American Mariners Train In Counter-Piracy Tactics

Maritime Security Consultant Aboard Ship
Photo of a security consultant aboard the ship Theresa Antarctic. Photo courtesy of Avanfort.

by Will Watson

The scourge of piracy has affected the maritime industry in many ways and one significant change; Piracy now plays a much larger role in security officer training comes in the training of company and vessel (or ship) security officers (CSOs, VSOs). Until now, the traditional training course for CSOs and VSOs was a two-day course that focused on the traditional threats posed to commercial vessels and their crews. Over the past few years, training schools have added separate courses to address the issues related to the piracy threat.

Now, Det Norske Veritas (DNV) has launched a new and comprehensive course that includes counter-piracy tactics in an expanded three-day course for CSOs and VSOs. And a growing number of training schools are offering this new course. “We believe this expanded course is a good thing,” says Glen Paine, Executive Director at the Maritime Institute of Technology and Graduate Studies (MITAGS). “Piracy poses a major threat to today’s seafarers and proper training is critical to surviving this threat.”

Mr. Paine chose to add the DNV designed CSO/VSO course to the curriculum at the Linthicum Heights, Maryland facility and is launching the first offering this fall. The course, which is accepted by the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Maritime Administration (MarAd) is also being taught at the Simulation, Training, Assessment and Research (STAR) Center in South Florida.

Mr. David W. Greenhouse, who teaches the CSO/VSO course at the STAR Center agrees with Mr. Paine that the expanded course is helpful. “We used to teach a separate Anti Piracy course to satisfy the requirement set by the USCG in MARSEC Directive 104-6,” Greenhouse explained. “The new DNV course meets both the (ISPS) requirements for Vessel and Company Security Officers and for Mr. Greenhouse brings in outside lecturers to augment staff instructors and in the course taught in August, that input came from the head of a company that provides armed counter piracy teams to vessels transiting the High Risk Area of the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden. The “been there, done that” presentation added real-life scenarios to the training which was well received by the students.

Of course, the training continues to focus on maintenance and supervision of the Ship Security Plan, including access control, threat and vulnerability assessments and ensuring that security systems and equipment are in working order and that appropriate crew are trained in their use. As an increasing number of ships’ officers are required to take the security officer course, it’s good that the more comprehensive schooling is now being offered.

Threats to commercial vessels and their crews increase daily and the capabilities of CSOs and VSOs must keep track with the increasing threat. This new and expanded security training will be a great aid to seafarers in ensuring that they are well prepared to meet the asymmetrical threats that now lie in wait now only in poorly secured ports terminals and anchorages but on the high seas as well.

This article was written by Will Watson, President of AdvanFort which provide counter-piracy protection for commercial vessels, and originally appeared in the October 2012 edition of  the magazine Sidelights and has been reprinted with permission of the  Council of American Master Mariners‘ .