As the shipping industry looks to the International Maritime Organization to issue guidance next week on maritime security, it has emerged that just eight out of 160 member states have provided details to the IMO about how they approach the issue of armed guards.
According to IMO deputy director Chris Trelawny, the organisation contacted all member states last year and asked them to send in details of their regulatory frameworks or the position they took towards deploying armed guards on board vessels. The response has been underwhelming.
“People want the IMO to deliver some kind of magic bullet but the situation is extremely difficult,” Mr Trelawny said. “I suspect the MSC will increase the number of questions flag states have to ask but I also hope we can do more than that.”
Mr Trelawny said one problem concerning states’ response is that policy decisions on issues such as armed guards fall under the remit of departments that the IMO does not normally deal with, creating a problem with communication.
The IMO maritime safety committee meets for its 90th session next week and has put private maritime security companies high on its agenda.
Member states will debate how the international community should deal with deploying armed guards who work for private maritime security companies and the issue of carriage of arms on board.
Industry watchers hope that government discussions about whether states should allow PMSCs to operate on vessels under their national laws will deliver clarity.
However, member states’ dismal response ahead of the committee meeting does little to indicate that this will happen.
The committee will also discuss establishing international guidelines on use of firearms against suspected pirates and developing international guidance for handling and treatment of firearms and PMSCs.
The committee will debate whether states should allow passage through their territorial waters to foreign ships that deploy PMSCs.
The committee will also review its interim guidance for states and shipowners on using PMSCs and will consider whether to issue interim guidelines to PMSCs.