Op-Ed Written by Capt. Jeffrey L. Kuhlman, Castle Shipboard Security Program
This is not a rhetorical question. This is a question which must be answered. The pressures generated by recent failures, such as the March, 2011 attack on the Avocet, in maritime security seem to be pushing the industry toward answering this question. The nature of maritime security is usually underrated and misunderstood — even by its industry leaders. It may be time to think beyond pirate attacks in Africa and consider a more universal approach to the security and defense of the maritime industry as a whole; this includes shipboard, offshore facility, and port facility security and its interactions with other agencies.
The need for security extends far beyond currently recognized “high risk” regions. Security is also an important concern dockside, at anchor, and underway. It is important in Somali and Nigerian waters; it is equally important in Belize, Venezuela, Brazil, Vietnam, and the Philippines. In travels around the world we can see SWAT officers, marine patrols, and port security providing limited security within their areas of jurisdiction. Maritime Security and Defense Operative should also be seen as a profession; perhaps being identified as a recognized crew position.
In their article Shooting to Kill Pirates Risks Blackwater Moment, May 8, 2012, Michelle Wiese Bockman and Alan Katz refer to a number of reports about shooting at, and killing, Somali pirates. They seem to ask the question whether the security personnel now assigned to maritime security duties are exceeding their authority and resulting in potentially unwarranted deaths. Their article is an important piece, but their apparent intention may be otherwise since their conceptual foundation seems to be built upon a lack of understanding certain basic concepts.
In their article they describe a pirate attack in the Somali Basin along with links to a Bloomberg News video of an attack taking place. I believe that since the article is becoming an icon for drastically making changes to maritime security the article deserves additional scrutiny and discussion.
Having read the article several times and seeing the sample video from Bloomberg News several times, the security team probably did have justifiable reasons to fire at the apparent attackers. However, in my opinion as the originator of Castle Shipboard Security Program, a company providing university certificated training in maritime security and defense, the team displayed a noticeable lack of training directed specifically toward the maritime industry’s needs.
Maritime security companies often assign personnel with extensive firearms capabilities to defend commercial vessels in high risk regions. These personnel are typically highly qualified “shooters”, although the “shooting” in the video was unimpressive. The needs of the industry are much more complex than this and this approach is unprofessional. Threats to the maritime industry will not decline in the foreseeable future. Security people who have been trained as maritime security professionals are needed.
Before assignment to the field our military’s best, SEALS and Rangers, train extensively. They understand the need for such training. As civilians, why then aren’t they trained adequately for maritime assignments? Professionals should receive both classroom and real-world tactical training for the maritime environment before arriving at their assignments.
The maritime industry is populated by personnel who care about their work and whose families have been exceptionally supportive when compared to most other high risk industries. The maritime industry is run by global commerce; this means that operators, insurance companies, associations, and governing organizations are the drivers to its cohesive operational decisions. If the industry recognizes the need for appropriate training, it will get appropriate training.
The positives to better maritime security and defense training are that losses will decrease immensely, types and numbers of threatening situations will reduce, and the industry will be able to provide a safer work environment. The greatest negatives may be governments forcing military style approaches to training rather than training specifically developed to meet civilian needs in a global civilian industry with a history much longer than any military organization on the earth.
The military model is failing us today because maritime security is not the end of military duty. Maritime security and defense should be the beginning of a new profession. I believe that the greatest threat to effective training is micro-managing government regulations and regulators; should Federal micro-managing occur, rather than letting maritime security training be reflective of the industry, training presentation and development will be stifled and no longer be able to meet developing threats in the dynamic maritime security environment. This would result in a return to the same failures as we are beginning to experience.
Maritime Security and Defense Operative should become a marine profession. Those practicing it should carry an industry recognized credential. As any profession, especially in the highly regulated maritime industry, it should be regulated. The courses should be academically sound and have recognition within higher education or academia. The course content should have direct input from the maritime industry and controlled by experience, precedent, tradition, and convention, but NOT by or through Federal mandates. Just as an organization, for quality assurance purposes, should not audit itself, operational security companies and contractors should NOT be trainers. However, good training companies will incorporate the lessons learned by field operatives. This structure should provide the industry with effective security and defense, reduce costs, reduce losses, result in greater mariner retention and confidence, and help in growing the industry safely and more profitably.
About the Author
Capt. Jeffrey L. Kuhlman is an experienced educator and has worked as ship’s Master for many years. He has usually worked in Asia, the Orient, and Africa and has had the experience of having directly faced various maritime threats. He is a combat veteran with the United States Marine Corps and is the originator of the Castle Shipboard Security Program. The Castle Shipboard Security Program provides advanced training in shipboard security and vessel defense for maritime professionals, law enforcement, maritime security operatives, and veterans within the scope of international and US conventions.
The Maritime Executive does not necessarily endorse any of the opinions herein.
This article was posted by Neptune Maritime Security via maritime-executive.com. MaritimeSecurity.Asia in cooperation with www.neptunemaritimesecurity.com