Private Security Companies Move to the High-Seas

By Matthew Harwood

As the threat of piracy around the world continues to rise, ISN Security Watch reports governments and businesses have begun hiring private security contractors to protect ships and shipping lanes from pirates.

The United States has taken the lead in utilizing PSCs at sea, mirroring its use of PSCs for land-based security in Iraq. At the federal level, the government solicited input from PSCs for its draft of the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code for the International Maritime Organization, a United Nations body. After al Qaeda attacked the U.S.S. Cole in the port of Aden, in 2000, the United States hired Blackwater USA to train 50,000 U.S. sailors to defend vessels with small arms.

State and federal agencies also use PSCs to patrol local and global ports. However, Seawolf Marine Patrol, a PSC that provides security at domestic U.S. ports, seems to be in financial trouble. Internationally, the U.S. Navy hired Singnapore-based Glenn Defense Marine (Asia) to protect its vessels while anchored in Asian ports.

The United States is far from the only client of private maritime protection services, as ISN Security Watch reports.

Middle Eastern and Asian states have hired PSCs like Britam to provide training for their own maritime security forces to protect state-owned high-risk maritime assets. In the wake of the 2002 assault on the Limburg tanker in Yemeni coastal waters, for example, Hart Security was hired to train the Yemeni Navy in waterborne anti-terrorist tactics.

African states have turned to PSCs in an even more proactive capacity. Both the self-declared State of Puntland and Sierra Leone have hired armed PSCs to police their coastlines.

In some cases, these "private navies" have been used to combat illegal fishing and enforce their Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) fishing rights granted under the United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) regime. In other instances they have been used to deter or eliminate pirate networks that were targeting local coastal trading communities.

Private corporations have also hired martime PSCs in risk mitigation roles, and more controversially, to provide armed security to ward off pirate attacks on oil tankers and drilling rigs. One PSC, Background Asia Risk  Solutions,  "rides shotgun," escorting its clients' precious cargo through dangerous waterways, such as the Straits of Malacca

The article reports that it "remains to be seen" whether the market  for private maritime security services will be as large or as lucrative for its land-based brethren. But as Security Management's John Barham reported in January, pirate attacks are up once again, especially off the coast of Somalia, and should only add to the demand for maritme PSCs.



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