Posts Tagged Armed Guards

Maritime Security: Piracy Plunges As More Ships Start Carrying Armed Guards

“In 2011, the numbers of private armed security teams went up significantly and that has been a big game-changer as well, though not the only factor,” Olive said. “If that pressure is taken off it can all start to be unpicked relatively rapidly,” he added, referring to industry and military measures to combat piracy.

It’s nice to see some recognition going towards the efforts of armed security out there. They have been a ‘big game-changer’ and the statistics speak for themselves.

Although one looming iceberg that can really mangle the record of private armed guards are shootings that result in innocent people being killed. I have to imagine that we will see private maritime security industry involved in such a thing, and an example of how that might turn out can be seen with the shooting accident that happened last February between some Italian Marine vessel protection guards and an Indian fishing vessel.

In that accident, one innocent person was killed, and it is the type of deal that has been all over the news in both India and Italy. This kind of international incident would literally destroy a security company and absolutely embarrass the client. But it would also be the kind of incident that would put some extreme negative attention on the maritime security industry as a whole. The question is how do you prevent something like that from happening, and can you?

Logically speaking, it is bound to happen. So the prudent thing for companies is to actually prepare your legal strategic defense for such an event. To study how this specific event between the Italians and Indians, and learn from it to get a good game plan together. Of course you always want to refine your rules of engagement and enforce it with training and good management/leadership, but in the realm of combat, unfortunate things happen and companies must be prepared.

One final point is the use of the Letter of Marque (LoM) or a similar licensing system. This could be used as a form of protection for those armed guards on the high seas. If the ship’s captain carries a LoM for that vessel, issued by the same state the vessel is flagged under, then in that case the state can identify through that license what they are legally willing to support when it comes to the defense of that vessel. Under the terms of the LoM, you can list all sorts of requirements of the vessel’s protection team, and you can write up legal protections for that team and vessel.

The main point of this type of LoM is to get the state back into the game of regulating armed force on these vessels and provide some kind of legal protections and accountability. If states are willing to put their flag on a vessel, then why not go the whole way and allow them to issue a LoM or similar license for this kind of ‘warfare on the high seas’? –Matt


Piracy plunges as more ships start carrying armed guards
November 30, 2012
By Michelle Wiese Bockmann
Pirate attacks on merchant vessels in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean fell 81 per cent this year as the use of armed security guards on ships acted as a “game-changer,” according to the European Union’s naval force.
There were 34 attacks by Somali pirates, with five vessels hijacked so far in 2012, compared to a record 176 assaults in the whole of last year that resulted in 25 ships seized for ransom, according to Peter Olive, the EU Naval Force’s chief of staff.
Ransom payments to Somali pirates totaled $36 million so far this year, compared with $147 million last year, he said Thursday at a briefing at the EU’s naval force headquarters at Northwood, England. As well as more aggressive military operations, the increasing deployment of private guards over the last 18 months on vessels transiting high-risk areas contributed to the declines, Olive said.
“In 2011, the numbers of private armed security teams went up significantly and that has been a big game-changer as well, though not the only factor,” Olive said. “If that pressure is taken off it can all start to be unpicked relatively rapidly,” he added, referring to industry and military measures to combat piracy.

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Maritime Security: South Africa Ponders Armed Guards Aboard Merchant Ships

Anyone that has followed the legal show in South Africa towards private security should take note of this one. I was sickened by SA’s treatment of the brave contractors that went to Iraq or Afghanistan. Men were killed and wounded in these wars, and the professionalism and dedication they presented was awesome. They should have been celebrated for their service, and not demonized.

With that said, I think this latest news about SA re-evaluating the value of such men is good news. These veterans in SA would do a fantastic job of defending merchant ships. Not only that, but SA is strategically situated on the continent to take advantage of this market.

From providing floating armories to providing training, SA is in a position to certainly be of value to the industry. So I hope they do work out the legalities and allow armed guards on boats. We will see…

Another point I wanted make with this post, is the Enrica Lexie incident, where Italian Marines posted on this merchant vessel shot and killed some innocent fishermen thinking they were pirates. It has caused quite the stir between India and Italy.

What I wanted to point out was that this was a military detail, and not a private security force. With military details, a ship’s captain really has no say so on what they do–they are military, following the orders of their command. With PSC’s, a ship’s captain calls the shots, and if that PSC doesn’t like it, the ship owners contract the services of another PSC.  That is one of the key advantages with private versus public.

Also, Admiral Nirmal Verma conveniently removes this distinction in his commentary about this incident. That he forgot to mention that this was a ‘military detail’ that did this, and not a PSC.

With that said, eventually a PSC will have an accident. It is bound to happen and when it does, you will certainly see the opposition to private security on vessels use this as a reason why we should not have armed guards on boats. It is the typical knee-jerk reaction of such incidents, and we need to get prepared for it.

This is the floating iceberg of maritime security, and I think it would be prudent for groups like SAMI or BIMCO to have a discussion about how this can be best mitigated. I think all ship owners are watching the Enrica Lexie incident and thinking, what would happen if my guards shot and killed some innocent fishermen in a similar horrible mistake? What is the plan? Or do you just operate on ‘hope and prayers’ that it won’t happen…..?

Of course everyone is working on ensuring this does not happen. Standards and codes of conduct are being produced and signed by folks all over the world. But what is important to note is that we are still humans. We make mistakes and things can go wrong, despite all of the training and all of the rules/laws.  So there should be consideration by all parties as to how best to deal with this reality. Talk with the lawyers, talk with those who have suffered such consequences, and learn from these nightmare scenarios on how best to navigate them. Be prepared as they say….-Matt


SA ponders armed guards aboard merchant ships
By Dean Wingrin
Thursday, 12 April 2012
South Africa has been asked to grapple with the question of how to deal with armed guards aboard civilian ships at sea.
In her keynote address at the opening of the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium in Cape Town yesterday, Lindiwe Sisulu, Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, stated that a number of European countries had approached South Africa with the request that South Africa assist the armed guards that provide anti-piracy protection aboard merchant ships off the east coast of Africa.
“We would like to be advised by yourselves on the ethics and viability of this,” Sisulu asked the Symposium.
Speaking to reporters after her address, Sisulu said that the world was turning to providing onboard security to protect their vessels against piracy. As a result, South Africa was required to grapple with this issue and give it the go-ahead.
“But,” Sisulu continued, “there is a need for us in the South African context that we may be required to allow replenishment for those people who provide security onboard the ships. Now I do know that there is an ethical matter, on whether or not (civilian) ships (can) carry armed people.“

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Israel: Security Companies Hold 40 Percent Of The Guns In Israel

This is an interesting story. I had no idea that private security held 40 percent of the guns in Israel? But I also understand why so many folks have weapons. That country has been in a constant state of war or threat of war. They constantly face threats inside their borders and outside, so it is not uncommon to see soldiers carrying their weapons all over the place. Or even settlers armed with weapons to defend their families. But I had no idea that the ratio was that high for PSC gun ownership.

With that said, I do not think it is wise for guards to lock up their weapons there. 24 people being killed in the last decade by guns of off duty guards in the last decade is a sad loss, but there is not mention as to how many lives were saved by guards on their off duty who were armed?

Especially as things become even more dangerous and unstable around Israel because of the Arab Spring. So to me, it is very logical to have as many armed individuals both on duty and off duty, just to deal with any potential threats. –Matt


Israeli armed guard, Falamiya village, West Bank.


Knesset: Guards should leave weapons at work
MK Gal-On says security companies current hold 130,000 weapons, about 40 percent of the guns in the country.
MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud), chairwoman of the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women, demanded on Monday that security guards be required to leave their weapons at work, following a report that 24 people were killed in the last decade by guns belonging to off-duty security guards.
The report was issued by Woman to Woman, the Jerusalem Shelter for Battered Women.
“Security companies seem to have received an exemption from the law that forbids guards to remove their weapons from their place of work,” Hotovely said.
The Likud MK said she would ask Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch to enforce the law and instruct security companies to allocate a secure place for guards to check their weapons.

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Maritime Security: Cyprus Merchant Ships To Carry Gunmen Against Piracy, CNA Says

Unfortunately, this is all I could get on this story. There might have been stuff hidden in Cyprus news sites, but I could find anything, and translation mechanisms kind of sucked. Either way Lloyd’s List reported in June about Cyprus lawmakers introducing legislation that would make it legal for their flagged vessels to have armed guards. So hopefully this story below indicates some movement towards this becoming a reality?

I also imagine that the ‘cooking beans‘ incident, where a Cyprus vessel was set on fire by pirates as the crew cowered in their little safe room, probably brought just a little too much negative attention to the matter. lol  Hopefully we will see this law passed, and armed guards can get on these boats. –Matt


Cyprus Merchant Ships to Carry Gunmen Against Piracy, CNA Says
By Stelios Orphanides
Sep 26, 2011
Cyprus’s government is preparing a change to the law that will allow its merchant ships to carry gunmen as protection against pirates, Cyprus News Agency reported, citing a shipping official.
The east Mediterranean island is close to completing a bill which will be submitted to the parliament aimed at protecting Cypriot ships, CNA said, citing Sergios Sergiou, director of the Cypriot Department of Merchant Shipping.
Story here.

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Maritime Security: The EUNAVFOR Says Armed Security Will Fail, Despite Successes

You know, I agree that eventually a boat with an armed crew will get taken one of these days. But even if one or two are taken, how would that possibly indicate any kind of potential failure? I mean look at the statistics so far?

According to the figures from EUNAVFOR, 90% of ships surviving a pirate attack in the Gulf of Aden this year have credited a security team for aiding their escape.

I don’t know about you, but my math says that even if a couple of boats with armed security are taken, the overwhelming success of the boats that got away would still show the validity of the concept. That it works.

On the other hand, I do agree that eventually it will happen.  That is just the odds of the whole thing, because eventually the worst and most minimally staffed and armed security detail will be overwhelmed by a well armed pirate crew(s) that know what they are doing. But so far, that has not happened ‘god forbid’.  But I am not going to sit here and say that if does happen, that armed security on boats is a bad idea or that a few incidents will equal a failed concept.  That is just ridiculous.

It kind of reminds me of how contractors in Iraq or Afghanistan are viewed by the public, based on a few very highly publicized events. That the thousands of missions of success, are wiped out by one or two events?  Make no mention of the complexity of these conflicts, and just bash private industry as it tries to survive and win in such an environment. Pffft. It would be like bashing the concept of the Marines, because of Haditha? Or bashing the concept of the Army, because of their Kill Teams deal. Or bashing any of the branches for accidentally killing or harming civilians.

And here is where the public versus private debate really begins. Much like with the early privateers and their successes in US wars, Navy proponents will always become jealous and get competitive if private industry is looked upon as a good idea or had success. So likewise, at the end of those wars, there was always that element of anti-private industry in any of the scholarly treatments of the concept and that history, just because it helps knock down private industry a few notches. It is totally an ego/budget thing when it comes to matters of defense and the monopoly on the use of force. And guess who owns the military academies, or has massive budgets to promote how cool and effective they are? lol Exactly…..

So the only thing private industry can do, is to continue to prove it’s worth and improve upon the service it provides. To be the better idea, despite what anyone says.  I thoroughly expect to see this ‘perfect record’ be broken, and I imagine that these particular cases will be used against private industry by all those who stand to benefit from that.

I would like to hope that we are all on the same side in this fight. Or ‘expulsis piratis, restituta commercia’? That ego could be put aside, and the public/private partnership could actually be a strategic edge in this fight.-Matt


Bound To Fail
September 16th, 2011
Why are armed guards currently so popular? Well the answer is simple, no ship has yet to be taken by pirates with an armed team onboard.
But for how long can this continue? Well according to EUNAVFOR, not much longer.
Captain Keith Blount, chief of staff at the counter-piracy task force, speaking at a conference organised by the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), believes that this 100% record will inevitably fail. He stated that pirates will take a ship with armed guards on board, it is simply a matter of time.
With piracy season in the Indian Ocean soon about to ramp up again due to the end of the monsoon season, these words may come to haunt an industry which has seen armed guards as the only ray of hope in an otherwise forlorn situation.

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Maritime Security: Ministry Of Shipping–Indian Ship Owners Are Now Allowed To Contract With Private Security Companies

This is surprising, because from what I can tell, Indian ship owners are able to contract with whatever PSC they want. Which means Indian ship owners could tap into the already vibrant maritime security market. This is great news if true. I posted the guidelines in my Scribd if anyone is curious, and I could not find anything in them that said these PSC’s had to be Indian owned.

A couple of months back I posted a deal about the Indian government warming up to the idea of allowing their ship owners to use armed guards. But I got the impression in that article that they would only allow retired Indian naval officers to work on these vessels? Now I am sure Indian shipping companies would probably prefer contracting with Indian PSC’s, but hopefully with these new guidelines, this will help them to realize they have a choice–that’s if they would like to go outside of the market of Indian PSC’s.-Matt


Ships with Indian crew can have armed guards
Aug 30 2011
The ministry of shipping on Monday issued guidelines allowing ships with Indian crew to deploy armed guards in a bid to combat piracy in the Gulf of Aden. The move comes on the back of recommendations from the inter-ministerial group (IMG) of officers constituted to handle the hostage situation on hijacked ships and also suggest preventive measures.
It has been found that about 35 per cent of the ship transiting in these waters deploy armed security guards and that the pirates generally don’t attack ships with armed guards on board, an official release said on Monday. So far, 120 Somalian pirates have been apprehended by India as on date.
As per the new guidelines, ship owners are allowed to engage private maritime security companies (PMSC) through a proper selection procedure. In line with these, all Indian ships visiting Indian ports are to furnish details of security personnel on board, the firearms carried by them and the details of licence issued, etc, to the port authority, customs, Coast Guard and the Navy. Foreign merchant vessels visiting Indian ports with security guards are also required to follow similar procedure, as per the guidelines.

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