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GUEST OP-ED: Hiring a Maritime Security Company

A new standard exists to help you decide.

Published May 29, 2013 12:33 PM by The Maritime Executive

By Russ Armstrong, Managing Director, Castor Vali Ltd.

It would be fair to assume that a private security company providing an armed service today without any accreditation simply isn’t doing any business. Private Maritime Security Companies (PMSCs) have been quick to self-regulate, and individual firms promote quality benchmarks and standards. The shipping community continues to demand more from this most controversial aspect of the supply chain, and careful due diligence has become the watchword in armed deterrence.

But there is a problem. How does a shipowner distinguish one security provider from another if they all share exactly the same badges of excellence? Enter the International Organisation for Standards (ISO), which has developed the publicly available specification, ISO/PAS 28007:2012. Endorsed by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), it has been introduced to “help instill confidence and ensure the safety, efficiency and reliability of this solution” and is further backed by other international corporations, including INTERPOL, the EU Commission, and the Contact Group first established by UN Security Council Resolution 1851. Truly international, it’s hoped that the same standards expected and audited in the UK will be upheld in other countries to a similar certification. The key for ISO is to ensure that this happens.

Two UK PMSCs are currently piloting ISO/PAS 28007, which is the only published international standard dealing with armed guards on ships. Castor Vali, one of the two, is committed to the process and views ISO/PAS 28007 as evolution, not revolution, as the sector matures.

Assessed across management systems to demonstrate resilience, planning, resources, training and awareness, communication and documentation, the new standard deals with issues such as scene and casualty management, incident reporting and investigation, health and safety, and customer complaints. It upholds worldwide anti-corruption legislation, where the PMSC shall “...establish, implement and maintain procedures to identify relevant and applicable international and national laws and agreements which include... conventions and laws relating to bribery, corruption and theft,” notably, the UK Bribery Act 2010 and the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, as well as other countries’ laws.

ISO/PAS 28007 certification also includes recommendations for performance evaluation such as monitoring, audits, management and continual improvement.

Mixed Security Teams

However, the issue of whether mixed security teams can genuinely meet the ISO’s stringent training and vetting requirements remains a concern. Unless significant investment is made on the vetting, recruiting and training of mixed teams, it is doubtful the same high standards now accepted as standard for non-mixed teams can be achieved. There are strong arguments for and against the case of mixing nationalities and expertise within teams with low-cost private contracted armed security providers (PCASPs), but of utmost importance is to ensure this is done in line with industry guidance and, specifically, ISO/PAS 28007 requirements.

Castor Vali believes there is a place for mixed teams but, due to the costs involved, does not believe the vast majority of PSMCs can achieve the proper vetting and training. Security team coordination and integration with different languages, military experience and understanding of SOPs and RUFs (Rules for the Use of Force), among other considerations, make the process extremely difficult. Any PMSC that has not invested in the proper recruitment, selection and training will be very hard-pressed to prove that its low-cost alternative PCASP is sufficiently well-vetted and trained to the high standards expected and, most importantly, that its mixed teams can genuinely operate when under the pressure of an attack. The majority of mixed teams falls way short of meeting the ISO’s training and vetting criteria.

The Choice Is Yours

So the choice remains between low-cost private security that doesn’t meet the requirements of ISO/PAS 28007 or a higher-cost service (mixed or non-mixed) that meets and in some cases exceeds the ISO standard. The vast majority of PMSCs is committed to attaining the highest standards and has accepted the financial implications of providing a service that has become one of the most transparent in any industry.

The shipping industry should have no doubt: PMSCs have been working very hard to ensure progression. They have proven themselves to be credible and worthy of the maritime supply chain, but ISO/PAS 28007 is not a panacea for PMSC accreditation. It should be considered an indicator of notable maturity in a business that was once regarded as needed but not particularly wanted to counter piracy and maritime crime. Not bad for self-regulation, and even better news for a shipping industry keen to safeguard its seafarers with a highly capable risk-management service! – MarEx

Castor Vali is a London-based security risk management company, providing asset protection worldwide for both land-based and maritime security operations. On the Web: www.castorvali.com.