What does it cost to secure a ship against pirates? An estimated $1,500-2,500 per day per person (depending on who one uses and the number of security team members), and the shipowner has to pay for each ship on each transit. For an escort vessel, $20,000 or more per day. The expense could be dizzying for owners with a number of ships to protect, but it need not be so. James Canning Sr, president of FTS-Maritime Security, has an idea that could dramatically reduce the costs.

Shipowners, including small operators who normally cannot armed ship guards or escort vessels, are to form a kind of consortium with each member paying an annual fee for the security services. Mr Canning says he took the concept from the gated communities in the US, where security costs are shared by individual households. He explains how FTS-Maritime Security plans to carry out the scheme:

‘We use at least three vessels, one on standby in the Red Sea, another near Sir Lanka and one near the Horn of Africa. For (shipowners) needing or wanting teams on their vessel, the teams will get on one vessel and disembark when they reach the other vessel. For vessels that cannot have teams or would rather have the escort, the escort vessel handles those. As the number of companies who join the association increases, so shall our number of escort vessels. Shipping companies will not have to pay a separate fee for each transit or for each vessel as our personnel will be paid a normal salary and will be stationed on our vessels in the area anyway.’

The set-up will most certainly require some unity amongst shipowners and a willingness to cooperate with one another. We see such cooperative effort in the pooling of assets by shipping lines for long-haul and feeder services. Why can’t it be extended to the area of maritime security? The truth is that armed private maritime security, together with the allied naval forces, has become the lynchpin of the campaign against piracy. To think otherwise is sheer naivete. But security always costs money. Mr Canning has offered a practical solution. ~Barista Uno

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