As international controversy continues about the “wheres,” “whys” and “how much” of maritime piracy in key international shipping areas, an important debate now focuses on the use of “floating armories” in efforts to restore security on the high seas.
In particular, private security companies relying on unregulated floating armories—meant to avoid arms smuggling laws when they lay offshore ports in the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean—have created their own, apparently-deepening concerns, as recent U.S. government efforts in this regard show.
It is important to remember that in just a few years, the number of private maritime security firms has gone from just a handful to more than two hundred, a number of which are clearly “fly-by-nighters” whose substandard performance threatens both our industry and those owners, operators and seafarers that AdvanFort is determined to protect.
The uncertain legal status of the floating armories means that industry critics are increasingly concerned that not only does the absence of regulation result in their being vulnerable to attack from the same maritime denizens they are meant to protect against, but also that any such potential looting by pirates could mean international maritime organized crime is, in fact, strengthened at this critical time.
At AdvanFort, we have been able to offer an alternative to these concerns with our predeployed operator support vessel (OSV) network in the piracy high risk area in and around the Gulf of Aden. This market-driven remedy for those seeking secure transit in one of the world’s most dangerous maritime regions is an example of how publicly-lauded best practices also make bottom-line sense for those who need it the most.
The OSV fleet, composed of long-endurance vessels, has created the AdvanFort’s Secure Corridor positioned strategically on the commercial shipping lanes in and about pirate-infested water in the Red Sea, the Somali Basin, the Arabian Sea, and the Indian Ocean.
In doing so, we have created an distinct set of advantages for all ship owners and operators, because the Secure Corridor means we have been able to help them avoid route changes, delays and unscheduled stops—all of enables our clients to stop by pick up and drop off guards in 30 minutes or less.
Our route-specific intelligence assessments together with the strategically-deployed OSVs allow us to wait for our clients rather than them being forced to wait.
Thus, not only does AdvanFort manage its costs and pass the savings to its clients, but also helps it take control of delivery, ensuring that its teams are ready well in advance for embarkations and disembarkations.
In the context of this increasingly-complex debate about “floating armories” and the very real possibility that U.S. companies will soon be banned from using them, OSVs win points for not being unregulated in same way floating armories are.
Let us be clear. Unlike the floating armories, AdvanFort does not use our OSVs to charge third-party guards (i.e. private cowboy operators) for storage of weapons and ammunition. Additionally, AdvanFort also restricts access only to those extensively vetted and highly trained AdvanFort guards. Because of this above-board, onboard focus, we have the possibility to work closely with local officials, harbormasters and those others necessary to constantly improve and strengthen bonds that are critically important.
We also take strong measures to make sure its weapons and ammunition are not hijacked by pirates/terrorists.
The AdvanFort model is based on economic best practices for clients, not part of the apparent skull-duggery of avoiding arms smuggling laws when docked in foreign ports, which is why our OSVs have been the focus of independent praise.
Finally, the AdvanFort OSV model is best way to ensure that legitimate use of floating armories is not forced underground, leaving clients worldwide at new risk from piracy. As a result, AdvanFort welcomes additional regulations, as it expects these will promote even more state-of-the-art OSV practices.
William H. Watson is president and COO of the AdvanFort Company, a recognized leader in the field of counter piracy and other maritime security solutions.