Case Studies

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Case Study – Criminal extortion

Central America

Incident: Our client, a large company with operations throughout Latin America, received a tip-off that they might become the target of an extortion campaign.

Response: Terra Firma was immediately contacted about the possible extortion and an adviser was assigned to work with the client, providing ongoing support and advice regarding preparations for the receipt of an actual extortion threat.

Eventually an extortion email arrived on the client’s general email account and over a period of two weeks, our adviser designed various strategies to deal with the extortion, conducted training for the client’s drivers, and designed a long-term plan for the client’s risk management protocols.

Resolution: The strategy adopted led to the failure of the extortion attempt and the identification and arrest of the gang leader with enough evidence to secure a conviction and prison sentence for the gang members.

Case Study – Kidnap

West Africa

Incident: A vessel was discharging off the Bight of Benin when, at around midnight, a port vessel came alongside.  Before the crew could react, six armed men came aboard.  The majority of the crew had time to escape to the citadel, but two senior crew members were taken ashore and held hostage.

Response: On hearing of the abduction, the ship’s owners called the Terra Firma 24/7 hotline and were immediately put through to one of our advisers. Initial advice was offered over the telephone and an adviser was immediately sent to support the client at their HQ.

Resolution: Negotiations in this area are often particularly difficult – the kidnappers can be unpredictable and volatile, and communications are usually very poor. In this case, the kidnappers started the negotiation with an extraordinarily high demand, and some very vicious threats. But, with Terra Firma advice, the company had a clear negotiation strategy, and gradually an agreement was reached. The adviser supervised the delivery of a ransom, which involved the delivery team, with an armed escort, making a rendez-vous with the kidnappers in the dangerous creeks of that part of West Africa.  After various local rituals were undertaken, including the drinking of swamp water, both sides were satisfied that each would honour the agreement and the ransom was brought to the meeting place and counted. After almost three weeks in captivity, both crew members were released and taken for medical checks and treatment.  Within 48 hours they were on their way home.

Case Study – Piracy

Indian Ocean

Incident: A bulk carrier with some 30 crew members was hijacked and held captive for several months off the coast of Somalia.

Response: A Terra Firma adviser was sent to the HQ of the shipping company and helped to establish the crisis management team. The adviser provided advice throughout the period of captivity and also spoke to the pirates on the company’s behalf.

Resolution: Terra Firma had dealt with this group of pirates and their negotiator in previous hijackings, so the adviser was able to prepare the company and the crew’s families for what lay ahead. After difficult and protracted negotiations, a settlement was reached, although this was by no means the end of the ordeal. Delivering a ransom and resupplying a ship in Somali waters is a complicated and dangerous feat, requiring detailed planning and organisation. A vetted and trusted security company was chosen to undertake the job of delivery and resupply and after a successful operation the ship and crew were able to head for a safe port. Together with the company’s lawyers, a Terra Firma adviser debriefed the Master and crew and helped gather relevant information for the authorities and subsequent arbitration (general average) proceedings.

Case Study – Political Evacuation

East Africa

Incident: In July 2016, South Sudan suffered some very sudden and severe civil unrest as the two factions loyal to the President and Vice President came to blows.  Terra Firma received a call from a client which had two sets of staff in different locations in South Sudan.

Response: We provided immediate risk management advice so that staff were safe while we worked through with the client the various options – chiefly, hibernation or evacuation.  It became obvious that the fighting, which involved the use of medium and heavy weaponry including mortars, rockets and artillery, was too intense to move staff in Juba to the airport.  In addition, the airport was closed and security forces were turning travellers back on the airport road.  We provided practical advice for the staff who were by now in basements and other safe areas in Juba.

Resolution: Terra Firma assisted the client in establishing the various options for evacuation, and when a temporary ceasefire was in place the client was able to move the staff in Juba, with professional security protection, to the airport and onto an evacuation flight. On the same day, the client was also able to move the staff from another location in South Sudan so the evacuation was complete.  Terra Firma’s next task was to assist the client in determining when, and under what conditions, staff should be redeployed to South Sudan, and to ensure that risk and crisis management planning took account of the lessons learnt from the previous crisis.