BIMCO is unlikely to publish an amended version of Guardcon for West Africa, according to head of maritime security Giles Noakes.
BIMCO’s documentary committee is due to meet next week to decide whether the shipping association will publish a standard contract for shipowners and private maritime security companies to use when operating in the Gulf of Guinea, Mr Noakes said at the Security in Complex Environments Conference.
There are currently a number of dangers highlighted in certain clauses of the draft document that had stalled its publication so far, he said.
A fundamental difference between the published form of Guardcon for use in the high-risk area of the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden and what would be needed in West Africa is the fact that a vast majority of pirate activity occurs in territorial waters and therefore coastal, rather than international, law applies.
The second major barrier to publishing a contract is the requirement that only local forces can carry arms in territorial waters.
This has forced PMSCs operating in West Africa to hire local guards to carry weapons with unarmed team leaders.
Although at least one PMSC, Mast, has had this model “Mast model” approved by P&I clubs , many fear the potential liabilities that could arise from this arrangement.
Mr Noakes said that if BIMCO were to publish a standard contract for West Africa, it ran the risk of being questioned on a number of different points by stakeholders. He added that this would be a position in which BIMCO would not allow itself to be put.
“We are not in a position to role-play all the potential conflicts that might occur,” he said.
Mr Noakes said currently the plan was to add guidance for operating in the region to the already published Guardcon notes and then it would be up to the shipowner and PMSC to draw up their own agreement from this.
One concern was that it remained difficult to determine or guarantee that a PMSC’s team leader could be in overall command of indigenous security forces in West Africa.
“A PMSC team leader being in overall command of Nigerian or Togolese guards is impossible to determine or guarantee,” Mr Noakes said.
“The documentary committee may overrule this, but this is the current security view of BIMCO.”
BIMCO had originally said it would publish the Guardcon for West Africa amended standard Guardcon contract for PMSCs operating in West Africa in September, after more than five months at drafting stage.
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