Maritime CEO 200: Piracy

 

Singapore: Launched in late January by shipping media veterans at Asia Shipping Media, Maritime CEO this week celebrates its 200th interview.
 
Every day we catch up with a top name in shipping to gauge their thoughts on the industry, with every Friday guaranteed to be a shipowner interview. The best interviews appear in our quarterly magazine. Our aim is to cover every facet of the industry, but only from the viewpoint of the top echelon of management. In our first 200 reports we have met up with the heads of:
 
– the world’s largest containerline
– the world’s largest breakbulk operator
– the world’s largest dry bulk operator
– the world’s largest LPG operator
– the world’s largest car carrier operator
– the world’s largest shipowning grouping
 
Every day this week we bring highlights from our first 200 interviews, split into segments. Monday sees the Maritime CEO team – with 20 correspondents across the globe – tackle the world of piracy.
 
The threat from pirates around the world is still a severe one and shipowners should not take lightly, argued Michael Sykes, chairman of UK-headquartered Neptune Maritime Security, this August.
 
 “The perception may be that the threat is decreasing, but I contend that it is a perception, not a reality,” he said.
 
Sykes admitted the threat has been reduced off East Africa. This, he argued, is because pirates are finding it increasingly difficult to make a successful attack. 
 
“Think of disease prevention and immunisation – like measles,” he said. “The best way to prevent the disease is immunisation – and armed guards provide ships immunisation against the disease of piracy.  What happens if we stop immunising ships, and removing armed guards?”
 
On what owners need to be asking when selecting a PMSC Sykes had a long list of useful tips.
 
A proven track record – number of ships protected, over how long; a PMSC audit with a specific check of the qualifications of the experience and qualifications of the guards; ISO 28007 accreditation, something that will become “increasingly important”.
 
Other tips included the quality of equipment carried, the level of intelligence reports available, and that the PMSC carries the correct level of liability insurance.
 
Sykes also had a word of warning about the qualifications of PMSC operatives. 
 
“Very recently,” he said, “it has been discovered that some PMSCs have not checked the qualifications of their operatives, which can be forgeries.” Attention to such detail in audits is imperative, Sykes urges, as such qualifications are very important.  
 
The head of Protection Vessels International (PVI), one of the best known names in the PMSC business, was interviewed in May.
 
Barry Roche joined the UK's PVI in 2009 as managing director one year after the company was founded, staffed with Royal Marines aboard ships. Prior to this he spent nine years building and operating a leading UK support services business, which he founded. Roche is one of the most vocal advocates for disciplined, strict operating controls for this emerging, fast-growing sector.
 
 “In spite of the reduction in successful attacks, piracy and other security threats remain a very real danger to vessels and crew,” Roche maintained. Armed guards aboard vessels transiting high-risk areas, he said, have proven to be an “effective deterrent”.
 
Nevertheless, Roche is very keen to stress that the scourge of piracy is not over.
 
“It is important that we do not become complacent to the threat, or assume that there is a one-size-fits-all solution to combating piracy,” he said. The boundaries of attacks across high-risk areas and elsewhere globally have been expanding significantly in recent months, he said. “This has blurred the lines of perceived high risk areas and made vigilance of the potential threat more necessary for longer periods of time,” Roche told Maritime CEO.
 
The socio-economic and political conditions across parts of East and West Africa – poverty, poor governance and corruption – remain the “seedbed for this ever-evolving threat”, Roche said. Despite much work internationally, a cohesive strategy to tackle the roots of piracy have not been found. “Without a solution at source in sight,” he said, “the reduction of incidents of piracy will continue to require a coordinated approach across the shipping industry.”
 
With so many private maritime security firms touting for business, how does a shipowner sort the wheat from the chaff? Roche admitted: “Maritime security is still a relatively immature industry. The pieces are still in flux and it will be some time before it settles into anything close to a homogeneous industry with an accepted and acceptable level of service and professionalism.”
 
As the number of companies entering the market continues to grow, it is “inevitable”, Roche reckoned, that there will be “significant variances” in the quality, integrity and professionalism of the services being offered. 
 
 “Many weaker security companies now look to undercut the competition by deploying smaller teams. This results in too few and poorly trained guards working hours outside of normal legal safeguards securing multi-million dollar maritime assets,” Roche told Maritime CEO.  
 
Will McManus, the ceo of REDfour Security Group, was also interviewed in May. He served in the British armed forces and the French Foreign Legion and has worked in hostile environments for the past 27 years from Iraq to Afghanistan, both in a military and civilian role, running land based and amphibious operations worldwide. He started REDfour in 2004, becoming one of the first companies to embrace maritime security in 2007. REDfour now has offices in London, Singapore and Sri Lanka.
 
“If you look at the peaks and troughs of the client requests for armed maritime security since 2007,” he said, kicking off the interview, “you don’t need to have a degree in medieval mathematics in Cantonese to see that there has been a distinct drop in the requirement.”
 
When REDfour started out in the Gulf region there was just three warships. Nowadays, the naval presence has seen piracy situation off Somalia drop off dramatically.  
 
“Combined with this, the proliferation of armed security, led by British companies,” McManus said, “has also made pirates think twice about attacking a vessel especially when the security team onboard makes a great show of making the pirates realise that there are people on this ship with weapons and who know how to use them, and more importantly, have the right to use them.”
 
The real threat to shipping, McManus said, is that everyone will start to think the risk has passed, and that is “simply not the case”, he stresses.
 
“If naval operations in the region are being reduced or some circumstances, pulled completely, then I will expect to see the pirates taking advantage of that and will probably start their piracy once again,” said the man who spent eight months in Puntland.
 
When a shipowner or manager wants to appoint a security firm McManus reckoned they must check that the firm owns the weapons to be used in transit, if not they are illegal and the liability then risks being passed to the owner. Owners should also check a security firm’s insurance documentation, as well as its standard operating procedures for rules of engagement and rules for the use of force. Owners or managers should also demand proof that the security team personnel are qualified and experienced. This is important for many reasons, including insurance. The shipowner must also ask for testimonials from previous or current clients.
 
Helen Mitchell, managing director of Actus International Security, was an early person on the Maritime CEO roster. She also had advice for owners flummoxed by the sudden welter of PMSCs on pffer.
 
“Like all security options, due diligence is crucial: you get what you pay for and the vast majority of us in the private security sector are doing our very best to provide transparency for the customer,” she said.
 
Kevin Doherty, president of Nexus Consulting, warned Maritime CEO this September that while the industry is moving quickly into certified standardization, this does not necessarily mean everything will be above board.
 
“Just as mariners’ documents have been found to be fraudulent, so too are some security firms,” he said.
 
One of the most controversial maritime security interviews we conducted in our first 200 was just last week in Dublin, where Daren Knight, md of Knight Associates, argued heavily in favour of sailing without armed guards.
 
 “By taking on the policies, procedures and drills taught, shipping lines can ensure a standardised level of security throughout their fleets,” Knight maintained. The defensive model, he espoused, is along the lines of deter, delay, deny.
 
 “You have seen how Somali piracy has dropped off,” he told Maritime CEO. “Just 0.1% of ships that transit the HRA are affected by pirate groups. Not all shipping needs armed guards, there is a time and place for them.”
 
Somali-based pirates are “criminals of opportunity”, saids Knight. They have two objectives, to take control of a vessel and the crew as fast as possible so they are not injured or captured.
 
Knight’s team implements a defensive system onboard the vessel to make it hard to take control. “Pirates,” he said, “when they look at our vessels, know our vessels are well protected so it will take too long and are deterred.”
 
Knight argued that his service is an alternative cost effective measure against piracy.
 
“Teach a man to fish and he will be able to eat forever,” he said, stressing, “The shipping industry does not need armed guards everywhere.”  [28/10/13]
 
 
 
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