Following a period of close consultation with the International Group of P&I Clubs concerning the practical application of the BIMCO Guidelines adopted in November 2013, a Special Circular has been published. The Guidelines serve as a “health warning” to those owners contemplating using the GUARDCON contract for the provision of guard services in the Gulf of Guinea. National law in the affected countries prohibit foreign security guards from carrying firearms on board merchant vessels within their territorial waters. This has an important bearing on ships in the Gulf of Guinea which are generally “destination bound” rather than “in transit” (in contrast with Indian Ocean based pirate attacks). Effectively, it means the owner is required to employ local security personnel (commonly marine police or naval personnel) under strict agreements.
GUARDCON was designed as a means of placing armed guards on board merchant vessels in transit on the high seas – chiefly the Indian Ocean. Its application to other areas of piracy, such as the Gulf of Guinea where vessels are within territorial waters and approaching their destinations, requires some additional and careful considerations.
The Guidelines set out the main issues concerned with the recruitment of security guards in the Gulf of Guinea and highlights a number of caveats of which owners should be aware. If GUARDCON is used under the circumstances set out in the GUIDELINES then careful consideration should be given to the proposed recommended amendments to a number of GUARDCON’s clauses. Clubs in the International Group of P&I Clubs are issuing a Circular to all their members giving further advice regarding approved amendments to GUARDCON for West African trades.
A copy of the BIMCO Special Circular, No. 1, 20 February 2014 – “Guidelines for the use of GUARDCON when engaging PMSCs as intermediaries to employ local security guards within territorial waters” can be downloaded by following the link below: