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In the last 5 weeks we have been seeing the fruit of a year of behind-the-scenes work and a gradual shift in attitude. Historically, every industry body has been strongly against the use of armed security contractors for a number of reasons to do with increase rather than reduction in risk from bringing people with guns onboard ships. As of 23 May 2011, whilst the IMO and industry bodies remain a respectable distance from endorsing the use of private armed security guards, they are now at least, helping the shipping industry deal with implications of such a risk treatment. Until now, ship owners have been dealing with this issue in isolation and whilst in Dryad’s view this guidance has been too long coming, we thoroughly endorse this progress and see this guidance as extremely important.
The measures outlined in the IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee Circular 1405 (MSC 1 / Circ 1405) issued on 23 May are entirely sensible an logical: pre transit risk assessment (as required by the ISPS code) followed by risk treatments over and above BMP, picked not at random but to protect specific weaknesses. Of course, this occasionally necessitates the use of armed security contractors and in turn, this risk treatment has its own risks which must be treated. These include, exposure to vicarious risk if anyone is shot, complicity in the illegal movement of weapons and probably most commonly – hiring a company that simply can’t do the job effectively.
The guidance is likely to significantly assist the development and self regulation of the security industry. This is a contemporary theme and the Security Association for the Maritime Industry (SAMI) is working extremely hard to improve standards for the benefit of security contractors, security and shipping companies alike. However, the health warning is that in Dryad’s opinion only the best of the existing security companies will tick all of the boxes.
There are essential requirements (eg Rules for the Use of Force; carriage of weapons and insurance) which every security company involved in providing armed security contractors must adhere to in order to be fit for purpose. It’s expensive for the security company but these factors cannot be compromised. Some of the requirements in the guidance are drawn from very best military practice (individual and collective; initial and continuation training) and coercing private security companies to address this potentially cash neutral issue is undoubtedly a good thing.