AP Moller-Maersk will make more regular use of armed guards on tankers passing through the Gulf of Aden, the company has confirmed. However, there are “no immediate plans” to extend the policy to containerships, Maersk Tankers chief technical officer Steffen Jacobsen added.
It remains unclear which contractor is likely to pick up the work, with security industry sources suggesting that it will probably have to be divided between several providers.
The world’s largest shipping concern has seen attacks on a number of its ships, most famously on boxship Maersk Alabama , but has previously employed guards only on an ad hoc basis.
But following an assessment of its experiences so far, it has decided to adopt the step more often, especially on vessels that are slow, have a low freeboard.
Mr Jacobsen said in a statement: “We have concluded that we in certain circumstances may need to use armed guards to protect the crews on our tanker vessels adequately
“The decision to use armed guards will be taken on a case-by-case basis, it will be based on thorough risk assessments, and armed guards will only be used when we deem there are no alternatives that can provide sufficient security for our crews.”
He stressed that the move should not be seen as blanket approval for the use of armed guards, and that it will apply mainly to tankers in the Maersk fleet.
“Maersk Line does not have any immediate plans to place armed guards on its container vessels, because the current security procedures, the deployment of larger vessels with higher freeboard and speed, and re-routing of vessels are deemed to provide adequate protection.”
High level participants in the security sector confirmed that they had held formal meetings with Maersk on the issue. But the British company rumoured by its competitors to have swung a deal said on the record that it could not comment for reasons of client confidentiality, and off the record that the volume of Maersk-related work would be too much for any one outfit, anyway.
Some shipowners opted for a sole provider, while others seek to leave to choice open in order to inject an element of competiton and choice, he insisted. However, all major providers would presumably be keen to pick up the work.
“This is a significant shipowner, and its very decision to go armed is a significant event in the shipping community, given the ambivalence that some [owners] have,” he said, “In terms of who will deliver the service, there are a variety of providers out there. By virtue of the sheer scale of the company and the number of its vessels transiting through high risk environments, that narrows the field, because of the limited capacity of providers to meet demands.”