Director of Standards, Innovation and Research
London, United Kingdom
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BIMCO’s contract for security escort vessels, SEV-GUARDCON, was introduced back in January 2022. Leading maritime security company, Ambrey, shares its views on the contract and how it has saved time and effort in concluding agreements for escort services in West Africa.
This is an opinion piece from BIMCO member Ambrey who provide safety, security, marine and risk management services to the Shipping, Oil & Gas, and Offshore industries.
Before the advent of the SEV-GUARDCON, our only option was to use an amended BIMCO GUARDCON which was designed for the use of PCASP in the Indian Ocean, which does not fit security escort vessel (SEV) operations or truly appreciate the necessity of using Host Nation forces within Gulf of Guinea territorial waters. Since the SEV-GUARDCON was introduced back in January this year, we have had a tremendous level of acceptance across our client base which in turn has been a breath of fresh air for our Commercial team given the volume of contracts we produce monthly across West Africa. We have also seen that more and more stakeholders are agreeable to a multiple service contract.
SEV-GUARDCON adequately addresses the addition of a Security Escort Vessel and needs little in the way of amendments. For Ambrey, the only clauses that really require any material amendment relate to the Host Nation Forces and the issue of liability surrounding their actions and their assets. Getting these amendments approved by owners and their P&I Clubs can often lead to delays. SEV-GUARDCON is a first attempt by BIMCO to develop a standard contract for a highly specialised activity, so there should be a degree of flexibility in adjusting to issues which may not have been identified in the drafting process for a ‘one size fits all’ contract across multiple jurisdictions. We welcome the efficiency and benefits of standardisation that SEV-GUARDCON brings, but parties should be aware that there are several different types of SEV arrangements used in the Gulf of Guinea and each is determined by local laws which can vary widely. Using Togo as an example, PMSCs must utilise the Togolese navy’s gunboats which is a different situation to Nigeria where Ambrey controls and maintains our own fleet of vessels which provide SEV services
The nature of providing security services within territorial waters means there are additional local registrations, protocols, and permissions necessary to legally operate. The new contract stipulates that PMSCs must have the proper permissions in place, but we still find that audit processes do not properly address this area as there is little common understanding across the industry of what is required.
For Ambrey, the development of the SEV-GUARDCON has been a vast improvement and represents a great step towards the standardization of the industry. As one of the contributors in the development of the SEV-GUARDCON we look forward to its evolution and wider adoption. Ambrey is one of the longest and largest PMSCs operating in the Gulf of Guinea, are we always happy to assist owners and operators with any questions they may have on contracts, local rules, or procedures.
BIMCO generally recommends that users of SEV-GUARDCON avoid amending the liability provisions because of potential unforeseen consequences this may have on insurance cover. There may, however, be circumstances where local laws necessitate amendments. Parties should recognise the need for these changes so that approval is not delayed.