Posts Tagged britain

Maritime Security: Typhon–Yet Another Bid At A Private Navy

What better way to start the new year off than with a post about another private navy? lol The last couple of years, I have been posting about the Jardine Lloyd Thompson CEP ‘private navy’. With that venture, they made a lot of promotional announcements, but never got it off the ground.  Funding of such a thing is the problem, and we will see how this new private navy venture by Typhon does in their drive to get set up.

So lets look at the business model, as was stated by Typhon in January of last year.

“A huge difference between our model and others is that we will negotiate reduced insurance rates. Rates have skyrocketed because it’s costing the industry $10bn-$12bn a year when you add everything up. Ransoms alone are $800m-$1.2bn.”
South Korea reportedly paid $25m to reclaim a ship last year. “And then that’s the new bar. It throws out Lloyds’ actuarial valuations,” says Sharp. “You have no idea what to charge as a premium. For my clients, we can take out some of the risk. I’ve got a letter from a Lloyds broker saying we can offer a 50pc discount on rates. That more than caters for our services.”

You know, in fairness to potential clients, the company should post that letter from Lloyds on their website. Matter of fact, they should do a lot of things with their website in order to spell out exactly what they are all about because it is ‘vacant’.

Furthermore, when a company puts it out there that it is recruiting 240 former Royal Marines, you kind of think there would be some talk of that within the industry? I haven’t heard anything about it, nor is there any lively talk about it over at Close Protection World. I would also like to see this recruitment advertisement or maybe even a recruitment career page on their website, but there is nothing.

I do know that their website is registered in the UAE and supposedly they are based in Abu Dhabi. I do know that they made a promotional video for the company and concept, and you can watch that over at the gCaptain’s website here.

According to the article last year, they have brought on some interesting folks to run this navy. Here is the list.

The ribs will be manned by ex-Royal Marines, as will the group’s base in Abu Dhabi. Murray, a former French Foreign Legionnaire, will be Typhon’s chairman, with Lord Dannatt a non-executive. They will be joined by non-executives including General Sir Jack Deverell, former commander of Allied Forces Northern Europe; Admiral Harry Ulrich, ex-head of US naval forces in Europe; and Peter Ahlas, former chief of HSBC’s marine and insurance business. It’s quite a roll-call for a company that’s just completing its first fund-raising, of just $15m, and has yet to put to sea.

On a side note, Simon Murray has an interesting background. He did a stint in the French Foreign Legion. He is also a power broker and wealthy enough to make a project like this work. He is also partnered up with a non-military guy who I guess was the one that came up with the idea of Typhon. Here is the quote.

But Sharp himself is new to the all-action side of things. His career has seen him invest in start-up travel ventures from to GoAmerica, take AIM minnow Cashbox public, and launch Earthshine, a commodities distributor.
“I had the idea for Typhon playing polo one afternoon, thinking about what my next business might be,” says Sharp. “I picked on maritime security. Two years later we’re completing our funding round, acquiring our first vessel in weeks, and hope to be in theatre shortly after.”

It is always funny to me when you hear about the inception of an idea, like with Sharp’s statement of ‘while playing polo one afternoon, thinking about what my next business might be…’ lol  Polo or golf, it seems like a lot of ideas for businesses get their start during play.

No mention of a Letter of Marque being issued either. Here is what was mentioned, and it would be cool to hear more about the legal side of this private navy.

The Britons intend to sail under a sovereign flag which will give them the legal right to carry their weaponry into harbour, rather than cache them on platforms in international waters.

Interesting stuff and I wish the company luck in their goal of firing up a private navy. –Matt


Glencore chief Simon Murray launches private navy to combat Somali pirate threat
January 06, 2013

BRITAIN’S first private navy in almost two centuries is being created by a group of businessmen to take on the Somali pirates who are terrorising an expanse of the Indian Ocean.
Its armed vessels – including a 10,000-ton mother ship and high-speed armoured patrol boats – will be led by a former Royal Navy commodore. He is recruiting 240 former marines and other sailors for the force.
It will escort its first convoy of oil tankers, bulk carriers – and possibly an occasional yacht – along the east coast of Africa in late March or April.
Typhon, the company behind the venture, is chaired by Simon Murray, a millionaire businessman who joined the French Foreign Legion as a teenager and walked unsupported to the South Pole aged 63.
Typhon has been set up because the Royal Navy, NATO and the European Union Naval Force lack the vessels to patrol an area of ocean that is as large as North America, said Anthony Sharp, chief executive. “They can’t do the job because they haven’t got the budget and deploying a billion-pound warship against six guys [pirates] with $500 of kit is not a very good use of the asset,” he said.

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Industry Talk: KBR In Bidding To Privatize British Police Forces

This is an interesting one, just because of the shock that the British press is having about KBR getting involved with the bidding. But of course, this is the British office of KBR bidding on this, and that is why they are able to participate. But check out this title of an article written in the Guardian.

Guantánamo Bay contractor on shortlist to run UK police services

US firm KBR, which helped build detention camp, among consortiums bidding to run police services in West Midlands and Surrey

Now that is funny.  Really emphasize the fact that KBR built that prison…Dorks. From the same article, here is a statement from KBR.

“KBR is not involved in policing, our objective in the privatisation of the police force is to get more police doing actual police work while KBR brings operational efficiencies to the back office with the objective of achieving an overall lower cost of service while improving service levels,” said a spokesman. “We are an operational support company whose capabilities are transferable to critical, uniformed, command-led environments such as the police.”

Not only that, but I don’t see the US press having a fit when Aegis (the US branch) bids and gets US contracts. Hell, they won a massive contract in the early days of Iraq, funded by US tax dollars, and that is what put Aegis on the Or how about the Embassy in Afghanistan contract (KESF contract, and check out news about it at SOCNET), which is currently in the process of transitioning from AGNA to Aegis. Aegis of course is owned by Tim Spicer of Sandline fame, and that company had history too–just like KBR.

So with that said, I wish KBR luck and I certainly hope the bidding process and following contracts give these British police forces a good service. I also wish Aegis good luck with the US embassy contract. –Matt


US military-industrial giant KBR in bidding to privatize British police forces
May 02, 2012
Giant US military-industrial company Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR) is in the running to win a slice of a controversial £1.5 billion (US$2.43 billion) contract to transform the West Midlands and Surrey police forces in Britain, The (London) Times reported.

Hailed as the largest police privatization scheme in the UK, it has been suggested the private companies who win the contract will be tasked to perform several police functions — including patrols, detention and criminal investigation.

KBR, a former subsidiary of the Halliburton group, has attracted its share of criticism over the large contracts it won with the US government during the recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The corporation also helped to build the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.

The Times reported that it was among four groups shortlisted to win the British police contract, a number whittled down from more than 200.

A KBR spokesman said its bid was the first time the corporation had attempted to get involved in regular policing.

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Maritime Security: Britain To Allow Armed Guards To Combat Sea Piracy

Outstanding news. Glad to see Britain taking the necessary steps to legalize armed guards on boats. It just makes sense, and seeing how most of the maritime security companies working right now are British, this will be an added boost.

Now the question I have is how will these new laws mix with Britain’s position on privateers or the Letter of Marque? They are a signatory to the Paris Declaration Respecting Maritime Law. No telling what other treaties they have signed, and how these sanctioned armed guards fit into that bigger picture?

I would also be interested to see the firearms regulations on what the companies can actually use for protection duties. Remember, today’s pirates are using weapons of war, not firearms used for hunting. You must give these guards weapons that will give them advantage, or at least match the pirate’s fire power. Anything else is just unacceptable in my view. –Matt


Britain to allow armed guards to combat sea piracy
October 30, 2011
Ships sailing under Britain’s flag will be permitted to carry armed guards on some perilous routes to combat the threat from pirates, the prime minister said Sunday.
David Cameron said Britain was reversing its opposition to the use of weapons aboard ships, amid mounting concern about the risks of vessels and crew being seized by pirates — particularly off Somalia’s coast.
Cameron’s office said the use of weapons on British-flagged ships is banned under firearms laws, but that new rules would be in place within a month.
Britain’s announcement follows the decision in February of the International Chamber of Shipping, the major trade association of ship owners, to support members hiring private security companies to provide protection.
“The evidence is that ships with armed guards don’t get attacked, don’t get taken for hostage or for ransom, and so we think this is a very important step forward,” Cameron told BBC television during a visit to a Commonwealth summit in Australia, where he discussed the issue with leaders from the Seychelles and Mauritius.

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Cool Stuff: The Mayfair Set–Col. David Stirling’s Private War Against Egypt In Yemen

This is a really cool documentary, and it covers far more than the history of Col David Stirling’s adventures. Stirling was the founder of the SAS, which is a remarkable accomplishment and story on it’s own, but the history that intrigued me the most was what he did in retirement. Specifically his private military ventures and the private war he waged in Yemen. This was a privately funded war, waged by professional soldiers and forces in Yemen, with the approval of Britain.

This is also another example of a modern private military force, winning a war. They did it, and this would be a great source for a case study on the potential of private military forces. Stirling was quite the risk taker, and certainly an innovator back in his day. It is also pretty relevant to today’s issues with private military companies, and of the politics of the middle east and the defense industry. Check it out and go to the youtube link to watch the whole series if you are interested. They also discuss his work in Oman and the business he did with Saudi Arabia. Very interesting stuff. –Matt


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Legal News: Britain To Give Legal Backing To Armed Guards On Vessels

This is interesting, and this will certainly be a legal nightmare to produce. The reason why is the UK is a signatory of the Paris Declaration and the Second Hague Conference in 1907. Not to mention their local laws that deal with citizens owning and using weapons.

Although there is precedence for Britain to ignore these treaties. During WW 1, they implemented a strategy against German U-boats called ‘Q Ships’.  Or basically they armed merchant vessels to attack the enemy at sea. What made this strategy interesting is that they actually wanted the vessel to look like a defenseless merchant vessel so German U-Boats would attack them. The point is, is this was a violation of these treaties, and that is precedence. (someone please correct me here if I am wrong, but Global Security identified this point as well)

Now is this a revival of a modern day version of Letter of Marque and Reprisal?  It could be, but they probably will not call it that. But it is a license to arm a merchant vessel, and that is significant. The article below also identified Denmark as seeking a similar path of creating an arming license.

It’s kind of like how the US licenses private companies to be armed or provide defense related services abroad via the ITAR and DSP 73. I guess the point is that states will work around the law and treaties, if it is within their best interest to do so. But as the Export Law blog has identified, there are many ‘technical’ obstacles to arming vessels.

My thoughts on the matter is that they might as well revive the Letter of Marque and Reprisal, just because the laws created continue to morph into exactly what the LoM is all about.  It will also give vessels more legal authority to sail and not get screwed with by other countries for being armed. The incident between India and the Danish flagged Danica Sunrise highlights the complexities of being armed on the open ocean, and these vessels need internationally recognized authority to be armed.

A LoM is essentially a license that ‘puts the flag of a country’ on that vessel to do what it is doing. A LoM is also signed by the highest authority of that country and there is law (admiralty law, prize courts) and history (hundreds of years of it’s usage) to support the concept. All other licenses pale in comparison.

The other interesting thought that came to mind is if a vessel had armed guards, could that vessel defend itself against a state sponsored act of piracy or outright attack?  Let’s say China or Iran wanted to detain an armed merchant vessel, seize the loot on the boat and imprison or even kill all the crew.  If the threat was imminent, would a vessel and it’s armed crew have the right to defend itself against such a naval assault?

Who knows, but as it stands now, a merchant vessel being attacked by a country could be viewed as a company versus a state, and less like an act of war. If that company has arming authority through a license, then how does that work in such an example presented? It is an interesting question, but as we allow shipping to be armed, these kinds of scenarios will present themselves. In this case, if ships are to be armed, then these possible scenarios should be covered by laws and licenses, and international treaties should be made or modified.  Hence why I go back to the LoM, because it has such historical precedence throughout the world.

The other point that needs to be addressed is the rules for capture or enemy prisoners. Because what if the guards on a vessel fire upon a skiff with pirates, and their boat starts sinking?  Or the pirates just give up and surrender to the vessel for some reason. Or a wounded pirate is the last survivor on a boat, and asks to be given care?  What about prisoners?  There should be a mechanism in place that allows for the detention of pirates, and the legal processes an armed merchant vessel must follow for that detention.  Perhaps video cameras on ships would be a good thing to have, just to legally protect the ship in a court of law when these pirates are detained and charged. The way I envision this is that video tape, witnesses, and GPS coordinates for where the incident took place, would be some excellent tools for a vessel to have in order to help protect themselves legally and to help in the prosecution of pirates. Without provisions like this, then in essence the whole ‘catch and release’ game continues.

And like with the early privateers, unless they have an incentive to detain prisoners, they will not be that enthused to take them. Do we want armed guards of a vessel to be in a position to ‘turn away’ pirates that are surrendering to them, just because it is not profitable or legal to do so? Or the ships insurance or budget does not provide for the care or detention of prisoners. For those of you who are students of ‘offense industry‘ you will recognize quickly what I am getting at here. At present, there is no offense industry in place to capture prisoners and reduce the number of pirates that continue to ravage the shipping industry. There is only ‘defense industry’, which only profits from the continuation of piracy. Reducing the number of pirates through culling or capture is not a main focus of defense industries.

Also, to be technical, the terms of the treaties signed have more significance between all the parties that ratified the thing. The main threat to shipping is pretty much from Somali pirates, so the LoM’s to be issued would be against folks who come from a failed state. (Somalia is not a signatory of these treaties either.) But of course I am simplifying this, and any legal eagle out there could probably find some portion of the treaties or international law that would still prevent the LoM being used against pirates. If any lawyers or readers have any legal input on where this will go, or what this will potentially look like if they create an arming license, let us know in the comments. –Matt

Edit: On a side note, JLT has been itching to fire up their private navy, and legal authority is what they have been seeking.

Britain To Give Legal Backing To Armed Guards On Vessels
May 16, 2011
Britain is preparing to give firm legal backing to the deployment of armed guards on UK-flag ships.
Legislation is being drawn up that will formally accept the use of private security personnel on ships sailing through waters where pirates are active.
Although many ships are known to have armed protection, including a considerable number operated by UK-based companies, the legal position remains uncertain. Both the shipowners who employ armed personnel and the guards themselves could, technically, be in breach of the law.
The UK is now poised to remedy that situation, changing the law where necessary to ensure shipowners whose vessels have firearms on board are not at risk of prosecution. The British government is thought to be one of the first to promise statutory changes. Denmark has taken similar action
“We have to accept [piracy] is happening, but if a UK-registered ship has armed security on board, I must make sure the legislation is fit for purpose,” UK shipping minister Mike Penning told Lloyd’s List.

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Military News: British Military Expands Links To French Allies

     Wow, this is interesting. I won’t say much, because I really don’t have a good feel on how both sides feel about this. Or how this impacts each nation’s psyche when their defenses are so closely tied to another country’s defense. I mean it is pragmatic, and helps increase the defensive or offensive capabilities of each country. But what happens when France wants to use a British asset for something that Britain wants no part in? Or when the politics change in each country, how will something like this last? –Matt

British Military Expands Links to French Allies

November 2, 2010


LONDON — Britain and France signed defense agreements on Tuesday that promised cooperation far beyond anything achieved previously in 60 years of NATO cooperation, including the creation of a joint expeditionary force, shared use of aircraft carriers and combined efforts to improve the safety and effectiveness of their nuclear weapons.

The agreements signed in London by Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain and President Nicolas Sarkozy of France were a landmark of another kind for two nations that spent centuries confronting each other on the battlefields of Europe. While neither leader mentioned Agincourt, Trafalgar or Waterloo, or French victories that included the Norman Conquest in 1066, both stirred a brief whiff of the troubled history of Anglo-French relations into the mood of general bonhomie.

The agreements envisaged a new combined force available for deployment at times of international crisis that is expected to involve about 5,000 service members from each nation, with land, sea and air components, and rotating French and British commanders. The pacts also foresee each nation alternating in putting a single aircraft carrier to sea, with the vessels operating as bases for French, British and American aircraft in times of need.

The nuclear agreement was in some ways the most surprising, since it committed the two nations to sharing some of their most carefully kept secrets. Although the two leaders emphasized that France’s “force de frappe” and Britain’s similar, submarine-based ballistic missile force would remain separate and under the sole control of each government, they agreed to establish joint research centers, one in France and one in Britain, to further research on their stockpiles of nuclear warheads.

The cooperation pact was set to last 50 years and could transform the way the countries project force, fight wars and compete for defense contracts with the United States. One goal appeared to be to give the two militaries greater buying power to support the struggling European defense industry.

Mr. Cameron, who has navigated deep hostilities to European integration and deep skepticism toward France in his Conservative Party, emphasized the budgetary benefits, saying the agreements would contribute savings of “millions of pounds” to Britain’s plan to make deep cuts in its $60 billion defense budget.

Previous efforts at military cooperation between the countries have more often faltered than succeeded. In the late 1990s, Tony Blair, then Britain’s prime minister, and Jacques Chirac, then France’s president, promised deeper defense cooperation, but the understanding was undone by differences over the Iraq war. In both countries, there are significant political forces arrayed against anything that smacks of too close a military partnership with the age-old foe.

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