It’s a subject that ship managers are reticent to talk about, but many are now thinking about when they will stop using security guards on their ships travelling high risk Somali waters.
“Shipping companies are paying a lot of money to have armed guards on board their ships when there hasn’t been any successful attacks for a couple of years now,” says Daren Knight, managing director of specialist security company Knight Associates Ltd.
“The feedback I get from clients is that although most are now looking at an exit strategy from using armed guards, their issue is with finding an effective defence alternative.”
Armed guards are just one single layer of defence amongst many other layers, says Knight, but the current piracy situation in South East Asia is creating a critical problem for seafarer safety. “In South East Asia, many crews are transiting with their fingers crossed. At present, a ship might pass through the designated High Risk Area affected by Somali-based piracy with their guards and other best management practice measures in place, but they then disembark their security guards in Sri Lanka before heading in to Asian waters unprotected.
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Maritime Security News:
Shipping always keeps an eye on the bottom line, and the use of armed guards has been viewed as a necessary evil for some time, so it’s no surprise that many companies are re-evaluating their use. And expense. As the article points out, there have been no successful attacks in the East African HRA for some time (not since the MT Smyrni was hijacked by Isse Yuluh and his men on May 10th, 2012 in fact), but the threat of piracy remains. Skiffs containing ladders and armed men have approached merchant ships on several occasions in what NATO Shipping Centre calls “soft approaches” in order to ascertain the level of protection on board, and the ongoing advice from all military bodies in the region is for continued vigilance.
Meanwhile, competition in the PMSC market is extreme to say the least, with a number of companies apparently in some measure of financial difficulty as rates for armed guards plummet. It will certainly be an interesting summer in the maritime security sector.