Nigeria bans armed guards on merchant vessels

17th June 2014

The latest security advisory for Nigeria issued by the Baltic and International Maritime Council (BIMCO) effectively renders the use of armed guards commercially placed on merchant vessels illegal and is highly likely to have major repercussions for the ship owner and the charterer should they be caught with unauthorised armed police or marine police on board, says maritime security company GoAGT.

According to BIMCO, there have been a number of ‘blue on blue’ incidents in the last six months and the industry as a whole is concerned about the safety of crew transiting the region.

The warning comes exactly a month after a merchant vessel was boarded near Port Harcourt. Its cargo was stolen while the crew were held hostage, despite the presence of a Nigerian naval vessel in the vicinity.

Nick Davis, CEO of GoAGT, said: "BIMCO has taken a strong, proactive stance on this issue. The incident a month ago was entirely preventable with the use of an unarmed adviser and a good radar lookout. The crew were very lucky not to have suffered injury; had they been able to react more quickly and retreated to the citadel the situation would have diffused quickly.

The primary concern should be the safety of the personnel. Theft in the Gulf of Guinea is unfortunately something ship owners and managers have to deal with and with an adviser on board vessels can avoid a hostage situation during a boarding."

Currently the use of armed guards in the region falls into a legal grey area, he added. “Ship owners and managers being offered so-called 'authorised' armed protection within the Gulf of Guinea by Private Maritime Security Companies are well advised to seek advice from BIMCO, their flag state and the local Nigerian embassy or consulate for the latest advice and protocol prior to parting with money for a service that could have severe operational interruption to normal trading."

Source : ftwonline

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