Maritime piracy is both ageless as a threat as well as ductile in its dramatically changing nature both in and around the Indian Ocean and, increasingly, in other parts of the world. Somali piracy erupted in the western Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden and commercial vessels transiting the area frequently fell prey to the seagoing criminals who captured numerous vessels and held them and their crews for ransom to the tune of tens of millions of dollars.
Numerous maritime nations sent naval patrols to the region but this strategy only caused the pirates to change their “business model” and begin capturing vessels as far away as the Indian coastline. It wasn’t until Private Maritime Security Companies (PMSCs) began to deploy Privately Contracted Armed Security Personnel (PCASP) teams aboard an increasing number of vessels transiting the High Risk Area that the problem began to subside.
Now, even as the U.S. Department of State and other hallowed international institutions recognize the fundamental importance of PMSCs, now hailed as “game changers” in the Gulf of Aden, it is nonetheless critically important that ship owners and operators carefully continue to survey what is out there in order to have the tools needed to cope with tomorrow’s threats and to protect their vessels, cargoes, crew members and the bottom line.
AdvanFort Company is gaining growing international recognition of their own role as “game changers” both at sea and with some of those global opinion makers with their approaches to handling pirates that are quickly resulting in recognized “best practices” for all stakeholders in the maritime security community.
Some of the best practices include use of Operator Support Vessels (OSVs) that rendezvous with client vessels in international waters within shipping lanes to embark and disembark privately-contracted armed security personnel (PCASP) teams. The use of OSVs means that they transfer teams to and from client ships in an efficient manner, one that does not delay their transits. As the owner of their own OSVs—the OHIO, the ARIZONA, the VIRGINIA, the TEXAS, and the ALASKA—the company has created the first counter-piracy “secure corner” in and around the Indian Ocean.
By embarking security teams from their OSVs, AdvanFort’s critical efforts serve to maximize productivity and ensure on-time arrivals. Being able to serve longer time periods at sea using OSVs is a key to a long list of major cost savings, including the elimination of mobilization and demobilization charges, something that itself delivers significant savings.
In addition, the greater open-sea sustainability of AdvanFort’s OSV fleet translates into clients being able to get security teams onboard along the maritime “highway,” rather than causing clients to have to waste time by being forced to enter a port.
Full background investigations on all potential PCASP team members, including their military background; possible criminal and civil offenses; medical, drug, psychological problems; and a personal interview are conducted as well. Once they are selected, basic and in-service training becomes a top priority. All of the PCASP team members receive extensive seafarer (STCW – Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping) and security operator training prior to being evaluated and approved by senior officers. PCASP team members also receive advanced medical training, firearms training (ashore and at sea) and periodic in-service training as well as a refresher course whenever returning from leave. Interaction with officers and crew is another essential and sometimes misunderstood dynamic.
The AdvanFort answer
Ask first, shoot later. Other companies’ PCASP teams have been accused—too often to be ignored—of being trigger happy; sometimes with real and tragic result. AdvanFort teams, both through training and adherence to AdvanFort’s strict Rules for Use of Force, understand that their role is defensive and they are trained to utilize all alternative strategies to deter suspected pirates prior to firing warning shots.