ISO 28007: The East /West Africa Paradox

In this article Stephen Askins of Ince & Co explains the difference in applicable standards for private maritime security companies between East and West Africa.

ISO 28007 and the East /West Africa Paradox

Last month, the International Standards Organisation (ISO) published ISO 28007, the new target for aspirational PMSCs who are providing security “on board ships”. On the face of it, it does not extend to those providing security on fixed platforms. However, it includes a daunting 23 pages of criteria to be audited by duly accredited inspectors, who themselves have yet to be identified and approved. It sets the gold standard for PMSCs who want to show the international community that they and the men they supply are of the right calibre to guard commercial shipping on the high seas.

Those PMSCs who go down this path will be audited to within an inch of their lives, although not until August or September 2013, when the system is expected to be rolled out for those that are ready. We can then be sure that no untrained trigger-happy cowboys will get near a weapon on a laden vessel. Except, of course, that some nations such as the UK only allow weapons on board their vessels in very specific areas such as the High Risk Area off Somalia. This raises the question: what happens on the other side of the continent?

On the west coast of Africa a different and somewhat less wholesome picture emerges. There, the shipping industry seems less concerned about the provenance and capabilities of those on board. For PMSCs, West Africa remains a logistical and legal quagmire, where the cost of providing armed guards is prohibitive and in territorial waters illegal. This has meant calling on military personnel from countries like Togo and Benin, contracted through shadowy intermediaries who have arrangements with local military commanders. There is no way to check or vouch for the guards’ suitability.

As a result, Guardcon is tweaked and clauses are deleted to try and divest the PMSCs from legal responsibility for the actions of the local military personnel. In turn liability insurers draw lines in the sand to try and distinguish between providing cover for the acts of the PMSCs but not necessarily the local personnel who they supervise. For West African operations, the question as to how the principles of ISO 28007 can best be applied appears to be unanswerable, and the result is a two tier system for essentially the same problem.

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Source: Ince & Co.

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