February 21, 2013 /24-7PressRelease/
-- Shipowners face complex legal and operating environment.
('Maritime Asset Security and Training'), the leading maritime security and piracy protection specialist, has developed new guidelines for ship owners engaging maritime security services in West Africa. MAST has developed the guidelines in support of new directions published on the 5th February by GT North P&I Club which highlighted that:
'Members should also be aware of the practice of using a reputable security provider, such as those employed in the Gulf of Aden, to facilitate the use of armed guards in West Africa. Such providers can source legitimate members of the security forces and provide personnel to act as a liaison between the Master and the Nigerian forces once embarked on a vessel'
The new guidance issued by the P&I Club aims to raise awareness of the potential problems of operating in the region and is supported by MAST who believe ship owners and charterers are putting themselves at risk by hiring low-cost, unregulated security services.
Philip Cable, CEO MAST said: "West Africa is a very different environment for PMSCs (Private Maritime Security Companies) to operate in compared to the Indian Ocean. For example, armed security can only be provided by the national armed forces of each country in its own territorial waters. Also, it is illegal for PMSCs to carry firearms in any of the West African territorial waters and it is illegal for PMSCs to transit firearms through any of these countries.
"The Gulf of Guinea is a very complex legal and operating environment. Given the global nature of the shipping industry many ship owners mistakenly assume that they can apply the same principles of anti-piracy that they use in other parts of the world. But failure to understand the unique nature of West Africa could put ships and lives at risk, a fact highlighted by the tragic death of a crewmember aboard the chemical tanker, Pyxis Delta, shot and killed during an attack by pirates off the coast of Lagos, Nigeria.
Piracy attacks in the Gulf of Guinea are rising and tend to be violent in nature. According to recent figures from the International Maritime Bureau there were 58 incidents in the region last year including 10 hijackings involving 207 crew members being taken hostage.
Philip Cable continues: 'In the Gulf of Aden the GUARDCON contract is rightly held as the industry standard, but MAST believes it is not entirely suited to the West African region and recommends that ship owners / charterers use an amended version of the Guardcon contract which is available and approved by the International Group of Clubs.
Given the unique challenges of operating in the West Africa region MAST now recommends the following:
o When evaluating the cost of PMSCs services offered, ship owners / charterers should consider the size of armed teams, level of accreditations, range of support services and track record in reregulation to working within the law.
o Ensure PMSC has appropriate insurance and liability cover and has the appropriate infrastructure in place to support its teams on the ground.
o It is advisable to use experienced unarmed team leaders from regulated PMSCs who can work alongside the serving members of the various national armed forces. They will provide a critical liaison between the Master of the vessel and the local armed forces, providing guidance on use of the rules of force and operating on a commercial vessel.
o Shipping companies should ensure that their vessels implement BMP 4 (Best Management Practice for protection against Somali based piracy) on all their vessels entering High Risk Areas.
o As a large number of attacks/robberies take place around the Nigerian ports and terminals it is advisable to retain the security team until the vessel departs the 150NM point.
o Ship owners and charterers should be extremely cautious of shipping agents or security companies offering to provide national armed forces into any territory other than their own territorial waters and if in doubt should seek the advice and services of regulated private maritime security companies who are ICOC signatures - (where the company commits to adhering to international humanitarian and human rights law)
Maritime Asset Security and Training (MAST) Ltd is a market leading security organisation that provides specialist global security services for the maritime community. Holding membership of leading professional bodies, MAST is also ISO 9001:2008 accredited for the provision of global maritime security services for the shipping and yachting industry. The Company is one of the founding signatories of the International Code of Conduct and has been scrutinised and accepted by some of world's leading shipping companies, charterers and insurers.