12/09/2010 10:17 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Considering Counter-Piracy Protection? Here's What to Ask Before You Hire

Recent news reports state that someone is apparently funding a 1,050 man private Army in Puntland in the name of anti-piracy.

Specifically a company, which some claim is Saracen, which it vehemently denies, in partnership with the government, has embarked on a comprehensive program to assist the government of Puntland to build its capacity in order to regain control of its territorial waters and marine resources, fighting against the pirates and the unregulated, unlicensed, illegal fishing in the Puntland territorial waters.

It is unclear just how serious an effort this, which helps explain why other countries have greeted the news cautiously. But there is one thing about this that should not be overlooked. If you are going to involve the private sector in anti-piracy operations, strengthening the ability of the host nation's forces, whether they be regular military, the coast guard, law enforcement agencies, or militias is far more preferable than using foreign security contractors as armed guards aboard ship ore escorting them.

Consider what this paper from Risk Intelligence in Denmark says:

Security providers, companies that provide guards, include the likes of Drum Cussac, HART, MAST, Muse, PVI, Salama Fikira and Gulf of Aden Group Transits (GoAGT). These services are often called upon during transit or operation in a high risk area. Private security providers are the recent poster-children of private maritime security, as this type of PSC has had the most visible growth during the upsurge of maritime security awareness. Several new companies have been formed in this area since 2008 and many existing PSCs have refocused on maritime security. These companies offer guard services and accompanying hardening on actual transits through or operations in high risk areas. Following, they have attracted criticism from within and outside the maritime (security) industry, companies being blamed for having reckless "cowboy mentalities" and lacking the necessary skills.

But if you are going to use them then the client should at least be smart enough to ask the following questions:

General considerations

Is the security provider certified or otherwise accredited in its home country? If so, for which services?

Is the company accredited, or does it possess valid permits, for transferring and/or carrying arms on vessels of the flag state (if applicable), in the country of embarkation/disembarkation or in the coastal states that may be passed or in whose EEZ operations may take place?

If restrictions for armed private security exist for the operation, is there a verifiable relationship with local law-enforcement or military?

Have legal implications including liability, detention risks and flag/crew state legal positions?

Contractor's bid/offer

Is the proposed interaction of different elements of defensive concept (including passive defences) explained?

Has the adverse impact of customer's operational requirements on proposed security measures been identified, described and contingencies provided?

Are rules of engagement (ROEs) explicitly explained and not just referenced to (e.g. voluntary principles)

Armed team considerations

Are on-board roles and responsibilities of team members clearly described?

Shipboard etiquette understood by armed team, including acceptance of master's authority?

Are safety considerations clearly understood and is an effort made to reconcile safety/security conflicts?