BIMCO shelves plan to issue West Africa shipboard armed guard contract

2013 11 05

 

THE Baltic and International Maritime Council (BIMCO) appears to be shelving its standard contract for shipboard armed guards in West Africa because of acts of piracy take place in territorial waters unlike those in East Africa.

 

Shipboard guards have a freer hand on the high seas of the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden, but are more restricted in West Africa where pirate attacks occur in state-governed territorial waters, reports Lloyd's List.

 

Thus, BIMCO, a global association of shipowners and shipmanagers, says it is unlikely it will to publish an amended version of Guardcon for West Africa, said BIMCO security chief Giles Noakes.

 

BIMCO's documentary committee is due to meet to decide whether to publish such a standard contract. But some clauses in the draft do not fit the Gulf of Guinea operating environment, Mr Noakes told a London security conference.

 

Another problem is the requirement that only local forces can carry guns in territorial waters, which has forced security contractors to hire local guards supervised by unarmed team leaders.

 

Although at least one security contractor, Mast, has had this model approved by P&I clubs, many fear liabilities that could arise. Some even question whether a foreign team leader could command of indigenous armed guards.

 

Said Mr Noakes: "We are not in a position to role-play all the potential conflicts that might occur. A team leader being in overall command of Nigerian or Togolese guards is impossible to determine or guarantee."

 

In early October, while still hopeful that its own contract becoming standard issue, BIMCO opposed the signing of International Code of Conduct Association's (ICoCA) code by Private Maritime Security Companies (PMSCs), for shipboard armed guards.

 

"Indeed, the ICoCA will not be able to represent private maritime security companies directly at IMO and will have to rely on government's flag states represented there - only five governments of 160 represented in IMO are members of ICoCA, and no major flag states," said Mr Noakes at the time.

 

Back in August 2009, Mr Noakes advocated "passive defence" to ward off pirates when he addressed a seminar at Hong Kong's United Centre in Admiralty.

 

Mr Noakes told his audience that arming crews or stationing armed men aboard is no answer, citing a host of legal problems and risk of accidents.

 

"Every fisherman there has Kalashnikov and he is likely to wave it just to get you away from his nets," he said. "Armed force belongs to the navies."

 

Today, he said there are serious grey areas. He found rules governing the use of force "rather too loose" and contradicts the newly accepted 100 Series RUF into ISO PAS 28007.

 

BIMCO had originally said it would publish the amended standard Guardcon contract for PMSCs operating in West Africa in September, after more than five months in drafting.

 

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