Private Armed Guards

Luxembourg authorizes the use of Private Contracted Armed Personnel on ships sailing through High Risk Areas

Private Armed Guards

The IMO advises Shipowners, Companies, Ship Operators and Masters to take seaman-like precautions to protect themselves when navigating in areas threatened by piracy and armed robbery.

Best Management Practices 5 (BMP5) recommends that owners carry out a thorough Risk Assessment assessing the likelihood and consequences of piracy attacks to the vessel, based on the latest available information. It is important that the Risk Assessment is ship and voyage specific, and not generic.


Authorization Procedure

Private Contracted Armed Security Personnel (PCASP) Authorization requests must be submitted for a designated vessel and voyage.

The request must identify the expected mission route and time frame (from PCASP embarkation to disembarkation) and be accompanied by the following supporting documents:

  • Completed Luxembourg Armed Guard Request Form;
  • Private Maritime Security Company (PMSC) license;
  • PMSC Articles of Incorporation (or equivalent);
  • PMSC Engagement Contract;
  • Detailed List of Armed Personnel (min. 4 PCASPs) with copies of Passports, Criminal Record Extracts and CVs;
  • Detailed Weapons List with proof of ownership and licenses.

Any exceptional requests must be supported by the Ship and Voyage Specific Risk Assessment (SVSRA).


Approved PMSCs

  • Ambrey Risk Limited
  • Black Pearl Maritime Security Management Ltd.
  • Bowline Defence Ltd
  • Castor Vali
  • Citadel Maritime
  • Diaplous Maritime Services
  • EOS Risk Group
  • ESC Global Security
  • ESS&SA B.V.
  • GALLICE Developments Ltd
  • HR Maritime Consultants Ltd
  • Kahl Sicherheit
  • LSS-SAPU Ltd.
  • Prorisk International Ltd
  • Salama Fikira International Ltd
  • Secure A Ship Ltd
  • Securewest International Inc
  • Solace Global Maritime Limited
  • United Guards Services Ltd.
  • Universal Maritime Solutions (UMS) Ltd.

An updated list can be found on the Luxembourg Maritime Administration website.


Ship and Voyage-Specific Risk Assessment

Shipowners are responsible for determining appropriate anti-piracy measures.

A Ship and Voyage Specific Risk Assessment (SVSRA) should identify prevention, mitigation and recovery measures to combat piracy. It should prioritize crew safety and consider the following factors:

  • nature of the threat (pirates, objectives, methods of attack/boarding, weapons etc.);
  • background context (visibility, sea-state, traffic patterns);
  • possibilities for co-operation (ex. military convoys etc.);
  • ship characteristics (inherent abilities to withstand threat, freeboard, speed, general arrangement);
  • ship procedures (drills, watch rosters, chain of command, decision-making processes);
  • sea state.

BIMCO – Guidelines on Ship and Voyage Specific Risk Assessment (SVSRA)


Safety Management System and Ship Security Plan

Since risk assessments form an integral part of safety precautions to be taken under the ISPS and ISM Codes, developing anti-piracy plans as part of emergency response procedures in the Safety Management System and/or as annexes to the Ship Security Plan can be an appropriate way of approaching the SVSRA.

Ship security plan and emergency response plans should be drafted on the basis of a risk assessment taking into account the basic operational parameters:

  • the risks that may be faced (area-specific piracy/armed-robbery characteristics);
  • the ship’s actual size, freeboard, maximum speed and the type of cargo being transported;
  • the number of crew members available, their capability and training;
  • the ability to establish secure areas on board ship; and
  • on-board equipment provided, including any surveillance and detection equipment.

The measures should, inter alia, cover:

  • enhanced surveillance and the use of lighting, surveillance and detection equipment;
  • controlling access to the ship and its restricted areas;
  • preventing unauthorized intrusion by active and passive devices and measures, such as netting, wire, electric fencing, long-range acoustic devices, as well as the use, when appropriate, of security personnel on vessels transiting HRAs, and taking other measures to make it more difficult for pirates to board vessels;
  • monitoring the security of the ship;
  • crew responses, if a potential attack is detected or an attack is underway;
  • radio alarm procedures; and
  • post-attack/attempted attack reports.

IMO MSC.1/Circ. 1333/Rev. 1 – Recommendations to Governments for Preventing and Suppressing Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships

IMO MSC.1/Circ. 1334 – Guidance to Shipowners and Ship Operators, Shipmasters and Crews on Preventing and Suppressing Acts of Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships


Use of PCASP

PCASP are an additional optional safeguard complimenting BMP5 – Best Management Practices to Deter Piracy and Enhance Maritime Security in the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea, an industry-generated Guidance endorsed by the IMO and the Luxembourg Maritime Administration to help avoid, deter or delay piracy attack in HRAs.

The use of PCASP should not be considered as an alternative to Best Management Practices and other protective measures. This position is also endorsed by the Luxembourg Maritime Administration.

BMP5 provides the primary protective and preventive anti-piracy measures:

  • Watchkeeping and enhanced Vigilance;
  • Enhance Bridge Protection;
  • Restrict Access to Bridge, Accommodation and Machinery Spaces;
  • Physical Barriers;
  • Water Spray and foam Monitors;
  • Alarms;
  • Practice Manoeuvring;
  • CCTV;
  • Install Upper Deck Lighting;
  • Secure Ship Tools and Equipment;
  • Protect Equipment Stored on the Upper Deck;
  • Safe Muster Points / Citadels.

These measures should, as a general rule, be fully implemented. Use of PCASP alone does not provide effective security and must be viewed as a complementary layer of protection to Best Management Practices.

BMP5 outlines 3 fundamental requirements:

  1. Register at MSCHOA;
  2. Report to UKMTO; and
  3. Implement Ship Protection Measures.

PCASP Risk Assessment

The use of PCASP within the HRA is a decision for the individual shipowner after a thorough voyage risk assessment. A thorough and properly conducted risk assessment is essential to determine whether all other practical means of self-protection have been implemented prior to considering PMSC employment. It is also important to involve the Master in the decision making process.

Any risk assessment should document consideration of the following factors:

  • ship and crew security, safety and protection;
  • whether all practical means of self-protection have been effectively implemented in advance;
  • the potential misuse of firearms resulting in bodily injury or death;
  • the potential for unforeseen accidents;
  • liability issues;
  • the potential for escalation of the situation at hand; and
  • compliance with international and national law.

IMO MSC.1/Circ. 1333/Rev. 1 – Recommendations to Governments for Preventing and Suppressing Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships

IMO MSC.1/Circ. 1405/Rev. 2 – Revised Interim Guidance to Shipowners, Ship Operators and Shipmasters on the Use of Privately Contracted Armed Security Personnel On Board Ships in the High Risk Area


PCASP Team Size

PCASP risk assessments should identify the minimum number of persons that should form the security team, taking into account the need for continuity of protection in the event of  injury or illness.

The IMO advises considering the following factors:

  • length of the estimated time of the ship transit;
  • latest threat assessment;
  • agreed duties of the PCASP team;
  • ship size, type, speed and freeboard.

IMO MSC.1/Circ. 1405/Rev. 2 – Revised Interim Guidance to Shipowners, Ship Operators and Shipmasters on the Use of Privately Contracted Armed Security Personnel On Board Ships in the High Risk Area

Rest Hours

The risk assessment determining the minimum PCASP team size should take into account the need for continuity of protection, particularly in the event of injury or illness.

BMP5 strongly advises the implementation of increased watchkeeping and enhanced vigilance, independent from any PCASP use. Early detection by crew is often the most effective deterrent.

BMP5 recommends the following anti-piracy measures prior to entering any HRA:

  • Additional crew lookouts for each Watch. Additional lookouts should be fully briefed;
  • Considering shorter Watch period rotation(s) to maximise lookout alertness;
  • Ensuring sufficient binoculars for the enhanced Bridge Team, preferably anti glare;
  • Considering use of night vision optics;
  • Maintaining a careful Radar Watch.

Ship crews should also have practiced the procedures set down in the Ship Security Plan.

Augmented bridge watches and look-outs should be considered, bearing in mind that many attacks are mounted from astern, and additional watches should also be considered on the stern or covering radar blind spots.


Anti-Piracy Organisations

Maritime Security Center Horn of Africa (MSC-HOA)

  • EU NAVFOR initiative providing 24-hour manned monitoring of vessels transiting the Gulf of Aden;
  • Communicates latest anti-piracy guidance to industry;
  • Allows owners and operators to register their movements through the region.

UK Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO)

  • Primary contact for merchant vessels and liaison with military forces in the region;
  • Administers Voluntary Reporting Scheme to which merchant vessels send reports updating their position/course/speed and next port ETA while transiting the HRA;
  • Tracks vessels and communicates positional information to military headquarters;
  • Directly communicates timely and relevant information affecting commercial traffic to ships, improving efficiency and incident responsiveness.

NATO Shipping Center (NSC)

  • Commercial link between NATO maritime forces and the maritime community;
  • Communicates and co-ordinates counter-piracy initiatives with military and industry actors.

International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Center

  • Works closely with various governments and law enforcement agencies;
  • Shares information to reduce and ultimately eradicate piracy;
  • Collects reports on actual/attempted attacks and suspicious movements;
  • Raises awareness within the shipping industry of HRAs or specific ports/anchorages.