Only take armed guards if absolutely necessary, advises Dryad Global

Armed guards on commercial ships. Credit: PVI

On top of the safety concerns presented by the virus itself, coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is interfering with the embarkation and transit of private maritime security contractors (PMSC) on board vessels plying piracy hot spots, causing massive cost increases, says consultancy Dryad Global.

“An example of this was seen in the recent decision by Sri Lanka to close its border to people coming from several countries, which led to potentially significant disruption in the embarkation and movement of Armed Security Teams,” said a Dryad statement.

Ships are having to re-route in order to work around those countries which have closed their borders, resulting in increases in off-hire time for vessels. “With the corresponding confusion, PMSCs were required to find alternative embarkation points for weapons and teams, and shipping companies faced increased ambiguities around the provision of security teams and potentially significantly increased costs,” Dryad said.

In response, the consultancy argues, shipowners should make more regular risk assessments to determine whether armed guards are really needed, taking into account the latest local intelligence reports and security updates.

“As described in our current Indian Ocean risk assessment, we assess that on a large volume of transits through the Indian Ocean, Gulf of Aden and Southern Red Sea, the embarkation of Armed Security is an unnecessary cost,” Dryad indicated. “The decision to take guards should only reflect the risks as it is at the time and not as it is perceived by legacy behaviours. We advise that for the majority of transits through those key areas, the risk can be adequately mitigated by thorough risk assessment and vessel monitoring.”