Egypt detains ship for launching drone in Suez Canal

A recent incident involving a drone in the Suez Canal is causing a marine insurance company to warn over their usage onboard vessels.

The P&I Club Gard issued an alert to its members last week after one of its vessels was detained following the launch of a drone in order to photograph the vessel proceeding through the Suez Canal.

The club did not identify the vessel, but says that shortly after the drone had been launched the Master was contacted by the Suez Canal Authority and told to drop anchor. During a subsequent inspection, the Egyptian authorities confiscated the drone and its memory card and the vessel was detained in anticipation of further investigations.

Gard is now using the incident to demonstrate the unintended and sometimes serious consequences of launching drones from vessels, particularly when in port or sailing within a country’s territorial waters.

“Although the intention when launching the drone was simply to document the vessel proceeding through the Suez Canal, this ‘innocent act’ may have been considered a threat to national security by the Egyptian Military Forces,” Gard said in their alert.

Gard notes that while there are no common or international rules governing the use of drones, rules and regulations can change from one country to the next so it is up to the drone operator to adhere to local laws on their use at all times.

Gard’s alert comes as drones are increasingly being used for a variety of tasks in the maritime industry, not just for photography, but also inspection, surveillance, emissions monitoring, and even drone delivery.

“Members and clients are therefore advised to raise awareness of the use of drones among their Masters and crew, especially when a vessel is in port or is sailing within a country’s territorial waters. Regulations concerning the use of drones differ from one country to another and failure to comply with any given legislation may lead to a criminal prosecution,” Gard’s alert added.

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