Shipping industry organisation BIMCO has published a standard contract, GUARDCON, for the employment of security guards on vessels. It has also issued Guidance on the Rules for the Use of Force (RUF) to accompany the new contract.
BIMCO says GUARDCON has been developed to provide ship owners and private maritime security companies with a clearly worded and comprehensive standard contract to govern the employment and use of security guards, with or without firearms, on board merchant vessels.
It adds: “While BIMCO would not like to see the use of armed security guards on ships becoming institutionalised, it recognises that while the industry awaits a more permanent long term solution, armed guards currently provide an effective deterrent to piracy attacks.”
An International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) spokesperson said the shipowners’ body welcomed the new contract which should replace a large number of contacts currently which all had to be agreed by lawyers and insurers and differed from one another. The ICS believed the contract added clarity to the situation and would also save time make things simpler when owners decided to employ armed guards. However she stressed that ICS was “extremely concerned” by the carrying of weapons on merchant ships. She said it was easy to imagine an incident taking place, such as the mistaken shooting of an innocent fishermen, that could take a shipowner and master into a “legal quagmire”.
BIMCO’s chief officer legal and contractual affairs, Grant Hunter said: “In response to ship owners’ increasing demand for security services, an ever growing number of private maritime security companies have entered the market to meet that demand. In the absence of a standard contract for these services, ship owners and their P&I Clubs are currently faced with the difficult and time consuming task of assessing large numbers of contracts from these security companies, all with varying terms and conditions. GUARDCON’s objective is to create a contractual benchmark for the employment of security services so that minimum levels of insurance cover for PMSCs are established and that adequate safeguards are put in place to ensure that liabilities and responsibilities are properly addressed and that all necessary permits and licenses are obtained.”