PMSC file photo

PMSC file photo

By Martin Edwin Andersen, Piracy Daily

The controversy in late April arising from the impounding by Spanish authorities of a seemingly fortress-like vessel owned by a former British navy officer offers a window into some of the continuing challenges faced by a world maritime shipping industry seeking to protect its crews, vessels and bottom lines.

The brouhaha in Tenerife took place after the former gunboat DEFENDER was stopped and repeatedly searched by unimpressed officials.

(For more on that story, see the Daily Mail, “‘The cannons are just for show': Ex-Royal navy officer denies he was off to fight Somali pirates after his heavily-armoured boat was impounded in Spain“)

The DEFENDER owner claimed that, contrary to media reports, the vessel was not en route to “fight” pirates in the Gulf of Aden and that the cannons it displayed onboard were “just for show and totally unusable.”

Still, in an earlier interview with another publication, the owner had boasted that the DEFENDER was operated by “handpicked ex-Royal Marine Commandos and run as a professional naval ship, obeying the rules of engagement.”

According to the Daily Mail, this week he admitted that “that only he and one other crewman had served in the Armed Forces.” The reason for the prolonged delay? “The inspectors say our on-board safety equipment is not up to standard.”

The news splash, although anecdotal in nature, underlined the recent observation in a Piracy Daily column, “The UAE, a new international ‘Silk Road,’ requires sophisticated counter-piracy efforts,” made by Andrew Moulder, a former armed crime/piracy analyst for the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) who now heads the AdvanFort Company’s research department.

Moulder observed that, “Unfortunately, the private maritime security company community remains, as a group, a motley crew.”

Too many private maritime security companies (PMSCs), Moulder added, “still seek to increase their share of the market with proclamations, claims and even the invocation of misunderstood history that keep them competitive only at the risk of the greater good.”

For example, to what extent have those who have engaged privately-contracted armed security personnel (PCASP) ended up finding that those of lesser talents and abilities have actually turned into the kind of financial, professional and even legal nightmares that hiring PMSCs is supposed to avoid, and how did that happen?

As the problems that have arisen have even included the creation of disputes between countries (particularly when dealing with Rules for the Use of Force), how can they be avoided by the better selection of one PMSC over another, and what criteria for judgment need to be employed?

Similarly, to what extent can operational best practices mean real savings for owners and operators who are still too often forced—given unwise contracting decisions—to have to delay their vessels already in transit in order to assure support from PCASP teams, particularly those guards who can only board from shore?

And what are the essential seafarer and security operator training programs necessary to assure that PCASP teams are truly part of the solution, rather than a big part of a continuing problem?

Finally, what cultural education and critical understanding about the customs and courtesies for those aboard shipping vessels serve as a bottom line for both the companies that need to contract PMSCs and for those seafarers onboard to carry out their jobs? And how do these help determine “best practice” relationships with the countries and, specifically, port authorities for whom above-board and productive ties are key to an industry already saddled with seemingly prohibitive insurance and difficult market competition?

These are some of the critical issues facing private companies engaged in the counter-piracy fight.

About the Author

Martin Edwin Andersen is Editor-in-Chief of Piracy Daily.

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  • Jerry

    First off I want to say terrific blog! I had a quick question that I’d like to ask if you do not mind. I was curious to find out how you center yourself and clear your head before writing. I’ve had a hard time clearing
    my mind in getting my thoughts out. I truly do take pleasure in writing but it just seems like the first
    10 to 15 minutes are lost simply just trying to figure
    out how to begin. Any recommendations or hints?

    • StMartin

      Jerry, if you build an outline first, you can scrutinize the order and prevalence of your content.
      Reread it to determine if others will be able to follow along with your thoughts, and check for errors. Errors often indicate lack of commitment to your intended readers, and often result in potential readers ignoring what you may have to offer. Valid or not.
      Hope this was helpful,
      Have a great day!

    • Jerry

      Are you nuts or what…? What you write here is TOTALLY unrelated to what the article above mentions. There must be something terribly wrong with some of you Yanks…

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  • Cornell W.. Lugthart, Jr.

    Informative reading!

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      With all due respect Sir but your name is totally…nerdish! Haha, sorry but I just couldn’t refrain from saying that!

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