Maritime Security : between fierce competition and legal maze
Some days ago I read a post able to raise my curisosity and bring me back to this blog.
On a French Blog titled 'Lignes de Défense', the author wrote a short article dedicated to the fierce competition in the field of maritime security. A French company, named 'Triskel Security Services' (I would bet that they find their origin and are operated by former French Navy commandos), had lost some important contracts, being ousted by low cost competitors, for some based in Sri Lanka.
Main conclusion of this post was the concern about French unability to write down a law, which ould set criterias and standards on French flagged ships.
I will include ships sailing under the French International Register, which represents about 35% of the tankers (but 45% of the tonnage), or 27% of the container ships (but 37% of the tonnage).
Almost simultaneoulsy, German Parliament committee for trade and technologie expressed its support to a governmental project to authorize armed protection teams on German ships (cf. 'Heute in Bundestag Nr 588).
We face here a typical cutltural gap between two neighbouring countries: while France does not feel comfortable with what could be interpretated as a loss of sovereignty, as it would delegate a part of law enforcement to a private company, although due to its financial and military constraints this country can barely afford a limited support in limited areas alike on Red Sea, another country starts moving to a privatization of security.
Indeed, the project sent to the German Parliament sarts with: "Germany being the second trade nation of the world...", which can be understood as: Trade and Wealth first.
As the field of maritime security has not has not been adressed by the European Union yet, I would dare write that this is a way, first to protect German trade ships, of course, secondly, to set a standard that other European countries will then have to follow, as the German stance could constitute the terms of reference of a future EU directive.
As a matter of fact, many European maritime security companies are very fragile, as they are facing numerous competitors in this twilight zone of private security. This competition is to be found in various reasons, of which a short analysis let me sort out the following ones:
-The maritime laws of countries like France and Germany do not seem to adress modern piracy and subsequently do not express specific requirements in the field of armed security in contrary to taxes, social regulations, etc. This vacuum leaves a large freedom of action to the shipowners supported in that matter by the absence of any consistent legal framework.
-The main cost of security companies lay by the personal expenses. Logically, in order to decrease the costs and be more competitive, the best way is to get cheaper employees, and of course with lower qualifications. Moreover, the European companies employ former Navy commandos, who own a degree of expertise (therefore represent a cost) apparently perceived as being out of proportion in comparrison to most of their tasks, which finally consist in guarding a ship.
-Having paid a visit to the website of Triskel company, I could not get a clue of the comparative advantage they could oppose to a company based in Sri Lanka. In fact, most of their added value lies by the high training level and expertise in sea issues of their team members. However, this added value is ,so to say, of little use most of the time. Therefore, the ratio cost-efficiency may not be in favour of companies like Triskell, at least to the eyes of the shipowner's chief finance officers.
Therefore, and it may be looked at as a conclusion,
-Either European maritime security companies look for a disruptive approach, which would give them a priceless comparative advantage, encouraging shipowners to contract them despite their higher prices,
-Or European countries pass laws which would force European shipowners (including those whose ships are on the international register) to contract security companies meeting high quality standards and which could guarantee that their code of ethics will not be exclusively customer oriented, which is not ethics but simply sense of business, but as well Human Rights respectful.