The ‘A' rated 150 million GT North P&I Club has joined forces with specialist maritime intelligence, investigation and crisis management company GRAY PAGE, to vet armed maritime security providers (AMSPs) on behalf of the Club's members.
In partnership with GRAY PAGE, North's aim is to help its members identify AMSPs whose governance and operations meet - at the time the vetting is carried out - the professional, legal and ethical standards required by a shipowner or operator contemplating the use of privately contracted armed security personnel on board a vessel entered with the Club.
‘An increasing number of shipowners and operators are considering the use of armed guards to defend their vessels and crew from Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden and wider Indian Ocean,' says North director, Mike Salthouse. ‘Despite recent IMO guidelines on the appointment of privately contracted armed guards, this remains a complex decision".
On 23 May 2011 the IMO's maritime safety committee (MSC) published Interim guidance to shipowners, ship operators, and shipmasters on the use of privately contracted armed security personnel (PCASP) on board ships in the ‘High Risk Area' (MSC.1/Circ.1405). Although not endorsing the use of PCASP, nor addressing all the legal issues that might be associated with their use onboard ships, the guidance recommends due diligence when assessing prospective security contractors including a review of company structure, background and training. A further circular for owners, operators and masters was agreed by the MSC last week.
James Wilkes, managing director, GRAY PAGE, explains: "In the absence of cross border statutory regulation governing armed maritime security providers (AMSPs), and of an independent industry regulatory authority, the IMO recommendations underline the necessity for proper vetting and due diligence processes to protect the customers employing the services of AMSPs. This is a position supported by industry stakeholders including: lawyers, insurers and some flag states, so reliable and independent vetting is central to ensuring that services are provided safely and lawfully."
Salthouse concludes: "Working closely with our members we have identified the contractors most frequently used and have now invited this group of companies to undergo the vetting programme. Although the Programme is designed to assist Members to exercise due diligence when determining the suitability of prospective security contractors, complementing rather than replacing their existing selection criteria, North strongly endorses the adoption of industry Best Practice (BMP4 - Best Management Practices for Protection Against Somalia Based Piracy)."