The call for maritime security firms to come together to create a code of conduct and ethics, has been answered by the launch of the Security Association for the Maritime Industry (SAMI).
With piracy attacks inexorably on the rise, it has been seen that the provision of security teams onboard many ships has safeguarded them from hijack. However the maritime security successes have created new problems and burgeoning business opportunities have seen many new companies appearing in the market.
Maritime security companies have rushed into the void, ready to supply teams to meet demand, leaving shipowners struggling to decide how best to manage the legal and liability issues.
Given this surge in new providers a number of organisations have raised alarm over number of such companies operating without seaborne experience, without license to carry arms and without the insurance and legal cover necessary to protect clients and employees in the event of something going wrong. Currently it is a complex mess, but there are some signs of progress as SAMI brings together security providers and the maritime industry to forge robust, reliable and reassuring vetting processes and standards.
The first phase of the process for shipowners is making the tough call on whether to use armed guards is appropriate, practical or possible. It is not currently an easy choice for many shipping companies. There is much to examine in assessing whether this is the right approach for their particular vessels and trade. This is not a simple case of following the zeitgeist; this is about decisions based on a proper risk assessment that their people, cargoes and vessels will be safer if armed teams are used. If the decision is to use additional security is made, then they can turn to providers who are members of SAMI and know that the company is of the standard required.
SAMI Founder, Peter Cook agrees that there are currently issues with the quality of some security providers, “It is fair to say that the current business opportunity is attracting companies who have gained experience ashore rather than at sea. This does have implications for the quality of service, the understanding of seafarers and ships, and of the foundations many start-up firms are built upon.”
He goes on to add, “SAMI has been brought into existence with the support of the maritime industry to recognise the best quality security providers, those who have been in this domain, successfully, and with a proven track record. Our engagement process and the vetting standards we are developing mean that all can be sure of the quality they can expect from a SAMI member company.”
Choosing a security provider has been compared with picking a random plumber. Given that there is no real way of knowing whether you will get a skilled craftsman or a “cowboy”. Sadly the comparison stacks up, and with today’s burgeoning marketplace full of established names and new start-ups membership of SAMI will help to clarify and clear the confusion.
SAMI, which has been established with the support of the Marshall Islands administration and a range of reputable maritime security companies, is formally launching on May 16th, at an industry event held onboard HQS Wellington, London.