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New IMO armed guarding guidelines underline the need for vetting

August 3 - Gray Page, a leading specialist maritime intelligence, investigation and crisis management company, has said that the IMO's Maritime Safety Committee's (MSC) recently approved interim guidance on the employment of privately contracted armed sec

The MSC guidance, issued in May, incorporates recommendations for flag States confirming that it is the responsibility of individual flag States whether to ordain the carriage of security personnel and their firearms on board ships sailing under their flags. Further interim guidance, for shipowners, ship operators and shipmasters, seeks to address the difficulties faced in selecting an appropriate provider of armed security services. James Wilkes, managing director, Gray Page, commented: "The IMO should be commended for setting these guidelines focused, as they are, on ensuring that the provision on board of armed maritime security teams is managed safely and lawfully."

"For a shipowner, employing the services of an armed maritime security provider is an exceptionally serious proposition, as the logical consequence of putting men with arms on board a ship is, fundamentally, to sanction the potential use of lethal force to defend the crew and vessel (albeit in extreme and proscribed circumstances). Any decision of such importance should be supported by comprehensive and objective due diligence."

Gray Page has launched an 'Armed Maritime Security Provider' Vetting Programme to provide shipowners with a reliable and independent means of vetting prospective providers of armed maritime security services. The programme helps shipowners objectively and comprehensively evaluate prospective providers against professional, legal and ethics-based criteria encompassing corporate probity, financial 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.

Wilkes added: "There will likely come a point in time when the diligence that a shipowner took in their evaluation and selection of a chosen armed maritime security provider will, itself, be scrutinised. In that event, the shipowner will probably be required to demonstrate that an appropriate due diligence process was followed, adhering to the IMO guidance as a minimum."

About one in ten vessels off the Somali coast already carry armed guards. The IMO claims there were 489 reports of piracy and armed robbery against ships in 2010 - up more than 200n 2009. So far this year more than 200 cases have been reported.

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 and crisis response and management. Based on two decades of counter-piracy knowledge and practice all over the world, the company's experts have been assisting ship and cargo owners, charterers, insurers, government agencies and military forces in their response to Somali piracy since 2005.

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