Interim guidance to private maritime security companies (PMSCs) was agreed by IMO's Maritime Safety Committee (MSC), when it met at the Organization's London Headquarters for its 90th session from 16 to 25 May 2012.
A special high-level segment of the MSC saw an intense debate, over the first day and a half of the Committee’s session (See Briefing 16/2012
), on how the international community should deal with issues related to the deployment of privately contracted armed security personnel (PCASP) on board ships and the carriage of arms on board.
Following further debate during a working group, the MSC agreed Interim Guidance to private maritime security companies (PMSC) providing contracted armed security personnel on board ships in the High Risk Area.
The guidance covers:
• PMSC Professional Certification, including the recommendation that PMSC should seek certification with relevant national and international private maritime security service standards when these are established;
• PMSC Company requirements, including the recommendation that PMSC should establish procedures to provide maritime security services to ship owners and ship operators and comply with all relevant legal requirements;
• Management, including recommendations on selection, vetting and training of personnel for a PCASP team;
• Deployment considerations, addressing the specific aspects of PCASP deployment and the role of the PMSC in ensuring efficient and successful deployments, including communications with the ship owner or operator, and including recommendations relating to management of firearms and ammunition from embarkation to disembarkation and use of force. (The PMSC should recognize that laws governing the use of force may differ over time and according to location. The applicable national law, including any criminal laws, for an incident on a ship from which PCASP will be operating will be principally that of the flag State. It may also include the laws and regulations of coastal, port and other States.)
The MSC agreed that the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) would be best placed to develop international standards for PMSCs based on the IMO-developed guidance and with relevant IMO liaison and participation in the ISO process for standards’ development.
The MSC also agreed to consequential revisions to the interim guidance for shipowners, ship operators and shipmasters; flag States; and port and coastal States on the use of PCASP on board ships to counter Somali-based piracy, to reflect the new guidance to PMSCs.
The MSC also approved interim guidance for flag States on measures to prevent and mitigate Somalia-based piracy, which lists recommended practices that flag States are encouraged to apply, taking into account their own circumstances and subject to their national law, in order to maximize their efforts to implement counter-piracy measures.
The MSC noted that, globally, the number of acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships reported to IMO and which occurred in 2011 was 544, an increase of 55 (11.3%), compared with the 489 reported for 2010.
The areas most affected in 2011, as in 2010, were East Africa and the Far East, in particular the South China Sea, followed by the Indian Ocean, West Africa, South America and the Caribbean. The majority of incidents occurred off East Africa and increased to 223 in 2011, from 172 in 2010. The deployment of motherships by Somali pirates and the increased range of their operation contributed to the rise in the number of incidents occurring in the Arabian Sea increased to 28 in 2011, up from 16 in 2010. However, the number of incidents in the Indian Ocean decreased from 77 to 63 in 2011. Despite the high number of Somalia-based piracy attacks, the pirates' success rate has been significantly reduced. In 2011, out of 286 attacks, 33 resulted in the ship being hijacked (11.5%), while in 2010 Somali pirates attacked 172 ships in 2010 and hijacked 50 of them (29%).
Worldwide, seven crew members were killed in 2011, up from two in 2010, while 569 crew members were reportedly taken hostage/kidnapped, in 2011, down from 1,027 in 2010.
The Committee urged, once again, all Governments and the industry to intensify and coordinate their efforts to eradicate piracy and armed robbery against ships.