Armed Maritime Security Services


Latest data from the leading company providing independent vetting of armed maritime security providers suggests that a majority of companies are operating outside of existing regulations and conventions  

LONDON: 7 FEBRUARY 2012: Gray Page, the specialist maritime intelligence, investigation and crisis management company, said today that laws, regulations and guidelines already exist against which armed maritime security providers (AMSPs) can be scrutinised.

The assessment criteria that Gray Page uses in its Armed Maritime Security Provider Vetting Programme incorporates, for example, extant British and EU legislation on the ownership, licensing and control of firearms and ammunition, the compliance requirements enshrined in conventions such as the International Code of Conduct (ICOC) for Private Security Service Providers, and guidance published the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), the International Group of P&I Clubs and flag States including the UK Department for Transport.

James Wilkes, managing director, Gray Page, commented: “It is a misconception that there are currently no standards against which the legitimacy and competency of AMSPs operations can be measured. There is plethora of criterion that can reasonably be applied in vetting the activities of an AMSP. We support the call for maritime-specific regulation, but on-going industry deliberations in that respect do not obviate the regulations and laws that already exist with which AMSP should comply.

“Our vetting programme is exposing the fact that a significant majority of AMSPs are not demonstrably operating within existing legal and regulatory frameworks. Indeed, so far, few companies seem to have even a rudimentary understanding of the insurance and contractual issues that P&I Clubs, for example, have been highlighting. There are companies providing armed maritime security services safely, lawfully and professionally, but at present they are a notable minority. This should be a concern to shipowners.”

John Thompson, a Director at Ambrey Risk, commented: “As the number of companies in the armed maritime security market continues to grow, it is inevitable that there will be significant variances in the integrity of the services being offered.

At Ambrey we are keenly aware of our legal and regulatory obligations in providing armed guards and pride ourselves on raising standards in the maritime security industry. We have taken the time to deeply understand the environment in which we operate and we have a duty to our clients to do so. By virtue of helping shipowners with their background due diligence on prospective armed maritime security companies, Gray Page’s Armed Maritime Security Provider Vetting Programme is actually setting high bench-mark standards in our rapidly expanding industry. Ambrey welcome the Programme and the transparency it brings to the market.”

Mike Salthouse, Director of North of England P&I Association, which is a prominent supporter of Gray Page’s Armed Maritime Security Provider Vetting Programme, commented: “Gray Page vets armed maritime security providers on behalf of North and its Members and the results to date demonstrate that a number of companies are not meeting the generally accepted standards required of an armed maritime security provider.

While it is a concern that standards in the armed maritime security sector are not what they should be, our Members can be assured that the vetting programme will help them identify those companies that operate professionally, safely and, crucially, within the law.”


About the Gray Page Armed Maritime Security Provider Vetting Programme:

Gray Page’s Armed Maritime Security Provider Vetting Programme provides shipowners and operators with an expert and independent means of vetting prospective providers of armed maritime security services against professional, legal and ethics-based criteria encompassing corporate probity and substance, regulatory and legislative compliance, commercial experience, contractual integrity, operational and logistical capability, weapons licensing and accountability, and the selection, recruitment and training of security personnel.

About Gray Page:

Founded in 2003, Gray Page is a specialist maritime investigations, intelligence and crisis management company. Helping clients solve commercial and operational problems in difficult and sensitive circumstances, Gray Page provides a full range of risk-management services including investigative due diligence, claims and litigation support, crime investigation, counter-piracy expertise and crisis management. 

Media Enquiries:

Amie Pascoe

Blue Communications

T: +44 (0) 7917351187


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One Reply to “Armed Maritime Security Services”

  1. David Stone


    I read your article on Ships Guards and would like to point out a few things that would likely cause an informed reader to raise an eyebrow.


    We have operated a certification structure based on the requirements defined in MSC.1/Circ 1405, the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers and ISO 9001:2008 for some time now. We have had companies gone through this vetting process now that are actually into their second round of inspections under the Continuous Improvement Plan (part of the ISO requirements) for some time. This has also included clearly established codes of conduct, an internal disciplinary process, and other measures.

    With respect to the use of the National Security Inspectorate, which is a positive step if an incomplete one, boils down to this. They deal with issues within the UK, again, a restricted scope. This is why the IAMSP took the approach of building its certification based on the International Organization for Standardization structures, meaning that any ISO certified auditor (generally in the 9001:2008 Quality Management Systems) and with adequate knowledge of the other requirements would be able to conduct the review. We went with this approach because it is truly international and already recognized by industry as a credible source of guidance with respect to this kind of activity

    Comments on Sources of Regulation

    Your source of regulations requires clarification. The source of regulations (and similar legal structures) follows the following structures:

    • The laws and regulations as communicated by the flag state of the vessel (not simply the European Union),
    • The laws and regulations associated with personnel on board the ship as many nations have specific legislation or regulations regarding the employment of persons in certain lines of work.
    • The restrictions communicated under the United Nations Convention on the Laws of the Sea which, in turn, is used by several nations to restrict activities within their territorial waters (12 nm), the contiguous zone (out to 24 nautical miles) and, in cases involving the exploitation of resources, a nations Exclusive Economic Zone. It also has specific guidance agreed to by states and enshrined in many laws regarding what is called the right of innocent passage and also conduct on the high seas.
    • Then you get to IMO guidance.

    These are not the only source of guidance that can be found in this respect. The United Nations has a programme of action that specifically engages the manufacture, sale, distribution (etc) of illicit weapons, their components and ammunition. That document, focussing on the need to prevent or stem the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, has its own guidance with respect to the procurement, storage, handling and disposal of small arms. This is one area that has been largely overlooked in this issue but that the Association, and in particular our Secretary, has been working informally with a number of bodies to bring back into the picture.

    And the list goes on but is significantly more complex than simply European regulations and IMO guidance. Your article, as was pointed out by some of our members, would actually imply that companies from Canada, the USA, Australia, and other nations that do not belong to the European Union would be required to fall under that structure.

    Licensing of Arms

    While I would normally refer to our Secretary on this, there are several other elements that need to be clarified. These include the following:

    There is the issue of certification by the state, usually with respect to a company that is twinned with what is called an End User Certificate. This is part of the procurement process for arms. A credible state check, and not just an invoice and a 24 hour turnaround, begins the process. Having gone through a credible state process, the next step involves the ability to hold arms. Again, this will depend on the location of the weapons as each coastal state (if being held on shore and not under embargo) likely has its own national laws regarding the storage and distribution of arms.

    The issuance of arms is another issue but there are several elements with respect to their issuance and use that pertain but is a whole body of knowledge.

    Operating Practices

    I was somewhat disturbed by the operating practices that you indicated. While there is a requirement for the test firing of weapons (usually 2-3 rounds over the side of the ship in safe direction, etc), I have yet to hear of any organization using live rounds during drills. Certainly such a practice would have to be discouraged.

    We have a number of standards and guidance identified (including elearning for people entering the area) that may be useful in this respect. These include modules associated with understanding use of force, human rights frameworks, duty of care, and such.

    My apologies for the longer note, if you have any questions, I’d be quite willing to try to provide some input, keeping in mind the need for fair representation. All the best trying to work through this rather convoluted challenges and we’re certainly willing to help out on some of the other issues that we’ve been discovering.

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