Verification of Third Party Security Personnel

in a training exercise, security forces respond to a 'piracy' incident.

While piracy is reflected in recent Hollywood blockbusters as the stuff of legend and intrigue, for those operating offshore vessels it can be a very genuine concern.The potential threat is being taken so seriously that the International Marine Contractors Association's (IMCA) Security Task Force has produced 'Guidance on Verification of Third-Party Security Personnel' designed to address a potentially real threat.

'This new publication gives useful advice on vetting procedures to ensure that private security contractors provide standards of service and personnel fit for purpose, said IMCA's chief executive, Hugh Williams. 'Experience has shown that ships, whilst in port or operating within certain geographical areas, regularly require suitable additional protective security to counter threats that may stem from a variety of local factors.

'Shipping companies tend to rely on local shipping agents to make this provision; and on occasions, local private security companies are used without sufficient consideration being given to those companies' structures, recruitment standards, training procedures or guards' abilities.  Just who checks those security staff, and how?  Of course these concerns could just as easily apply to port facilities operated by our member companies.'

The IMCA Security Task Force has found that potential weaknesses can be identified by carrying out a simple audit to evaluate the security contractor's suitability for this purpose, prior to them being contracted. 'We believe that this process of vetting will in turn ensure that private security contractors will provide a standard of security services and security personnel that are fit for purpose, added Hugh Williams.

The new guidance contains an easily understood checklist that needs to be sent to the company's shipping agent for completion and immediate return to the company security officer prior to the vessel's arrival in port; or when the additional security measures and use of contracted guards needs to be implemented whilst at sea.  It can also be used, with little modification, by the port facility security officers (PFSOs) at company port facilities.

Such questions as 'Is a background check performed prior to the hiring of all security personnel?' and 'If security personnel carry firearms has this been authorised by the contracting government, and have all security personnel received adequate training?' may seem like common sense but also ensure that contractors live up to expectations. 

The new publication (IMCA SEL 015)  is available from IMCA at £5 for members (who can also download it free of charge from the members only website) and £10 for non-members.  Orders can be placed online at; or made through IMCA at 5 Lower Belgrave Street, London SW1W 0NR, UK.  Tel: +44 (0)20 7824 5520; Fax: +44 (0)20 7824 5521; email:


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