BIMCO developed GUARDCON to assist the industry, and in particular shipowners and their P&I Clubs, by providing a clearly worded and comprehensive standard contract on which they can conclude agreements for security services.
In response to shipowners’ increasing demand for security services, an ever growing number of private maritime security companies have entered the market to meet that demand, each with their own set of terms and conditions of employment. There is presently very little regulation governing the activities of these companies and no formal recognised accreditation system to ensure minimum standards. While there are a number of well-established, professional and highly reputable maritime security firms in operation, there are also many that are less well-founded and who may be operating with inadequate insurance cover and without the necessary permits and licences.
The use of GUARDCON is not in any way intended to be a substitute for the proper exercise of due diligence by shipowners as part of the pre-contractual process when selecting a security company to provide unarmed or armed guards for a ship. While there is no substitute for due diligence, GUARDCON aims to raise the bar in terms of the standards to which security companies must reach in terms of insurance cover for their risks, and permits and licences to allow them to lawfully transport and carry weapons. The insurance requirements alone are set at such a level as will potentially exclude smaller companies from being able to offer their services using GUARDCON if they lack the necessary financial resources. This is deliberate and is intended, along with the permits and licences provisions, to weed out operators who may potentially place shipowners and their crews at risk.
Of equal importance is that shipowners employ security guards as a supplement to existing anti-piracy and BMP measures and not as an alternative. In this respect, GUARDCON emphasises that shipowners should not seek to reduce costs by employing less than the number of guards recommended. Risk analysis has shown that in the majority of cases the recommended minimum number will be four guards. This number has been proven to give the best protection against attack because all quarters of the ship can be covered and a proper round the clock watch system can be maintained.
In parallel with the development of GUARDCON, BIMCO has also prepared Guidance on the Rules for the Use of Force. It is outside of BIMCO’s remit to draft a set of standard Rules for the Use of Force as such because, ultimately, the content of such Rules is a matter of national law. While the BIMCO Guidance on RUF will undoubtedly be of great assistance to owners and private maritime security companies when drawing up and agreeing RUF for their own purposes, the Guidance itself does not form part of the GUARDCON contract.