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  1.  You are the Company Security Officer (CSO) for a shipping company that owns/manages a fleet of around 200 vessels of all types and flagged with a “White Flagged” (https://www.parismou.org/detentions-banning/white-grey-and-black-list), mainly open registries. At any one time, around 40% of your fleet are transiting the Indian Ocean. After a sudden increase in piracy off the coast of Somalia your Board of Directors have asked you to consider putting armed guards on the ships to protect the crews and vessels, what factors would you consider and why? Historically you are aware that the company had a bad experience hiring armed guards in the past because proper procedures were not defined by your predecessor, who was sacked. You discover that the international shipping associations have published “BMP 5” (available on Moodle), which the Chairman, who was the CEO when the previous CSO was sacked, advises you is a very good starting point.    



Subject Law and governance Pages 7 Style APA


Deployment of Armed Guards on Ships


Maritime security is paramount for the safety of both the crewmembers and the ship. However, security threat predisposed to maritime industry ranging from piracy, cyber, smuggling, migration, stowaways, armed conflict and war can have a detrimental effect to the operations of a maritime company. In view of the above, the focus of this report is on solving the challenge of piracy for the fleets transiting Indian Ocean. It deliberates on the factors to consider when hiring the armed security guards and the reasons behind their hiring as a measure to arrest the problem of piracy.


As the new Company Security Officer (CSO), it is paramount to strengthen the security of the crew and vessels transiting the Indian Ocean, more so in the pirate-infested waters. This critical role requires proper strategies to secure and avoid preventable damages or losses. In the first place, it is prudent to understand the existing measures and policies drafted to support security of such vessels. The international shipping associations have drafted Best Management Practices (BMP 5) that if adhered to can help deter piracy and bolster maritime security in  Arabian sea, Gulf of Aden, Red Sea and even Indian Ocean (BIMCO, ICS, IGP &I Clubs, INTERTANKO & OCIMF, 2018).

Piracy is a concern and a threat to seafarers, those that take place in the international waters or outside the jurisdiction of any state.  In the quest to hire armed guards, the factors for consideration rhyme with the guidelines as enshrined in the BMP5 (Britannia P& I, 2018).


Factors to Consider/ Why Deploy Armed Security Guards

One factor warranting use of armed guards is because the Maritime company operators hold permission by the Ship’s Flag state to hire the armed guards. The company has legal rights to hire armed guards, even though BMP does not recommend or endorse the use of Private Maritime Security Company (PMSC) onboard merchant ships (BIMCO, ICS, IGP &I Clubs, INTERTANKO & OCIMF, 2018).  Therefore, because of the permission, the company would have to recruit the guards and deploy them in the ships to guarantee security of the vessel and crew onboard.

Secondly, the current threat and risk environment warrants deployment of armed security guards. The Indian Ocean lately has experienced rising cases of piracy because of the unstable Somalia government and presence of terrorist. Pirates from war torn nation Somalia pauses security threat to the crew and the vessel hence the need to arm the guards to thwart any attempts to hijack vessels (Pizor, 2012). Armed guards will be on standby incase of security lapses that might require their intervention. Despite the available interface that allows coordination with local law enforcement agencies, naval and coast guards, armed guards remain necessary incase the communication network fails. The armed security guards will have an opportunity to secure the vessel and crew before reinforcement in case of an attack (Pizor, 2012).

Thirdly, it is important to consider the output of the company risk assessment, which currently remains high, hence calls for tightened security measures to cushion the company against such risks (Ocean Beyond Piracy, 2017). The pirates in the ocean employ different strategies, some of which are a threat to the crew and vessels. To cushion such happenings, it becomes prudent to deploy these armed guards as a deterrence measure. This however requires adherence to the right procedures and process to ensure that the armed guards are competent and professional. They must be flexible and ready to undergo training on the standard of operating procedure and follow them to the later to reduce the risks posed by pirates (Pizor, 2012).

Voyage plan requirement is also another salient factor to warrant deployment of armed guard. The company fleets are many and transit from various ports both at night and during the day (Dutton, 2016).  Because, of the number of fleets and the varied voyage plans, the risk threshold/threat for an attack by the pirate is high. This therefore, requires that the ships remain highly guarded and secured to put at bay any ill motivate or plans hatched by the adversaries.

 The level of protection offered by coastguards, navies and maritime police is not adequate to warrant maximum security for the crew and the vessels. The state officers deployed may not be adequate to attend to urgent security situations (Ocean Beyond Piracy, 2017). Similarly, the number of mileage the ship covers in water may pose additional challenge stretching the available work force.  Therefore, they require reinforcement from the armed guard who can be of help in case of an attack from the pirates. In dire situations, whereby security agencies delays to arrive to rescue the vessel, private armed guards will have tried to save the situation.

In respect to the BMP 5, it is also important to factor the level of competence and accreditation of the guards. For instance, it is recommended that shipping companies give jobs to PMSCs accredited on the current ISO 28007-1:2015 Guidelines for Private Maritime Security Companies providing privately contracted armed security personnel (PCASP) on board ships (BIMCO, ICS, IGP &I Clubs, INTERTANKO & OCIMF, 2018).  The reason to consider this recommendation is to avoid hiring guards that lack essential skills and competencies to deliver their tasks and duties as required. Such guards may turn to be a liability and may make mistakes that may negatively impact on the security of the crew and vessels.

Another factor to consider is the requirements of the PMSC contract, especially on the one that requires clear identification of the procedure for use of force. Armed guards wield weapons, hence must understand clearly the procedure to use force, since not all situations require use of force (Isenberg, 2012). This requirement is important because, it instills discipline and a sense of responsibility to the armed guards. In case of an attack, these guards will act responsibly and diligently in arresting the situation.

Security officers needs to check whether the flag has permissions, licenses, and credentials of the PMSC and PCASP to ensure that they have received appropriate authority and operates within the law when responding to identified threats (Ocean Beyond Piracy, 2017). For instance, ships that bear slow speed and have low freeboard, it is advisable that such ships consider deployment of armed guards.  This however should come after doing or performing a risk assessment.  Deployment of the armed guards is also supported or is referenced pursuant to the section 86 of the Transit and transshipment of stores (Ocean Beyond Piracy, 2017).

When selecting armed guards, proper procedure should be adhered to the later. For instance, there is need to provide documentary evidence which may include criminal background checks, history of employment checks, records of mental, physical, fitness of personnel, military and law enforcement background checks, documentary evidence of relevant experience and certification allowing use and carrying of firearms if deployed , travel documentation among others (Ocean Beyond Piracy, 2017). The scrutiny checks on the integrity and experience of the armed guards.  For the guards to adhere to the procedures and standards of operating procedures, their training remains pivotal (Ocean Beyond Piracy, 2017). The guards should have undergone trainings and therefore should provide documentation to attest to this. They should also be ready to undergo on-the-job trainings, and refresher courses to horn their skills. Additionally, they armed guards should hold valid insurance covers to cater for any eventualities in the course of their work. The reason for considering these factors is to protect them and avoid conflict between the company and the guards when it comes to compensations in case of calamity or unexpected event.

It is also important to consider the rule of engagement more so the reason or the work that the armed guards would do and to what extent. The armed guards should therefore have complete understanding of the rules and use force as agreed between the PMSC, the ship-owner and the Master and must full comply with them. (Ocean Beyond Piracy, 2017).  For instance, on board, the guards need to understand that their sole work is to prevent pirates from boarding the ship using minimal force necessary to deter (Ocean Beyond Piracy, 2017).   As part of the team operational procedures, the PMSC gives a detailed graduated response plan in case of pirate attack as a guide (Shipping.Org. (2017). Use of force should be in manner consistent with the applicable laws. Firearms should also not be used against persons except for self defense or when defending others against imminent attacks from the adversaries, or prevent any efforts aimed at causing serious crime that have grave threat to life.  The reason for factoring in these is to avoid collateral damage or threats.   Preventing pirates form boarding the ship may require heavy application of firearm in isolated instances (Isenberg, 2012). The standard operating procedures are therefore, modest and this will ensure safety of the crew and the vessel.

According to Ocean Beyond Piracy (2017), about 35 percent of total number of ships transiting ocean and seas deploy armed security guards.  As a matter of concern, meetings of contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia (CGPCS) and International Maritime Organization (IMO) have also deliberated on the subject of armed security guards. The stakeholders agree and support deployment of these armed guards, however, addressing some concerns such as possibility of escalation of war at seas, liabilities for deaths and injuries of seafarers and innocent fishermen emerge.  Having this in mind requires for implementation of proper policies to avoid armed guards causing harm to innocent ocean users.  Preston, Purnell & Withoft (2011), notes that even though there is no successful hijacking of a ship with armed guards that has taken place, armed security guards remain most effective measure to defend the crew and vessel against threats of pirate attacks in high-risk areas. The guards act as deterrence to potential attackers. It will not be easy for attackers to launch an assault to the vessel when they understand that it is security enhanced.


 It is evident that indeed, armed security guards play a fundamental role in safeguarding and securing vessels and crew.  The law permits them. It is however, important that all procedures and processes be adhered when making the decision to use these guard. The threat of pirated waterways needs elevated security, which the private armed guards can help in deterrence. The rules of engagement especially on use of firearms must be respected to avoid liabilities. With well-trained, passionate and competent armed security guards ready to operate within the maxim of law, keeping the pirate at bay will be a success.




BIMCO, ICS, IGP &I Clubs, INTERTANKO & OCIMF. (2018) ‘Management Practices to        Deter Piracy and Enhance Maritime Security in the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Indian Ocean    and Arabian Sea’, Available at: https://britanniapandi.com/bmp-5-a-new-best-           management-practice-guide/

Britannia P& I. (2018) ‘BMP 5: A new best management practice guide’, Available at:             https://britanniapandi.com/bmp-5-a-new-best-management-practice-guide/

Dutton, Y. (2016) ‘Fighting Piracy with Private Armed Guards’, (blog). Available at:             https://www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/Blog/fighting-maritime-piracy-with-private-        armed-guards

Isenberg, D. (2012) ‘The rise of private maritime security companies’, Available at:             https://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-isenberg/private-military-    contractors_b_1548523.html

Ocean Beyond Piracy. (2017) ‘Guidelines on deployment of armed security guards on merchant    ships’, Available at:        http://oceansbeyondpiracy.org/sites/default/files/indian_policy_armedguards.pdf

Pizor, B. E. (2012) ‘Lending an “Invisible Hand” to the Navy: Armed Guards as a Free Market    Assistance to Defeating Piracy’, Case Western Reserve Journal of International Law,       45(1/2), pp. 545–578. Available at:    direct%3dtrue%26db%3daph%26AN%3d87644355%26site%3deds-live (Accessed: 16      March 2019).

Preston, A., Purnell, N., & Withoft, M. (2011) ‘Legal issues arising from the use of security          guards on ships’, Available at:    http://www.mondaq.com/uk/x/138390/Marine+Shipping/Legal+Issues+Arising+From+T            he+Use+Of+Security+Guards+On+Ships

Shipping.Org. (2017) ‘Comparison of flag State laws on armed and armed on board’,  Available   at: http://www.ics-shipping.org/docs/default-source/Piracy-Docs/comparison-of-flag-   state-laws-on-armed-guards-and-arms-on-board-2017.pdf?sfvrsn=0

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