A recognised training for armed guards

How can a shipping company with ships bound for piracy-infested areas be sure that any armed guards that are placed on their ships are properly trained?

There is no shortage of tempting offers flashing into the e-mail boxes, from firms offering “former special forces” teams for hazardous passages, usually accompanied by a tariff.

Few, on the other hand, will emphasise any qualifications their operatives might have earned, the assumption being that their military training will be sufficient to equip them for their role as a maritime security operative on a merchant ship.

Such an assumption is incorrect, suggests Ray Quarrie of the security training company 3rg, which provides a range of security training from its base in Poole, which seems to have become something of a “hub” for marine security in the UK. Formerly a Royal Marine and long-serving member of the elite Special Boat Service, he believes that while the military provides core skills and the right background for the maritime security operative, additional training is very necessary before such people can be introduced into the unfamiliar world of the merchant vessel.

Validation and accreditation

Training also needs validation and accreditation if it is to be accepted in the industry, and Quarrie, who had been providing a variety of landside security training courses since 3rg was formed in 2003, came to the conclusion in 2008, when pirates were causing mayhem in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean that “something more was needed in security training for the marine dimension”.

There was a demand, both from the companies providing armed guards, which wanted to be able “to demonstrate that their guys were properly trained”, and individuals themselves looking for qualifications. But the training which emerged after the development of the ISPS Code for ship and company security officers was scarcely relevant for those providing more than passive protection for ships against pirates.

After studying what training was available, Quarrie set out to write what 3rg believed to be an appropriate course of training for this very singular challenge, supported both by the local maritime security companies and experienced individuals, along with shipping industry itself. Guidance from the IMO Maritime Safety Committee Circulars and developing International Standards have also been fed into the development process.

Working with City and Guilds

The company had experience working with the UK City and Guilds organisation who, in turn, are regulated by the UK accreditation body Ofqual and it had always been 3rg’s intention to have the content and the quality of the course properly and independently audited.

It was important that the training was accredited at a suitable level so that individuals would be able to gain public funding for their training. It was also important that national government bodies such as the Maritime & Coastguard Agency, and through them the International Maritime Organisation plus industry organisations like BIMCO were part of the development process

3rg developed its first pilot course in 2011, supported by both local maritime security companies and individuals. Work to create a City & Guilds qualification started this year once ISO had published ISO 28007, at the request of the IMO.

Under the stewardship of the UK’s Security in Complex Environments Group (SCEG), Ray Quarrie, along with subject matter experts from Neptune Maritime Security and Ambrey Risk, has assisted City and Guilds in the development of their new Maritime Security Operative 8269 qualification which is now awaiting accreditation within Ofqual’s Qualification and Credit Framework.

This is turn will also allow the UK’s Maritime & Coastguard Agency to grant an exemption for those holding this qualification from the new STCW security requirements contained in the Manila amendments of 2010. 3rg is one of the 70 or so UK companies who are members of SCEG which is the UK government’s partner for the promotion of professional standards across the private security industry

Guided learning and background reading

The length of the course consists of 38 hours of “guided learning” backed up with background reading which totals some 60 hours, with the progress of candidates checked by practical assessment as the course progresses. Some 4-5 days should see the course completed and the final assessment test undertaken. It is possible that somebody with experience of security transits within the industry might be able to use their experience, but Ray Quarrie points out that “transits do not provide the necessary legal training”.

According to 3rg Managing Partner James Rapp, formerly a senior naval officer, the aim of the course is to “give them the whole maritime security picture”. There is no firearms training given, and this is being addressed separately within the SCEG to ensure suitable currency amongst the former military being employed. There are no assumptions made about marine expertise as even Royal Marines may have never served aboard warships and spent their active service in deployments ashore.

There are four units within the qualification:

1. Understanding the Maritime Security Industry

2. Understanding Maritime Security Predeployment Planning and Procedures

3. Understanding Maritime Security Operating Procedures

4. Understanding Maritime Incident Management and Post Operational Procedures

Each unit provides a wide range of learning outcomes.

Unit 1 provides an introduction to the merchant ship and merchant shipping, the organisation of a merchant ship and its personnel, notably the master, the legal framework, the culture and ethos of the merchant marine.

Defensive role

The role of the various maritime organisations will be covered, from IMO to national authorities and administrations, trade and industry organisations like BIMCO and the various military organisations with which they will be required to liaise on operations. Importantly to people who have been trained to undertake an offensive role, the training, says Ray Quarrie, will emphasise that “you are now in a defensive role!”

The guidance available for all those aboard merchant ships, notably that of Best Management Practice and IMO circulars will be covered in detail, while the issue of human rights will be an important element, along with the associated rights of individuals to defend themselves within the “Rules for the Use of Force” established with the ship owner for a particular transit. They will be taught about the different jurisdictions which may apply to their activities and the paucity of case law to guide them.


Other guidance will be given about the roles of the Ship and the Company Security Officer, the BIMCO GUARDCON contract, the centrality of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and the relevance of the SUA Convention. They must become familiar with the distinctions between EEZs and Territorial seas, the authority of coastal and port states.

While their training will equip them for protection against piracy anywhere in the world, it is recognised that Somali piracy is the primary issue and they will learn about the background of the problem and what is known about the way that the pirates operate. Up to date intelligence, stresses Ray Quarrie, is fed back into the course. The candidates will also be briefed on the documents they must have available, and the personal vetting that will be undertaken by employing companies. Unit 1 thus provides a thorough understanding of the shipping industry and their protective role within it.

Providing practical information

Unit 2 is designed to provide practical information and understanding on pre-deployment planning and procedures and all the requirements which must be fulfilled in order to embark on a vessel. The often complicated matter of escorting firearms from country to country will be detailed, along with the use of armouries. The absolutely crucial role of the shipping agent in facilitating access to the ship and subsequent repatriation is emphasised.

Instruction is given on the need to be familiar with the layout and the operation of the particular ship, the need to fully brief the crew, not least about their responsibilities when in a vulnerable area. A close liaison with the master will be essential and it will be important for the team to know and understand who does what aboard ship, such as the role of the Officer of the Watch, lookouts and the ship’s routine.

Actual on-board operations

Unit 3 will deal with the actual operations of the team aboard ship, in accordance with Best Management Practice and the integration of the team and its application to the protective job in hand. It will be important for the team to know about the various alert and alarm systems available on board, the use of GMDSS and AIS, along with the use of radar for the detection of suspect craft.

Not every candidate will have served afloat in the services and basic training will be given in the use of radar, navigation and chartwork, along with the important calculations of time, distance and speed. The various sources of intelligence on the activities of pirates in the area from such as NATO and EU NAVFOR will be emphasised, and not every ship will have modern facilities like e-mail aboard, so other forms of communication will be covered.

The candidates will be carefully trained in the need for a graduated response in the event of a suspicious or pirate contact, with close reference to the legal implications throughout the procedures. They will learn about “stepped procedures”, how to defend themselves, the importance of warnings, evasive action, the need for the team to advertise their presence.

The organisation of the team aboard ship will be covered, so that whatever the challenge, points out Ray Quarrie, the team will be alert and any threat “will be met by four well-trained security guys”. Pirates, he points out, will tend to “test” the security. After undertaking many transits in the Gulf of Aden, Ray Quarrie says that “he is proud of never firing a round” in anger, even when pirate craft were paralleling the ship he was aboard, with the pirates clearly assessing the readiness of the team embarked. The availability of an alert and well-trained team, he points out will be the best deterrent to an attack.

Evidence andcrime-scene preservation

The final unit, on incident management and post operational procedures, deals with the importance of evidence and crime-scene preservation in the event that there has been an incident of piracy or a threatened attack. It teaches about the gathering of evidence that might subsequently be used to secure a conviction, the use of Vessel Data Recorders, photographic evidence and the importance of time codes on cameras. Candidates will learn about the treatment of firearms, along with the need to account for ammunition, with the need to test fire firearms as  part of regular routines. Above all, says Ray Quarrie, it is evidence which will protect the reputations of both armed guards and their employer.

Hopefully the accreditation by Ofqual and the availability of a recognised City and Guilds training course within the Qualifications and Credit Framework and based directly on the new ISO 28007 will do much to encourage well-trained security operatives, available to protect ships at sea. Quality and competence really do count in this important area.

While the incidence of piracy in the Gulf of Aden and Somali Basin is currently low, there is no sign that this is a permanent cessation, with the pirates, who have been able to adjust their operations in the past, biding their time. Elsewhere, and notably in the Gulf of Guinea, attacks have continued. l l

Editor’s Note: BIMCO has since learned that Ofqual has now accredited the MSO qualification, and City & Guilds is now accepting registration for the new MSO qualification.

For further information go to: www.3rg.co.uk Michael Grey is BIMCO’s Correspondent in London. He is a former Editor of Lloyd’s List and a regular contributor to many maritime publications.

Reprinted with kind permission of BIMCO.

Via: http://www.3rg.co.uk/

Original Article