Indian Ocean to the Indian subcontinent and
Southeast Asia, including Bangladesh, Indonesia, Strait
of Malacca, Singapore Straits and the South China Sea.
About 35 to 40 percent of the vessels crossing HRAs
have armed teams, or PCASP, embarked, according to
data from the London-based Security Association for
the Maritime Industry (SAMI), a trade association
launched just four years ago in order to facilitate the
evolving relationship between private security and the
“The use of PCASP relates to the vulnerability of
the vessel, and so those who tend to employ armed
guards fit a specific profile of being ‘low and slow’ —
that is a speed below 18 knots and with a freeboard of
less than nine meters,” said Peter Cook, SAMI chief
For its global shipping business, Maersk and Maersk
Line Ltd. use guards on virtually every vessel, Watson said.
“A lot of bulkers and tankers, when they transit,
may not have more than three to six feet of freeboard,
so it is very easy for pirates to get aboard. That is why
they are the greatest users,” he said. “One thing that is
important to know is that there has not been a success-
ful pirate attack on a commercial vessel in the Indian
Ocean in almost a year and a half now. And the reason
for that is because of the guards onboard the ships.”
PCASP are the teams employed by the PMSCs. The
industry relies on essentially three types of service mod-
els. One is onboard security personnel, or the standard
PCASP, usually a four-person team that carry security kits
with them, including their weapons,
ammunition, body armor, night-
vision systems, medical equipment
and whatever they would need to
travel with the vessel, said Robert
Gauvin, executive director of piracy
policy at the U.S. Coast Guard.
The second business model
includes owning a floating armory,
essentially a barge that carries
weapons that can be rented or
leased by shippers and used by
hired armed security aboard the
vessel, Gauvin said.
“They are mostly located off the
south Indian coast up in the Strait
of Hormuz and up near the Red
Sea, and you see that that is a starting point or an ending point for
ships when they are coming
through an area,” he said.
Because most Arabian countries
in the Gulf do not allow weapons
to be carried into their ports, shippers can drop their weapons outside of territorial
waters at certain key points, Gauvin said.
“Then, if they are coming back out to sea to the Gulf
of Aden or somewhere where there are high-risk waters,
they might pick those weapons up and lease them again.
It allows them this mobility,” he said.
The third type of PMSC service model is what Watson
referred to as “operator support vessels,” or OSVs, where
a team can embark from the vessel where they would live
to a client, or contract, vessel.
“What they would do is rendezvous with a client vessel at a choke point coming into the high-risk area and
they would embark the team from the OSV,” he said.
SAMI counts as members 167 companies from more
than 35 countries that include not only PMSCs, but
also equipment, technology and hardware manufacturers and suppliers, as well as training, personnel and
business support providers, according to Cook.
SAMI has focused on setting standards for the various
PMSCs and enforcing those standards, or what Watson
said is “Stage 1 certification,” while pushing the security
companies toward higher levels of certification.
Trend Creates Concerns
Concerns about using weapons and armed security
onboard commercial vessels has created controversy
within the shipping industry and among seafarers,
“Generally speaking, the maritime industry has had a
long-time prohibition against keeping weapons onboard
WWW.SEAPOWERMAGAZINE.ORG SEAPOWER / MARCH 2014
Crew members from the French European Union Naval Force Somalia
Operation Atalanta flagship FS Siroco, in cooperation with Japanese assets,
inspect a dhow suspected of being used as a pirate mothership Jan. 18 off the
coast of Somalia. Five suspected Somali pirates surrendered, and were separated from the dhow’s crew and transferred to Siroco for further investigation.