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BIMCO - ISO join forces to establish PMSC standards

In a joint submission to the 90th session of IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee, BIMCO and ISO explain that work is underway to establish an ISO standard for the accreditation and certification of PMSCs (private maritime security companies) providing contracted armed security personnel (PCASP) on board ships. The new ISO standard will be available in 2012 as a Publicly Available Specification. Because the reputation and recognition of the organisations involved provide essential legitimacy, BIMCO firmly believes that this is the best and swiftest methodology to develop the process through which to audit with the necessary thoroughness. In IMO precedent has been set before with endorsement of ISO standards and it is hoped that IMO will also endorse this new ISO standard and thereby help speedily resolve this complex issue.

Government and NGO participation encouraged
Terms of reference and a draft framework for the work will be presented to an inaugural meeting in mid-2012 for expert comment and discussion. IMO Member States and observers are encouraged to participate in the process, and several IMO Member States and NGOs have already designated experts to do so.

Scope of the new ISO standard
Using the existing IMO PMSC guidance and BIMCO’s GUARDCON as the point of departure, the ISO standard is expected to address a number of key issues e.g.

  • How the PMSC identifies and justifies the exceptional circumstances in which PCASP may be used, and how it identifies and demonstrates compliance with relevant international law and applicable national requirements;
  • Methods for rigorous accredited third party certification;
  • Details of the necessary contractual obligations as to how the system works between the shipowner and the PMSC including the necessary involvement and interaction with the involved national States;
  • Risk assessment methodology;
  • Methodology to be followed to decide the size, composition and capability of the security team, including identification and demonstration of compliance with national requirements and strategy of all stakeholder States;
  • Method to demonstrate the effectiveness and legality of planned activities on an overall and case-by-case basis;
  • Methods to demonstrate the legal management of firearms including purchase, storage, export/import, qualification, training, experience, use, reporting and documentation;
  • Methods for documenting and reporting all activities with a close focus on incident recording and reporting.

Potential ramifications of the new ISO Standard
Compliance with the new ISO Standard will provide a number of advantages and assurances for Shipowners as well as PMSCs. Together with BIMCO’s GUARDCON the Shipowner will have a solid foundation on which to base the choice of armed security providers. Furthermore, for the PMSC, compliance with the new ISO Standard together with the use of BIMCO GUARDCON will constitute a hallmark of professionalism. With the current state of affairs where the PMSC market is littered with “Mavericks” such a hallmark is just as much in demand by the high-end PMSCs and the shipowners as it is feared by the PMSCs in the lower end of the spectrum.

It is currently under consideration for the future that PMSCs that become compliant with the new ISO Standard and use BIMCO GUARDCON could become eligible for Associate Membership of BIMCO, something which is currently being requested by many PMSCs. Unfortunately, until there exists an acceptable process of accreditation to BIMCO, PMSCs cannot be allowed to become Associate Members.

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