary ignorance. We could have done much better.


Terror-struck Nisha docks in London

By Brian Reyes
THE ship at the centre of an international row sparked after she was stopped and boarded by British anti-terrorist forces in the English Channel last December finally docked at a Thames terminal yesterday. The Great Eastern Shipping vessel Nisha was intercepted by British authorities acting on intelligence that she was carrying terrorist materials. The incident came amid widespread fears that terrorists could target commercial vessels and turn them into floating bombs, a prospect which has prompted an industry-wide security shake-up. The 30,000 dwt Nisha, which had been trading in the Middle East and was heading for a terminal close to the centre of London, was considered a prime suspect. But a three-day search of the ship found no evidence of terrorist activity, prompting her owner to lash back at British authorities. Great Eastern has severely criticised the UK's intelligence services and the heavy- handed way in which the crew of the Nisha was treated, despite claims that they were willing to co-operate. It has yet to be determined who will pay for the delays forced upon the vessel and for damage caused during the searches, but the shipowner is considering legal action. The ship, carrying 26,000 tonnes of raw sugar, arrived yesterday afternoon at th Thames Refinery in Silver town, operated by Tate & Lyle Europe. Geoff Adam, head of port promotion at the Port of Lon don Authority, said the ship would be in port for a few days for a "routine" unload- ing operation". He said she had been given a clean bill of health by the Royal Navy.

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