Opinion: Higher Standards of Private Security - How the ISO Will Benefit the Seafarer
The International Standards Organisation (ISO) will present its draft standard for the selection and use of Armed Guards on commercial vessels to the IMO this week. Whilst the security industry draws another sharp intake of breath at the prospect of yet another standard, confusion remains within the wider Shipping Industry at what this latest standard will entail. The Shipping Trade Associations have voiced their understandable concern that this latest draft might institutionalise the armed deterrent, something that the industry is keen to avoid. And yet, private maritime security continues to be delivered despite a fall in attacks in the Indian Ocean and a rise of maritime crime off the Gulf of Guinea. It’s a product that is still very much in demand and yet still entirely unregulated.
We are all aware of the relatively recent emergence of the piracy threat to the shipping industry, particularly in the Gulf of Aden region. The response has been a pragmatic and understandable acceptance by many Flag States and Shipping Companies of Private Maritime Security Companies (PMSCs), and their Privately Contracted Armed Security Personnel (PCASP) teams on to commercial shipping to augment the international government naval effort. This, in addition to the Shipping Industry’s admirable efforts in utilising Best management Practices (BMP4), has also spawned a relative explosion in the number of PMSCs. In the vacuum of any real third party assurance, their quality has inevitably been variable. Many have heard apocryphal stories of unreported accidents and worse. The shipping sector has quite rightly sought to manage this through increased due diligence prior to contracting the PMSC services. Be that by engaging private ‘vetting’ companies to undertake second party assurance checks against a set of self-developed assessment criteria, that are generally drawn from IMO and broader international guidance, or the development of trade organisation based transparent assessment processes, such as those created by the Security Association for the Maritime Industry (SAMI) or the International Association for Maritime Security Professionals (IAMSP). But all of these risk representing either one side of the supplier/customer relationship or the other; one could argue therefore this being perceived risk as partisan at best.
To their credit, the international shipping industry trade associations have strived to level the playing field in raising the general standard of the PMSC services across the board, adding transparency, trust and understanding for the contracting shipping client. The introduction of the BIMCO developed GUARDCON generic contract earlier this year has proven pivotal. It provided a key foundation for the IMO MSC 90 to direct the development of the forthcoming ISO Publically Available Specification 28007, determining the guidelines for PMSCs providing PCASP on board ships. This international standard will establish a clear capability benchmark, that will allow PMSCs to provide assurance to their clients through the impartial third party assurance certification regime for management systems, enshrined in the ISO framework.
Based upon the risk management approach of ISO 28000 (Security Management Systems for the Supply Chain), the new ISO ‘Publically Available Specification’ (PAS) establishes a set of conformance criteria that PMSCs will need to demonstrate in order to be certified. It covers everything from client engagement and risk perception, through company head office procedures and protocols, including selection and training of security teams, through to service delivery and post incident management.
While the Certification and Accreditation process is currently being finalised, it will undoubtedly follow (in general terms) the same assurance process used for the other ISO management systems. This can be summed up as an impartial, knowledgeable observer reviewing the company’s readiness for audit against the demands of the PAS (i.e. all the policies, procedures, management reviews etc are in place), and then observing and verifying the effectiveness and conformance of that management system against the PAS. In essence this means seeking the ‘ivory tower’ view of the world, and then assessing this against the reality of delivery, and placing this all alongside the conformance requirements of the PAS.
The PMSC industry is relatively young and the international certification and conformance initiative is only just gaining momentum. Maritime Security Solutions Global Ltd (MSS Global) are a specialist Certification Body drawing upon of extensive experience in the Private Maritime and Land Security industries. Working within the UK Accreditation Service (UKAS) framework, MSS offers cost effective, specialist certification through an unrivalled level of auditor competence to support the introduction of this new PAS. MSS Global are a key member of the UK SME 32 Mirror Committee and have helped craft the UK position for the ISO PAS 28007.
MSS Global is working closely with the private security sector to provide true assurance of conformance to this new PAS. It is not alone and as the Certification Body Community provides the third party, impartial assessment of conformance against international standards, it is going to have to regroup, focus and develop the skills necessary to generate the ‘competence’ (education, knowledge and experience) to understand what they, as third party auditors, are looking at in this highly specialist sector. They need to understand the private security company’s role, their employment models, their operational planning and delivery methods and then place this against the criteria of the PAS. In short, they need to understand what they are looking at. The Commissioner for International Standards at ASIS (formerly the American Society for Industrial Security), Marc Siegel, describes this development as ‘boutique’ Certification Bodies that draw upon the field and operational experience of the nascent private security industry, and train these as auditors across the broader management systems family, while all the time working to the same ISO demands for impartiality and confidentiality.
Specialist Certification Bodies, such as MSS Global, understand the context, from operational design through to the physical deployment of the Private Armed Security Teams. As such, we will be able to determine when a company is competent, and when the ‘silver tongued CEO’ may have promised a security service that in reality, they are unable to deliver. The Shipping Industry is well placed to benefit from driving standards ever higher in safeguarding their most valuable asset, where the seafarer will benefit from being protected by good quality private maritime security.
About the Author
Tony Chattin is the CEO of MSS Global Ltd.
The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.