Government-owned Oman Shipping Company (OSC) has invested in a number of measures to secure its expanding fleet of ships against piracy attacks
Capt Andrew Boyce, Senior Manager Safety & Marine, Oman Ship Management Company, informed delegates on the second day of the TransOman Conference at the Grand Hyatt Muscat the measures — although expensive — are a necessity to ensure the security of the country’s national fleet, now boasting 36 ships worth nearly $3 billion,
Equally important, he said, is the need to safeguard the company’s Omani and multinational crew, some 600 of whom are at sea at any given time.
“We spend a lot of money training our people. We use external consultants and have them sail on our vessels.
We run through mock drills and mock attacks, provide citadels (safe rooms) on our ships, bulletproof film on the windows, body armour, razor wire, communications, and so on.
This involves a big expense, but there is no alternative,” Capt Boyce told delegates on the second day of the TransOman Conference at the Grand Hyatt Muscat.
In addition, the company spends significant sums on the deployment of private armed security guards on its vessels during sailings through piracy-prone waters. “As a result of the situation out there, we are spending about a million dollars every year on armed security guards, while our charterers are paying a factor of 8 or 9, or close to $10 million,” he said.
He described private maritime security contracting as “big business”, an industry that’s expected to thrive as wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down. The challenge for shipping companies was to make the distinction between the ‘Rambos’ offering their services as armed guards for a hefty fee, and the reputable ones.
Earlier this year, OSC put in place guidelines to ensure that private security guards on board its vessels are properly vetted. In the legal “grey area” that ships operate while on the high seas, any unpleasant development involving the deployment of armed guards, will have potential consequences only for the ship owner and captain.