BIMCO has created a standard contract for the private maritime security industry and the first draft should be confirmed for early 2012, providing the industry with a much-needed benchmark on which to judge PMSCs.
Chief maritime security officer at the shipowner trade association Giles Noakes said that the contract had taken into account the concerns of the P&I clubs as well as underwriters, shipowners and lawyers. He added that the trade body had worked closely with all interested parties to ensure that all views were heard.
Mr Noakes explained that the standard would provide and take account of the International Maritime Organization’s MSC.1/ Circ.1405/Rev.1 and MSC1/ Circ.1406/Rev.1 but would provide more detail because IMO members could not be as prescriptive as the industry needed them to be.
“The industry is happy with 1405 and 6; it is good advice, and while it has quite a lot of detail it is not quite enough. Law firms currently have to draw up a contract per voyage and part of BIMCO’s role is to provide standards that can be used in this manner. We felt drawing up a standard contract for PMSCs was the quickest way of dealing with a difficult problem,” he said.
The standard is expected to come into force as soon as possible and the drafting committee is meeting shortly to get things under way. However, Mr Noakes said the contract alone was not a sufficient indicator of a reputable PMSC.
“Just because a security company signs the contract, it doesn’t mean that they are a good company,” he said. “Signing means that they agree to abide by the standards and then organisations like the Security Association for the Maritime Industry will have a baseline of standards to judge PMSCs on. It will at least give everyone a bottom line to work with.
“There is a concern that there is an increasing amount of companies offering independent audits but who is policing the policemen? At least the standard contract is a way of starting this. Questions have to be raised over the competency of any PMSC that is not prepared to sign the contract.”
Mr Noakes said that he was in no way saying that these audit services should not be developed but only that some firms were moving faster than others in response to the rapidly growing sector and that there were “too many known unknowns” and therefore the industry needed some kind of benchmark.
He questioned whether classification societies would eventually conduct PMSC audits but said that there did not seem to be much interest from this quarter.
“It is an issue people are willing to address and the IMO has worked hard to do this but there isn’t the technical competence and why should there be? We are dealing with an area where there is no precedent. We have had this problem forced upon us and seafarers are quite rightly demanding protection,” he said.