AdvanFort, the US-based maritime security firm owned by Palestinian businessman Samir Farajallah and run by his son Ahmed, withdrew today from the Security Association for the Maritime Industry (SAMI) on the grounds that after repeated requests made to SAMI to assist in the freeing of his company’s security guards held in India, “his calls and emails went unanswered.”
SAMI is the primary international trade association for the private maritime security company (PMSC) industry globally and also serves as a gatekeeper of sorts to ensure the quality of their membership based off of IMO guidelines and a third party review.
“For the last 4 months we have been asking them to return our calls, and they have stonewalled us, and thereby stonewalled our guards,” added Farajallah.
Replying to the accusations in an emailed statement, SAMI’s Maritime Director Steven Jones, presents a very different case.
“On the contrary, the Association states that it has been extremely supportive of the company through its previous President, Will Watson, while liaising with the Mission to Seafarers to ensure they have been kept abreast of all relevant and pertinent information. In addition, during the ongoing case, SAMI has been in frequent and regular contact with the legal team working on behalf of the company – prior to their dismissal last month.”
This same legal team has since come under formal legal attack by AdvanFort.
“While such an attack is disappointing, it is perhaps not wholly unexpected,” adds SAMI CEO, Peter Cook. “The situation, as all but two of the seafarers and guards are currently free on bail, has been building to a climax and this aggressive, unfounded stance is perhaps an inevitable consequence.”
Farajallah notes, “AdvanFort is currently in discussions with other PMSCs about starting a US maritime association that truly stands for the industry.”
This is a particularly interesting suggestion considering AdvanFort is prohibited by law from working with US-flagged shipping companies until 2015 after pleading guilty to a felony “straw purchase” of firearms.
In speaking with others in the maritime security space, it seems very likely that the 35 security guards will band together for an epic law suit once they are eventually freed from India. For AdvanFort, their motivation would certainly be to start pointing the blame toward SAMI, or anyone else for that matter.
The imprisonment of their guards and the detainment of their ship appears to have very little to do with maritime security, but rather maritime operations – an area which SAMI is not involved with as an organization.
Shedding the blame will be difficult it seems.