The move reflected growing interest by Hong Kong and mainland shipping companies to use armed guards to protect their ships and crews while sailing through pirate-infested waters in the Indian Ocean, Arabian Sea and Gulf of Aden.
Gibbins said the firm had seen business grow 140 per cent so far this year compared with last year as the global shipping industry increasingly used armed personnel. “We’ve been working for two years and clocked up 1,000 transits. We’ve deterred 23 attacks, all of which avoided any lethal force,” he said.

Every once in awhile, an article comes up that is just full of interesting data. This article is short, but filled with some key points that have helped to identify a trend here. That the armed maritime security business is on the rise, and expanding.

The article mentioned a familiar company called PVI or Protection Vessels International. This company was identified as one of the top Maritime Security companies that guys wanted to work for in my last survey, and it is great to see a good company expanding and doing well.

What was also interesting is that the author identified a trade industry called the Security Association for the Maritime Industry or SAMI. This trade group is doing some good work, and namely trying to organize and hold it’s members to some standard. Which is great, because at this time, there is no one regulating the maritime security industry. A group like this can also help shipping companies to determine who the good companies are..kind of.

On the other hand, SAMI will run into the same problem that ISOA has when it comes to dealing with a member company that screwed up. Or how they deal with member companies when one of us contractors files a legitimate claim of abuse and violation of the code that the company signed on to follow. Will they truly punish one of their members when they do bad, or even take away their membership?  What kind of teeth does SAMI have to actually police their own is the question, and that will be the indicator of it’s true strength as a group.  Or is this just another club for companies to join, and say ‘look, we are members, so we must be good’.

Which this brings us to the road that I keep ending up on when we talk about this stuff. We can have associations and trade groups and clubs all day long, but unless we have legal authority or license to do what we are doing, then all of these self imposed regulations and policies are just kind of weak. A Letter of Marque is a license that comes directly from the highest authority of any country, and it is a license that is backed up by hundreds of years of use. If a country is willing to put it’s flag on a vessel, then why are they so afraid to put that same flag on an armed security team in the form of a comprehensive LoM that is backed by a bond?

I mean if I have to get the SSO, STCW 95, ENG1, TWIC, Yellow Fever and  Seaman’s Kit Book for a job, I guess I will do it. But the ultimate would be an LoM. And even with an LoM, you would probably run into issues when dealing with other countries out there, but at least you would have a license of true significance.

On another note, if you look at that list of member companies at SAMI, you will have quite the list of maritime security companies to submit resumes and CV’s too. You can do the same over at the ISOA, and that is a great way of identifying those companies who are players out there.

Finally, another point to make here is the market of armed maritime security work is expanding quickly. Lots of countries are getting on the band wagon of armed security, which is great. But what I would like to see, are more of the larger companies getting into the game.  Of course all of the government related contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan are the cash cows of these companies, but as the war winds down and there becomes less and less demand for armed security in the war zones, then it would make sense that some of these companies would look at maritime security as a potential market. I think there is room for a lot more entry into this market, and especially if companies like PVI have seen a ‘140 percent increase’ in business just in this year alone.

As more vessels get armed security, the vessels that do not have security will get an increase in attention by the pirates as well. So the market will be expanding quickly as the ratio of unprotected vessels decreases–less boats, yet the same amount of pirates, and probably an increase in attacks against unarmed vessels. Remember, the pirates are using scouts and hacking emails and doing whatever they can to find out who has security, and who does not. It is this environment that security companies should examine, and understand that now is the time to enter the market if you are looking for other business.-Matt

Anti-piracy consultants in search of Asian clients
By Keith Wallis
Jul 17, 2011
One of the largest companies providing armed guards for shipowners is to open an office in Hong Kong next month to help develop closer business links with Asian shipowners.
Commenting on the move, Paul Gibbins, director of communications for Protection Vessels International, said: “We are looking for further opportunities in that part of the world.”
Shipping industry insiders said on Friday that the company’s executives would visit Hong Kong this week to meet shipowners before opening an office in the city early next month.
Gibbins said most of the firm’s clients are owners and managers in northern Europe and the company was keen to broaden its customer base. Ian May, who will head the Hong Kong office, would look for opportunities throughout Asia and allow the company to have a closer physical presence in Asia’s shipping community.

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