Privately Contracted Armed Security Personnel - IMO Updates Interim Guidance

October 2011

Following the interim guidance issued in June this year, further interim guidance on the use of privately contracted armed security personnel (PCASP) on board ships to counter Somali-based piracy has been approved by an IMO intersessional working group.

The Intersessional Maritime Security and Piracy Working Group of the Maritime Safety Committee, which met at IMO Headquarters in London from 13 to 15 September 2011, approved the following Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) circulars for dissemination:

  • MSC.1/Circ.1408 on Interim Recommendations for port and coastal States regarding the use of privately contracted armed security personnel on board ships in the High Risk Area;
  • MSC.1/Circ.1406/Rev.1 on Revised Interim Recommendations for flag States regarding the use of privately contracted armed security personnel on board ships in the High Risk Area;
  • MSC.1/Circ.1405/Rev.1 on Revised Interim Guidance to shipowners, ship operators and shipmasters on the use of privately contracted armed security personnel on board ships in the High Risk Area; and
  • a joint MSC and Facilitation Committee (FAL) circular on Questionnaire on information on port and coastal State requirements related to privately contracted armed security personnel on board ships, which is aimed at gathering information on current requirements.

The circulars provide interim guidance and recommendations to be taken into account when considering the use of PCASP if and when a flag State determines that such a measure would be lawful and, following a full risk assessment, appropriate.  

As stated in the circulars, the interim guidance and recommendations “are not intended to endorse or institutionalize” the use of armed guards.  Therefore, they do not represent any fundamental change of policy by the Organization in this regard. It is for each flag State, individually, to decide whether or not PCASP should be authorized for use on board ships flying their flag.  If a flag State decides to permit this practice, it is up to that State to determine the conditions under which authorization will be granted.

The guidance notes state that the use of privately contracted armed security personnel (PCASP) should not be considered as an alternative to the Best Management Practices to Deter Piracy off the Coast of Somalia and in the Arabian Sea area (BMP) and other protective measures. Placing armed guards on board as a means to secure and protect the vessel and its crew should only be considered after a risk assessment has been carried out. It is also important to involve the Master in the decision making process.   The guidance includes sections on risk assessment, selection criteria, insurance cover, command and control, management and use of weapons and ammunition at all times when on board and rules for the use of force as agreed between the shipowner, the private maritime security company and the Master.

The circulars listed above can be found on the IMO "Hot Topic" page on Piracy at: www.imo.org/MediaCentre/HotTopics/piracy/Pages/default.aspx

 

Based on IMO Briefing 47/2011