Oman Shipping ups anti-piracy measures, adds shipboard armed guards
GOVERNMENT-owned Oman Shipping Company (OSC) has invested in a number of anti-piracy measures to boost the security of the country's expanding national fleet that currently comprises 36 ships worth nearly US$3 billion. Wednesday, 20.Jun.2012, 01:39 (GMT+3)
GOVERNMENT-owned Oman Shipping Company (OSC) has invested in a number of anti-piracy measures to boost the security of the country's expanding national fleet that currently comprises 36 ships worth nearly US$3 billion.
Equally important, is the need to safeguard the company's Omani and multinational crew, some 600 of whom are at sea at any given time, according to Captain Andrew Boyce, senior manager - Safety & Marine, Oman Ship Management Company.
"We spend a lot of money training our people. We use external consultants and have them sail on our vessels. We run through mock drills and mock attacks, provide citadels (safe rooms) on our ships, bulletproof film on the windows, body armour, razor wire, communications, and so on. This involves a big expense, but there is no alternative," Capt Boyce told delegates attending the TransOman Conference at the Grand Hyatt Muscat, Oman.
In addition, the company spends significant sums on the deployment of private armed security guards on its vessels during sailings through piracy-prone waters. "As a result of the situation out there, we are spending about a million dollars every year on armed security guards, while our charterers are paying a factor of eight or nine, or close to $10 million," he said in a statement issued by Oman's Ministry of Information.
Speaking on the theme, 'The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly - The Benefits, Problems and Dangers of Employing Armed Security Guards on Merchant Vessels,' the official described private maritime security contracting as "big business." The challenge for shipping companies was to make the distinction between the 'Rambos' offering their services as armed guards for a hefty fee, and the reputable ones.
"There are over 200 companies in the business - ranging from a guy who gets a few of his buddies and some arms together - to really professional people. There's a wide variety in quality between them. I need make sure the people I assign to my vessels are responsible, insured, trained, vetted, have the licenses, and know what they're doing. It's not easy."
Earlier this year, OSC put in place guidelines to ensure that private security guards on board its vessels are properly vetted. In the legal "grey area" that ships operate while on the high seas, any unpleasant development involving the deployment of armed guards will have potential consequences only for the ship owner and captain.
Capt Boyce, however, emphasised that armed guard deployments were not an antidote to piracy, but a supplement to the defensive and hardening measures that ships must have in place when sailing through piracy-prone waters.