Saturday, January 30, 2010

Maritime Security Operators

First let me clarify my intent on the title Maritime Security Operators. I am not talking about the Maritime security companies, but the employees that are put either on a merchant vessel, or on an armed escort vessel. Our company receives about 100 unsolicited CV's each month from individuals wanting to work in Maritime security, and every time we submit a proposal for service, the shipping company of course, wants to know the personnel that we use.

It is my opinion, that the nationality of the employee or security personnel is not really that important. What is important, is the background, training and experience of Mar Sec personnel. Most of the CV's we receive are basically the same. The prospective employee comes from a military background and served a tour or two in Iraq or Afghanistan. Performed convoy force protection, VIP protection and the like. What is almost always lacking is sea service, having operated in a maritime domain with enforcement such as Coast Guard, Navy Commando etc.

I think there is a big misunderstanding about these issues, as most think that because someone served in a 'sand box' for a year or two, they automatically qualify to work in maritime security. This notion is absolutely false.

It is of great importance, that personnel placed on vessels have a background serving at sea, and especially in the correct domain. The last thing we need is to place an individual on a 38 meter vessel in the open sea, and they are very sea sick for the entire transit. Sea sickness affects everyone differently, but the smaller the vessel, the more pitch roll and yaw. Therefore, seasickness occurs easier to the unseasoned person.

Another consideration is confinement. I do not mean confinement inside or in small places, however, a vessel, especially smaller escort vessel, can become a very small place in a very short period of time. Personnel must be able to deal with this psychologically, as the smaller the place, the closer you are to others. This can be very difficult for some as the need their 'own space'.

Another aspect that is usually overlooked, is that the maritime world has its own 'culture' and having personnel on board a vessel, that are not seafarers, can be intrusive to that culture. So if you place a group of "Operators" on the vessel that possess any arrogance in respect to their duties, this will not be well received.

Don't get me wrong, combat experienced veterans are an absolute plus, as it is a proven fact that these individuals can handle great amounts of stress and still perform. However, there needs to be a mix in experience that includes operations in a maritime domain, therefore having an understanding of the maritime domain and culture, as well as experienced at sea.

Any merchant shipping company should be concerned with the operators supplied by a maritime security company, and these are the factors that should be taken into consideration.

This is just one mans opinion.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Weather Affects Piracy

the weather seems to have an impact on the activity of piracy in the Gulf of Aden as well as the Indian Ocean. In areas where there is high wind, and even heavy rains, it is more difficult for pirates to operate their smaller vessels. As you can see in the pictures below, the wind in the Gulf of Aden today is fairly consistent at 15 to 20 knots, while the heavy rains are present North and East of the Seychelles.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Taking Advantage of Piracy

Over the last couple of years there has been talk about security companies taking advantage of piracy to earn the big money from shipping companies. I have to say that unfortunately, this is sometimes the case. However, this deserves a bit more in depth analysis than just calling every operator a "Security Company."

A real security company is one that has its own personnel, methodology, rules of Engagement, professionalism. To put it clearly, a real security company has its OWN capabilities to operate in the maritime domain.

However, there are many companies (and I use the term loosely) that claim to be a security company, and have absolutely no capabilities of their own. These are companies that are using corruption in places like Yemen, to pay off Generals to use their resources to conduct anti piracy escorts and protection. It is obvious to the real security providers as the protection provided is not close to being even adequate given the known piracy high threat areas.

these companies will provide their "security" from about Aden to Nishtun, Yemen (or return) but they can not provide security service beyond the border of Yemen, and certainly not in the Indian Ocean to either India, or to and from South Africa or Singapore.

If they are that limited in their available services, how can they call themselves a maritime security provider? These individuals are nothing more than opportunists, using available corruption in order to profit from maritime piracy.

The real problem with this, is the known active piracy areas are well beyond Yemen borders, and these individuals are profiting from a false sense of security. if they were a true service provider, with proper ethics in the industry, they would not offer such limited services, and of course, not take advantage of corruption to profit.

Any security safeguard should be put into place with decisions made based on proper risk assessments. There is no cookie cutter approach and there is no one assessment that can cover all vessels. In the maritime world, every ship is its own entity on the water and should be treated as such.

When security providers offer a 'catch all' solution, only covering a very limited known high risk area, that is when questions should be asked and the red flag should appear. These are the ones taking advantage of piracy to profit without proper regard to realistic security.