The UK Government Home Office provides the latest guidance for the authorisation process on the use of armed guards on UK registered ships.
The policy to allow the use of armed guards applies only in exceptional circumstances:
- to ships transiting the area at risk of attack by pirates: off the coast of Somalia, in the Gulf of Aden, the Arabian Sea and the wider Indian Ocean (this is an area bounded by Suez and the Straits of Hormuz to the North, 10¬∞S and 78¬∞E);
- when ‚ÄòBest Management Practices‚Äô to deter piracy is being followed fully but, on its own, is not deemed by the shipping company and the ship‚Äôs master as sufficient to protect against acts of piracy; AND
- the use of armed guards is assessed to reduce the risk to the lives and wellbeing of¬†those onboard the ship.
‚Ä¢ The policy applies to internationally trading passenger ships and cargo ships of 500 gross tonnage and above. The policy only applies in relation to the protection of UK registered ships.
‚Ä¢ The assurance process for the authorisation of private maritime security companies is to ensure that as far as possible public safety is not endangered by the use of armed guards.
‚Ä¢¬†Private Maritime Security Companies (PMSCs)¬†wishing to employ armed guards on board UK registered ships in these exceptional circumstances must be authorised to possess a range of firearms, including those requiring an authority from the Secretary of State for the Home Department under section 5 of the Firearms Act 1968, and be able to deploy them as necessary.
‚Ä¢ It is an offence for a person to have in his possession, purchase, acquire, manufacture, sell or transfer a weapon prohibited under section 5 of the Firearms Act 1968 without the authority of the Secretary of State. It is also an offence not to comply with any condition of the authority.
Summary process for maritime security applications
- Shipping company selects the PMSC and draws up a draft contract.
- Shipping company submits its counter-piracy plan (CPP) to the Department for Transport, including a signed statement that the Guidance has been followed.
- The Department for Transport will advise the Home Office when a satisfactory CPP is received from the shipping company. Please note that the Home Office will not proceed with the section 5 application until they receive this notification.
- PMSC applies to Home Office for section 5 authority enclosing:
- provisional contract with shipping company;
- details of number and type of firearms and why these are required;
- details of armed guards: full name, date and place of birth, residential addresses for the past five years, copy of passport, DBS certificate and declaration of consent to any additional police checks if appropriate;
- if the PMSC has obtained alternative supporting information on the guards, this information can also be included.
- PMSC can apply to local police to register as a firearms dealer (RFD).
A flowchart of how the process may work with the PMSC deciding to submit DBS certificates for each of the armed guards is shown below.