Security Guards In Trouble with the Law
In a growing list of legal incidents involving maritime security professionals, Port2Port West Africa has confirmed that two of its security contractors were arrested on March 28 in Nigeria. The company denies the allegations made against the two men. Vincent Hayward and Piers Eastward, were arrested by the Joint Task Force (JTF) in Bayelsa State, Nigeria, after being detained as part of an investigation into a third party suspected of crude oil theft.
Also in the last week, the Estonian foreign ministry has announced that shipping company AdvanFort has paid the bail for the Estonian maritime security guards that are detained in an Indian prison. However, they won't be released from prison before Tuesday, according to local media, due to technical reasons.
AdvanFort has paid 25 million rupees ($400,000) as bail for the guards. The Indian coastguard detained anti-piracy ship Seaman Guard Ohio on October 12 last year. Later that month, 33 people, including 14 Estonian anti-piracy armed guards, were imprisoned as a result of a preliminary investigation into the vessels alleged illegal entry into Indian waters and several other violations.
Meanwhile, the Security Association for the Maritime Industry (SAMI) has voiced concerns over what it sees as a worrying trend which has seen various government authorities are criminalizing maritime security operatives.
Across piracy afflicted areas, both in the Indian Ocean and off West Africa, there are increasing concerns that innocent maritime security operatives are being targeted, wrongly arrested and criminalized, states SAMI in a statement released on April 1.
It is deplorable that such individuals are being made to suffer the indignity, uncertainty and distress of arrest and incarceration, especially as the maritime security industry has been at the forefront of efforts to protect seafarers and world trade from piracy.
SAMI CEO Peter Cook says, “We are deeply concerned and strongly condemn this creeping trend of criminalization. Maritime security professionals should not be used as makeweights in political disputes, nor be seen as scapegoats in commercial quarrels. Whether they are former marines, soldiers or police – maritime security operatives are skilled and experienced professionals who should be afforded respect, credit and appreciation for the vital role they have played in tackling piracy.”
The maritime security industry has done all possible to become ever more transparent, accountable and to fit into the global shipping structure. Whether through the development of standards, such as ISO/PAS28007, Rules for the Use of Force or embracing standardized contracts, all this has been done with the goal of delivering excellent service for clients and the wider maritime industry.
Given this positive evolution it is deemed vital that all relevant parties are willing and able to work together to ensure that just as seafarers are protected, maritime security operatives must be afforded the same status, safeguards and recognition.
SAMI is working with relevant stakeholders to promote the need for maritime security operatives to be better protected and supported in the line of duty.