Leading international law firm, Holman Fenwick Willan (HFW) has been influential in the development of the Baltic and International Maritime Council’s (BIMCO’s) latest maritime standard contract – GUARDCON – tailored for the employment of private military security companies (PMSCs) to provide security guards on board merchant vessels.
Maritime piracy continues to be front cover news and the use of armed guards on board vessels is increasingly common, particularly in the high risk areas of the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean. GUARDCON now provides an industry standard set of terms governing the relationship between a) shipowner and PMSC; and b) ship master and on-board security guards. One of the challenges for the GUARDCON draftsmen has been the need to balance the ship master’s absolute authority under the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) with the need to protect the ship master from criminal liability and to allow for the security guard’s individual right to self defence in the event of firearms being used during a pirate attack.
GUARDCON has been developed by BIMCO on an expedited basis and is the result of intense consultation between all stakeholders in this international endeavour: ship owners and operators, PMSCs, multiple insurer interests, flag states and other interested governmental bodies. It is expected that GUARDCON will be widely adopted by the industry.
The timing of BIMCO’s release of GUARDCON closely follows recent regulatory changes affecting the use of armed guards on board vessels announced by, amongst others, the UK Government.
Elinor Dautlich (pictured), Holman Fenwick Willan Partner and member of the BIMCO sub-committee tasked with drafting GUARDCON said: “With its focus on vetting, licensing, insurance and the specific allocation of risk and liability, GUARDCON sets the standard in the drive for quality in private security for the maritime industry. Critically, where there has been such demand for a carefully considered contract in this very complex and dangerous field, GUARDCON benefits from broad industry support at its outset”.