Gray Page, a maritime intelligence, investigation and crisis management company, advised that the IMO's Maritime Safety Committee’s (MSC) recently-approved interim guidance on the employment of privately-contracted armed security personnel (PCASP) to combat piracy underlines the requirement for independent vetting of private armed maritime security providers (AMSP).
The MSC guidance, issued in May, incorporates recommendations for flag States confirming that it is the responsibility of individual flag States to ordain the carriage of security personnel and their firearms onboard ships sailing under their flags. Further interim guidance for shipowners, ship operators and shipmasters, seeks to address the difficulties faced in selecting an appropriate provider of armed security services.
James Wilkes, managing director, Gray Page, commented: “The IMO should be commended for setting these guidelines focused, as they are, on ensuring that the provision on board of armed maritime security teams is managed safely and lawfully.”
“For a shipowner, employing the services of an armed maritime security provider is an exceptionally serious proposition, as the logical consequence of putting men with arms on board a ship is, fundamentally, to sanction the potential use of lethal force to defend the crew and vessel (albeit in extreme and proscribed circumstances). Any decision of such importance should be supported by comprehensive and objective due diligence.”
Gray Page has launched an ‘Armed Maritime Security Provider’ Vetting Program to provide shipowners with a reliable and independent means of vetting prospective providers of armed maritime security services. The program helps shipowners evaluate prospective providers against professional, legal and ethics-based criteria encompassing corporate probity, financial substance, regulatory and legislative compliance, commercial experience, contractual integrity, operational and logistical capability, weapons licensing and accountability, and the selection, recruitment and training of security personnel.
Wilkes added: “There will likely come a point in time when the diligence that a shipowner took in their evaluation and selection of a chosen armed maritime security provider will, itself, be scrutinized. In that event, the shipowner will probably be required to demonstrate that an appropriate due diligence process was followed, adhering to the IMO guidance as a minimum.”
About one in ten vessels off the Somali coast already carry armed guards. The IMO claims there were 489 reports of piracy and armed robbery against ships in 2010 - up more than 20% on 2009. So far this year, more than 200 cases have been reported.