Page 70

International Maritime

The stats man and the sea Pirate hunter, undercover statistician or psychological medic? Karsten von Hoesslin's career is as hard to pin down as the oceans he covers as a 'maritime response consultant'.

I By Adeline Teoh ASM Correspondent

'm flying in an Antonov 27, 50 metres over the water, dropping $3.5 million to a bunch of guys in raggedy clothes. Really, the money is just a prop," says Karsten von Hoesslin on how to make a ransom payment to Somali pirates who've hijacked a ship and taken its crew hostage. Ask him what he does for a living and the answer is necessarily circumspect. On paper he may be a 'maritime response consultant', but delve a little deeper and more amazing details start to emerge. Best known publicly as the host of National Geographic's series Lawless Oceans, von Hoesslin began his oceanic voyage many years prior with an interest in the South China Sea disputes for his Masters. "Having examined the United National Convention of the Law of the Sea, I asked myself 'how can something be so simply laid out and yet so complex to implement?'" The grants and funding he secured for that research also allowed him to peek at piracy issues where there were plenty of open source statistics but suspicions of under-reporting. "I then started my PhD research looking at various human intelligence methodologies for infiltrating organised crime groups," says von Hoesslin. "I started testing that in South East Asia in pirate networks, seeing how far I could infiltrate. The results were unprecedented, especially in comparison to what was reported in open sources." In addition to working with law enforcement agencies in South East Asia, he worked jointly with authorities on West Africa, Somali and Horn of Africa pirate issues. That exposed him to specialist training in areas such as hostage negotiation and behavioural profiling. It was at

70 | Malaysia & Singapore Security Magazine

this point he decided to pivot from intelligence work into more operational roles, "doing delivery drops, negotiations, support work and then actually commanding operations myself ", including that of delivering one of the highest value ransoms in Somali piracy history. But the rewards are less about the money and more about the people, von Hoesslin says. Having trained in paramedicine, tactical, flight and remote medicine as well as major incident medical management prepared him to work with the hostages of hijacked ships. "The people who were hostages were simply not in good enough condition to provide actionable intelligence. A lot of them are at various stages of PTSD and they haven't actually been given any psychological first aid," von Hoesslin explains. "There was a tremendous difference in the four days we would have with them, they were much better off. That was the most rewarding thing." Hunting phantom ships Filling in the gaps of some questionable statistics led von Hoesslin to his current role. There was a 'boom' in South East Asian piracy in 2014-15, he explains. "There were a lot of vessels that would disappear or were hijacked and sometimes they were off the books, it wasn't reported. I was able to find some of these vessels in Indonesia and various places where they were being held—some of them were insurance scams." It was at this point he crossed paths with National Geographic, who were filming an episode of Underworld, Inc on South East Asian pirates. National Geographic followed

Malaysia & Singapore Security Magazine - Special Edition  
Malaysia & Singapore Security Magazine - Special Edition  

This special introductory edition of the Malaysia & Singapore Security Magazine has been compiled from current, as well as recent articles p...