[Guest Column] Maritime Security Comes of Age

There?s a new international standard that raises the bar for PMSCs.

Published Apr 3, 2014 9:03 AM by The Maritime Executive

By David Rider

In recent years, the number of companies offering protective services to the global shipping industry has increased at an astonishing pace. This surge in service providers has also seen a number of less-than-able companies enter the market and attempt to undercut more established players by slashing prices, using sharp practices or making false claims.

Cost vs. Quality

Until recently, legitimate private maritime security companies (PMSCs) had no alternative but to take it on the chin and enter a price war with companies they knew to be inferior on a number of levels. For prospective clients, this initially meant artificially low prices. But the lack of transparency and regulation in the industry also set nerves on edge.

In a cost-driven industry, shipping companies have always had to keep a weather eye on the bottom line, and maritime security has unfortunately become a necessary expense for those operating vessels in the world’s various High Risk Areas (HRA). It’s hardly surprising, then, that a number of security companies should offer their services at rates which the bigger or more established companies just couldn’t match. The downside, of course, was that those same companies weren’t necessarily of the same standard as their rivals.

Horror stories about security guards using World War 2-era weapons or simple shotguns to guard merchant ships became prevalent. The industry had to clean house somehow. Although various professional bodies were formed in an attempt to present a unified face to the world – including the Security Association for the Maritime Industry (SAMI) and the International Association of Maritime Security Professionals (IAMPS) – a wider housecleaning was definitely called for in the shape of recognized international standards and regulation.

The Quest for Legitimacy

Accepting that from a shipping industry point of view the presence of armed men on merchant ships was never ideal, the industry has gone to great lengths to legitimize itself and meet client expectations. In Europe, this effort has been led by several initiatives from the UK and backed by EC members.

Chief among these initiatives has been the creation of ISO PAS 28007, an internationally recognized standard designed to provide (1) certification to an accredited security company and (2) a quality management system that incorporates the IMO MSC guidelines among other relevant guidance and laws. Clients of PMSCs who have achieved certification can now have confidence that their chosen provider follows a stringent set of internal guidelines and best practices that have been externally verified and that the company continues to meet those guidelines thanks to regular third-party auditing by accredited professional bodies such as Lloyd’s Register Quality Assurance (LRQA).

Neptune was fortunate to be involved with the creation of ISO PAS 28007 through the company’s membership in the Security in Complex Environments Group (SCEG), a special-interest task force formed in 2011 by the ADS Group in partnership with the UK government. The goal was to create standards and regulations for the security industry. As Chairman of SCEG’s Accreditation and Standards Group, Neptune’s General Manager, Ian Simpson, was part of the five-person team that created the 28007 base document, MPSC1, and gave technical advice to the ISO as a member of the British Standards Institute SME/32 Committee.

The standard was backed by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and developed with the assistance of a diverse group of interested parties including the UK Government’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Home Office, Ministry of Defense and Department of Transport, SAMI and the International Chamber of Shipping. It also has the full backing of BIMCO, among others. The ISO Technical Committee 8 (TC8) consisted of 25 voting members from around the world, and this ensured that PAS 28007 was a truly international standard that could be adopted by PMSCs from any nation.

As Giles Noakes, BIMCO’s Chief Maritime Security Officer, noted in a BIMCO Bulletin (Volume 108 #4):

“The document [ISO PAS 28007] addresses security management system elements such as: resilience, planning, resources, training and awareness, human rights, communication and documentation. It also outlines operational requirements for dealing with issues such as: scene and casualty management, incident reporting and investigation, health and safety and customer complaints.

“ISO PAS 28007 also includes recommendations for performance evaluation such as monitoring, audits, management and continual improvement. Implementation will enable security companies to demonstrably evidence their competence in the provision of PCASP for anti-piracy operations on board ships.”

As a measure of its support of the ISO PAS 28007, BIMCO is offering Associate Membership to maritime security companies that have achieved certification.

Importance of Certification

What this means for shipping companies and prospective security clients is an absolute assurance that a PMSC certified to ISO PAS 28007 is able to conduct operations safely and has the necessary internal governance in place.

Of course, there are other schemes and standards available, but few are recognized by the certification bodies working with ISO PAS 28007. One of the most obvious benchmarks was that a company be a signatory to the International Code of Conduct (ICoC). Indeed, this was seen as the de facto regulation for the industry until the IMO rejected it as being irrelevant in the maritime domain.

Now, as the maritime security industry effectively “grows up,” it seems that more rigorous regulation such as ISO PAS 28007 is not just necessary to reassure potential clients but also very timely. An international standard will never be able to prevent individual company representatives or contractors from falling afoul of the law. But it at least guarantees that the parent company conducts itself to an international standard recognized by independent auditors – a standard which many PMSCs will be attempting to achieve in 2014 as it becomes a requirement with more and more client companies. – MarEx

David Rider is the Intelligence & Communications Officer for Neptune Maritime Security, a UK-based PMSC which received ISO PAS 28007 certification in January 2014. He is also the former Piracy Editor for SomaliaReport.com. He has over 20 years' experience in journalism and communications and can be contacted at [email protected].