Why size matters: Piracy and PCASP teams


Over the course of the last two to three years the use of privately contracted armed security personnel (PCASP) in the High Risk Area in the Northwest Indian Ocean has become still more widespread. The use of PCASP adds yet another cost to the ship owner’s bill and any responsible ship owner would be expected to challenge the necessity of such a cost and minimize it where possible. The primary cost driver for PCASP teams is the personnel: the more personnel, the higher the cost. So one way of minimizing the cost of PCASP teams is to keep the size of the team to an absolute minimum. When doing that, the key question becomes “How do I determine the minimum size of the PCASP team?”
In dialogue with members, the BIMCO Secretariat has learned that Private Maritime Security Companies now offer ship owners two-man teams for protection of ships, claiming that such small teams are sufficient to satisfy the need for protection. This is an extremely worrying development which deserves further scrutiny, hence this little article.
The PCASP is a creature of nature and is certainly not a Superman. A PCASP needs to rest, to go to the toilet, he cannot see through objects such as ships, he can only be a one place at a time and bullets will not rebound from him when he is hit by a gunshot. In other words, in the absence of Supermen among PCASP, a number of down-to-earth factors affect the analysis determining the size of the PCASP team.
PCASP teams need to be sized so as to ensure sufficient redundancy in case of illness, but also if the worst comes to the worst and a PCASP is hit by pirate bullets. When facing a piracy attack, PCASP operate in a high-threat environment where the likelihood of taking a bullet hit is something which should be weighed up. Furthermore, if a PCASP is hit by a gunshot, who will provide the necessary first aid? Most probably that will be one of his own colleagues, since most of the crew are probably out of sight either in a citadel, at a safe muster point or busy manoeuvring the ship to counter the pirate attack. With one PCASP down with a gunshot wound and another PCASP occupied saving his life, additional PCASP are definitely needed to do the job of protecting the ship.
Cover all angles
A ship is not just a ship. Ships come in a variety of sizes and types and depending on the characteristics of a given ship, the requirement for PCASP will vary. Speed, freeboard, the general arrangement, additional physical protection and PCASP ability to cover the potential entry points with gunfire all play a vital role in the analysis. A big, slow moving ship with a comparatively low freeboard cannot be protected by two or three PCASP. It will need PCASP on each side as well as at the stern, and if it is difficult to bring the weapons to bear due to the sheer size of the ship, more than one PCASP on each side may well be needed. This is highlighted by recent reports that Somali pirates occasionally attack with more than one skiff at a time, typically one skiff from either side, and perhaps one skiff attacking from the stern.
Adding up the numbers
When adding up the numbers it soon becomes clear that it will be very difficult to properly defend a ship with less than four PCASP, including a team leader. And for bigger and more vulnerable ships even more PCASP are likely to be needed. This is the reason that BIMCO’s GUARDCON includes a provision that the PCASP team should be composed of no less than four PCASP. However, four PCASP does not always satisfy the need for protection and as always, the answer can only be found through a thorough risk assessment which is carried out specifically for the ship and the voyage in question.



Source: http://www.hellenicshippingnews.com/



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