Floating Armouries 2 – Cross-Jurisdictional Movements?

As anyone who has read my previous Blog entitled ‘Floating Armouries’ (03/08/12) will know I reported then that BIS (the UK’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) had informed us as part of our Compliance visit that the use of Floating Armouries by PMSCs was not acceptable under BIS rules.

I have just returned from attending the latest review meeting for the proposed ISO28007 PAS and this subject occurred a number of times during the discussions. The stance is causing significant operational as well as commercial problems for PMSCs, particularly those based out of the UK.

As I discussed this further during the ISO event I also considered the ruling further and wondered whether the ruling is actually in line with BIS’s own rules?I have, therefore, put this follow-on Blog together to present my further thoughts on this, and to, hopefully, stimulate debate on the subject.

During our BIS Compliance visit the cross-jurisdictional rules that apply to our OGTCL’s were also explained. As a result it transpires that firearms have to cross jurisdictional boundaries for there to be deemed a ‘movement’ under BIS rules.

Let me explain by way of an example.

Consider a vessel departing from Muscat, Oman carrying a set of weapons to undertake a transit of, say, 30 days which will ultimately result in it returning to Muscat. If during this transit it only calls at ports where the weapons are not removed from the vessel then when the firearms are eventually returned by the vessel to Muscat this is not considered a ‘movement’ under BIS rules. This suggests that weapons have to cross a ‘jurisdictional boundary’, i.e. from one state to another, for there to have been a ‘movement’?

Now, consider another scenario whereby a vessel leaves from Muscat carrying weapons, bound for Suez, Egypt. On the way it meets another vessel travelling south from Suez which receives the weapons via a cross-deck in International Waters. This vessel then returns to Muscat. Has there been a BIS ‘Movement’?

I would argue that the answer is ‘No’ because there has been no cross-jurisdictional movement of the weapons. There is also no accompanying paperwork to support the ‘movement’ of the weapons other than ‘out of Muscat’ and subsequently ‘in to Muscat’?

Now, if we change this scenario slightly and imagine that the second vessel is actually planning to call somewhere else to offload the weapons, say, Mombasa, then, is the cross-jurisdictional ‘movement’ of the weapons in this case actually Muscat to Mombasa? I would suggest ‘Yes’ and there would be ‘Outward’ and ‘Inward’ paperwork to support this?

If we replace the cross-deck between the ships with a cross-deck to a platform such as one at 17N, followed by a further cross-deck to a second vessel then again what is the cross-jurisdictional of the weapons? Given that the platform is in International Waters then it is either back to Muscat (no ‘Movement’) in the first case, or, a ‘Movement’ between Muscat and Mombasa as in the second case?

One legal issue that can be raised here in terms of BIS Compliance is that the weapons will most probably have been left on the platform without the PMSC’s supervision (a ‘Guardian’?) and this suggests a breach of the BIS requirements?

However, consider another factor.

The nature of the Maritime Security Industry is to rely heavily on sub-contractor resource. A PMSC’s appointed ‘Guardian’ will, therefore, likely to be a sub-contractor. Such a resource is legitimately seen as a ‘temporary employee’ in this context.

What prevents this principle from being extended further to include weapons that are held on board a ‘Floating Armoury’ that is operating in International Water? A sub-contractor could be appointed and nominated as the responsible ‘Guardian’ for the weapons while they are being held on board?

I am not suggesting that the above is right but it is one interpretation which is in line with the rules and which can be supported. I do, however, publish this Blog in an attempt to start a constructive debate across the industry to see if such an issue can be discussed and resolved to the benefit of all those concerned?

I welcome constructive contributions from either side of the debate on this matter.

I would also ask that you forward details of this Blog to anyone else in the Maritime Security Industry that you feel may be interested to read the above and, perhaps, to make a contribution to the debate?

Many thanks.

Alan Taylor,
Commercial Director,
Spirit Security Services Ltd.

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