The Latest Piracy/Security Conundrum : West Africa
The source of PCASP (privately contracted armed security personnel) has been controversial over the past several years. Since the advent of this market in the security industry, much has been written and said about the effectiveness, training and responsibility of such personnel. Some of the major factors involved include the chain of command when using these personnel as well as their familiarity with the maritime environment and shipping.
It appears that the security industry off the West Coast of Africa will take even longer to mature and become cohesive due to the laws of the coastal nations involved. Today, it is quite easy to contract with reputable, well trained and vetted companies such as the Trident Group, Skye Maritime or The Alliance/Triskelion. These companies have teams available, trained and demonstrably effective.
Unfortunately, the requirement to use local security forces in the Gulf of Guinea – drawn possibly from local military – is fraught with risk. Over the past several years, there have been multiple fatal shootings involving embarked security guards on merchant vessels. In each and every one of these cases, the embarked security teams were from the vessel’s flag country military. Being that these teams, as the teams in West Africa, were/are military, their chain-of-command, tactics and maritime awareness are questionable.
The security situation in the Gulf of Guinea and West Africa is worsening. Unfortunately, the solution that has effectively contained Somali piracy over the past year is not available due to local politics. It is time for the IMO and industry advocacy organizations to step in and provide adequate protection to the merchant mariner.