What Certifications Should Your Maritime Security Firm Hold?

Posted on: 5 July 2016

If you are considering the use of a Private Military and Security Company (PMSC) to assist in protecting your shipping cargo from piracy and terrorism, you may have found that many top companies claim to hold several national and international certifications. Sorting through which certifications are important, which are simply nice to have, and which don't impact you at all can be confusing. Here's a quick guide to what certifications prove and what each of the most popular ones tells you about the company that holds it.

Are certifications important for a maritime security company?

Certifications are instituted in many industries because they provide a standard for a company or service provider to meet. The standards to earn a certification are usually stringently enforced by a specific industry or national organization. If you're hiring a company with a specific certification, you can be more confident that its employees will be carefully trained in that specialization.

Shipping security companies are no exception. However, standards and certifications in the maritime security industry are relatively new. Some nations now require ships that carry their flags to adhere to these standards when using private maritime security. Thus, it is in the security firms' best interests to prove their compliance by carrying well-known certifications.

What do each of the certifications mean?

There are a few common certifications which are most likely to be required by a nation or shipping company. These include:

ISO 28007. This is a relatively new standard adopted in the past four years in response to the lack of guidelines for maritime companies. Other international certifications, such as the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers (ICoC), were designed for land-based security firms and weren't relevant to many of the situations required in the shipping industry. ISO 28007 applies specifically to maritime security and was designed for companies battling piracy in the Indian Ocean, though the standard can be incorporated for a ship in any waters.

All ISO standards are approved by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), a global body that most national standards organizations belong to. The documents that explain each standard also define terms and identify areas for planning, training and management. For maritime security, the ISO 28007 standard outlines how personnel are to set up security on ships, maintain guidelines for behavior and ethics, and undergo regular training. This is the main standard governing maritime security firms, and any company you consider should have this certification.

Open General Trade Control Licences (OGTCL). The most relevant license is for maritime anti-piracy, and any company who holds it will have filed information about their operating practices; security methods and equipment, including weaponry; and procedures if engagement with a pirate or criminal takes place. This is issued by the UK, but even if your ship flies a different flag, can indicate that the security company has a strategy to quickly get any attempted criminal activity under control.

OHSAS 18001. This standard shows the company's ability to maintain health and safety standards for its employees. It helps a security firm to minimize on-the-job risks to their workers not related to security. This may be of particular concern to U.S. and European based ships.

ISO 14001. You may see some firms that carry an ISO 14001 certification. This shows that they are able to abide by global standards for environmental management. It outlines what procedures to follow to minimize an environmentally harmful footprint and applies to more than just the maritime environment.

BIMCO membership. The Baltic and International Maritime Council is the largest international shipping association. BIMCO creates member standards for business practices related to the shipping industry. 

If you have more questions about how these certifications apply to your maritime security needs, please ask each firm you are considering to provide information about what they had to do to earn compliance.

For more information, contact Security Services Northwest, Inc or a similar company.