Executive in Action: Steven Jones, Maritime Director, Security Association for the Maritime Industry

By Wendy Laursen 2013-01-21 12:52:00

Steven Jones’ encounter with pirates was minor compared to some. Pirates with knives burst into his cabin while his vessel was in port, but the situation, although violent and terrifying, was over quickly. Like many pirate attacks, it was a case of smash and grab.

Not surprisingly, the experience changed Jones, and he has redirected his career, slowly but surely. Now, as Maritime Director of the London-based Security Association for the Maritime Industry (SAMI), piracy is his primary concern. SAMI is a global organization that represents companies working in maritime security. It has introduced a certification scheme to ensure that the maritime industry can easily identify reputable private security companies.

“I admit I was a little bit dubious about private maritime security and the issue of putting guns on ships because I didn’t think it was a very good idea. But equally, nothing else was working,” says Jones. “So I thought, well, if it can be done properly with people you would want to have guns in a professional, controlled way, then maybe that is an answer.”

Jones worked on offshore cable-laying vessels while at sea: “Lots of stopping and going slow, almost exactly the opposite of best anti-piracy practice.” Jones anticipates that offshore vessels operating along the coasts of both East and West Africa will be increasingly under risk of attack by pirates as new oil and gas discoveries lead to an offshore boom in the area.

From Seafarer to Author

Once he moved his career ashore, Jones advised numerous shipping companies on security planning. He spent many years developing and applying his knowledge of security and the International Ship & Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code. This knowledge provided the basis for authoring a number of publications including Maritime Security (with a foreword provided by then-IMO Secretary General Emeritus Efthimios Mitropoulos), Shipboard Access Control, Guide to Shipboard Searching, Lloyd’s Handbook on Maritime Security, and How to Survive a Piracy Attack.

Several thousand copies of How to Survive a Piracy Attack have been distributed to seafarers by the vessel Flying Angel that visits ships anchored in Fujairah. Jones hopes they get into the hands of the seafarers most in need. “Unfortunately, there is a kind of strata within shipping of people who aren’t looked after terribly well and who maybe aren’t quite as knowledgeable about the risks they face as we’d like them to be,” he said. The book was sparked by a shortfall he perceived in other publications. “I’d always been concerned that the best management practices don’t start early enough and then finish too soon because once you are taken by pirates, you flick to the last page of the best management practice and it stops. That doesn’t seem overly helpful.” The book includes advice for before, during and after a pirate attack.

New Horizons

Jones has just finished a master’s degree where he researched hostage crisis management for shipowners and families. It’s another area where he believes best-practice knowledge needs to be expanded and shared. “A lot of shipping companies don’t have really positive relationships with the families of the seafarers before a crisis, so they are a little bit surprised that, when the crisis occurs, when it is all real and happening, the families aren’t particularly trusting or engaging with them,” he explains. “They’ve never had a relationship with the families to start with, and that is one thing that a lot of companies should look at.”

Jones believes an independent body should be established that families can go to, almost like an advocate, but which, equally, knows how to deal with shipping companies as well.

Currently SAMI has over 170 member companies worldwide. They are not just security companies but, increasingly, technology providers as well, so Jones is adapting accordingly. In this role he uses his seafaring background to bridge the gap between shipowners and the security industry, looking at the human element involved in having guns on board and the extra responsibility it brings for a ship’s master.

While considering embarking on doctoral studies, he has just authored a suite of guides being published by The Nautical Institute: Maritime Security, Anti-Piracy and Stowaways by Sea. – MarEx

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.