Consultants guide to Ship Anti Piracy work in GoA
This short piece is meant as an overview and guide to working in the GoA for one of the many PSC / MSC companies that exist, I will try and give clarity to the main points which are pertinent to both the industry whether as ship owner / manager or crew, as well as for you, the consultant in getting placements.
These are my personal views and not meant to be authoritive but act as good overview of the situation currently
What the Ship Owner/Manager wants:
Ship owners / managers want to provide a professional and knowledgeable security detachment to a vulnerable vessel and crew that have had little or no training in the threat they are likely to encounter.
As of September 09 the average ship manager and crew onboard will have a good grasp of what we call BMP (Best Management Practice) however there is huge disparity in interpretation of the document as there is no structure or responsibilities allocated to tasking and incident control, suffice to say your role onboard is to bring the key seafaring skills of the crew into harmony with your defensive and organizational understanding of how a threat needs to be mitigated and if required stabilized or defeated using all means possible and everyone working as a team!
It is a huge morale boost for the crew, however they are often disappointed when you get onboard without any weapons, but they soon become happier when you rig the ship with countermeasures to prevent and deny boarding.
The Ship Owners / Managers options:
The current options for ship owners / managers is to contact one of the many PSCâ€™s / MSCâ€™s offering maritime security in the hope that they will place a team onboard either armed or unarmed that will by definition prevent a hijacking.
This is a costly business as the average ship that takes onboard security is a 150 mtr chemical / oil or general cargo ship that has a freeboard of less than 6 mtrs and an average speed of 14 knots or less.
The ships will be charted for approx $50,000 USD per day and the pecking order for running the ship is usually Ship Owner (he owns the hull) Ship Manager (its his crew onboard and day 2 day responsibility for the ship) the Charterer (he owns the cargo) then you also might have to speak to the flag state (where the ship is registered) as your security team might take you over the SOLAS limit of your lifeboat or you might be carrying arms) then there is the hull insurers, P&I insurers, and crew unions to satisfy oh and also the crew onboard have a say in matters also along with just about every other tom dick n harryâ€¦â€¦â€¦
So collectively they all somehow decide they want you onboard and usually the manager can sort it, but it often involves at least 3 parties agreeing
The PSC / MSC will charge an average of Â£750 - Â£1000 a day for each of you to be onboard and some of you will be getting paid between 250-350 per day.
Now most of you will be self employed and most of you will have your own kit / medical insurance â€“ hardly any ship owners now take K&R insurance for their vessels due to the premiums and not all PSCâ€™s / MSCâ€™s have K&R for you, they may only have medical repatriation but that does not include knocking on the door of a pirates hijacked ship in Somalia and asking if you can medevac one of the Brit security guards off whilst they carry on negotiating for $3 million USD in ransom
They may give you PPE to take and a few other gizmoâ€™s and hopefully they will give you an induction before deploying so you know what to expect â€“ if not and you have concerns, speak to us as we would rather you know the real deal rather than bar talk!! And anybody that knows me / us knows we have had a fair few run inâ€™s with pirates and weapon attacksâ€¦
Now the ship is running for arguments sake from Asia to Europe up the Suez canal and they now have to stop in Oman to pick you up â€“ port agent will take $5,000 USD to put a team of 4 onboard with no arms â€“ that is just boat taxi out in your eyesâ€¦
The ship will be delayed and the clock will be ticking â€“ the PSC / MSC may also make the owner purchase kit for you to make the vessel safe and provide deterrents razor wire, netting, 45 gal drums, catgut, wood etc
If your going on unarmed / non lethal, then ask if your vessel is in a protected navy convoy as currently we have the schedule of all nations doing convoys and there are plenty - this is not a normal speed -group transit - in the IRTC this is a full warship protected convoy - quite a few nations are now operating them...! - if there is no convoy available then please make sure the vessel is in the correct speed group for the Group Transit...... I developed the Group Transit scheme for Northwood last December and it works, but only if people use it...!
You then get onboard and trundle along in the IRTC with every vessel under 20 mtrs automatically being classed a pirate â€“ which they are not!
Then you get off 4 -7 days later and the vessel manager / owner has spent on average just under $30,000 USD for your team to be onboard plus at least another $10,000 USD in port fees plus lost transit timeâ€¦
What legacy did you leave the master and his crew?
The PSCâ€™s / PMCâ€™s:
No names â€“ but most people who have left regular service will know where to point you, nearly every decent TL or TM that I know will work for anyone that has the jobs and whoever pays the most and whose jobs fit in with other work that has been promised or agreed onâ€¦. Now here is where the fun beginsâ€¦
Not one operator can currently guarantee continual ad hoc work in GoA
They say that you need to do an SSO course before you can work on a ship or they can even consider you for a deploymentâ€¦â€¦â€¦
mmmmmmmmm!! Donâ€™t think so Gievesâ€¦
The CV required to deploy:
The ideal CV would be an ex RM or RN NCO or senior rate that has completed a few tours done at least 8+ years service and has held training roles or has specialist knowledge in maritime warfare either in bridge capacity or with LC experience.
This is not to say that boots and brawn, jungle warfare, and 55 tours in Iraq & Afghanistan is not relevant but you will be dealing with a pitching and rolling ship, language difficulties and a scared foreign ships crew who 100% believe you have magic powers to make the pirates go awayâ€¦ If unarmed and non lethal â€“ you need to live up to that expectation and you need to understand their life on a ship and how it works!!
You need to understand the view of the pirates, their SOP and what makes a ship worth going for and what doesnâ€™t â€“ and this does not require you to be SF trained. This needs you to be trained and aware of what makes your vessel from a distance of 3nm+ not to be worthy of further investigation and possible attack by the pirates in a 7mtr skiff â€“ sorry I like the easy life!
Rather than dodging rounds landing around my feet when Iâ€™m unarmed!
For anyone wanting to make a career out of merchant maritime security onboard a vessel you will need to undertake a Basic Seamanâ€™s course which lasts a week costs just over Â£1000 UKP and gives you what we call an STCW-95 in vital and legal requirements according to the IMO â€“ training in Firefighting, First Aid, Sea Survival and Human & Social Behavior etc â€“ after this you get what we call a Seamanâ€™s Book â€“ this is in essence your passport for ships and is a log book of all your time served at sea â€“ which ship â€“ which role you played etc and acts a student record card for you to gain further qualificationsâ€¦â€¦ WITHOUT ONE OF THESE DOCUMENTS YOU ARE A PASSENGER â€“ NOT A SHIPS CREWMEMBER
The SSO debate:
Lets stop the big con right nowâ€¦
YOU DO NOT NEED AN SSO COURSE TO DEPLOY ON A MERCHANT SHIP IF YOU ARE WORKING FOR A PSC ON A SHORT TRANSIT DEPLOYMENT THROUGH THE GOA
Now I fully appreciate this will upset some training providers and indeed no doubt everyone that it pains that Iâ€™m still here in the their precious industry when they thought this unknown was a one trick pony!! Sorry chaps!
If you are the holder of a Seamanâ€™s book and are a full time member of a ships crew and you hold the SSO ticket â€“ you may get dicked for that additional post for no additional salaryâ€¦
As most of you would have found out hopefully to resettlements expense rather than your personal pocket is that the SSO course focuses on dockside security, procedures, responsibilities and security plans etc, with a tiny bit of added extra that is not actually certified, all about piracy etc and as for companies offering an MCA approved anti-piracy course! Mmmm yeah rite!!
Do NOT think you are a qualified SSO just because you have completed the course â€“ if you do not have the rest of the bits of paper and you are not employed as ships crew then you are not an SSOâ€¦. Sorry..!
I donâ€™t think there is many that could actually put their hand up and say that the SSO taught them everything they needed to know about piracy or confronting pirates in the GoA..
So to reiterate you DO NOT need an SSO course but if you have other STCW maritime certificates it certainly is a bonusâ€¦
But the PSCâ€™s say I need one before I can deployâ€¦
The PSCâ€™s have the brand associated with security in hostile environments, and they will send quotes to the clients saying all their chaps have SSO quals â€“ as without it they would not have much maritime marketing knowledge to say to themâ€¦â€¦â€¦.
I established the STO course, which is currently NOT certified, but will hopefully soon be DNV certified (Det Norske Veritas) â€“ (bit like ISO 9001 but for maritime courses)â€¦. As I feel that guys going on first deployments will find it invaluable and will, I hope serve them well during their deployment.
The future in the GoA in my view will calm down a great deal over the next few months â€“ there is a lot of military hardware down there and the Somaliâ€™s are fully aware of itâ€¦â€¦. MY FEAR is that the threat will now be displaced much further to the east out of effective range of the majority of naval / air assets - so the trips will become longer and we may see within the next 12- 24 months a requirement for full time embarked security teams just like the cruise ships and super yachts do now â€“ so if you want a career on the ocean waves then invest in training â€“ but for goodness sake invest in the right training where you are instantly sellable to the merchant industry - maritime work will never be like sand deployments â€“ they are rich in experiences and in the cultures you meet and work with and the sunrise and sunset is different every day. The merchant industry no matter how long it takes will end up having to take security much more seriously and good ex military dedicated guys will always be needed and welcomed.!!
Iâ€™m happy to help but please remember I am trying to run a business as well â€“ all the best, stay safe