Use of Armed Security Guards in Indian Ports

The issue of using armed security guards onboard merchant vessels used to be a matter that required particular attention in the past. However, during the recent years and due to the fact that the maritime security industry became more regulated (e.g. ISO/PAS 28007:2012) the use of privately contracted armed security personnel (PCASP) onboard ships has become a routine.

2015.07.21 - Use of Armed Security Guards in Indian Ports

Nevertheless, due to the peculiarities that may arise during the day to day operation of PCASPs there is still attention needed especially when a vessel uses armed guards within the territory of a sovereign country. One such case is the use of armed guards in Indian Ports.

In general merchant vessels with armed guards are allowed to visit all Indian ports. However, no arms or ammunition can be placed or taken out from the vessel at any Indian port. In addition to this only Indian security guards can be embarked/disembarked at all Indian ports and foreign security guards are not allowed either to embark or disembark except in cases of emergencies.

Needless to say that a vessel’s Master should properly maintain all documents related to the employment of Security Guards prior the arrival of the Customs Officer on board (usually Customs Officers request to be shown such documents). The vessel’s Master should also declare all the arms and ammunition particulars being used by the armed guards onboard the ship. Below is a list of documents that should be carried onboard when a vessel visits an Indian port and employs PCASP:

  1. Photocopy of Passport / Seaman’s Book/ Gun Licenses of Security guards
  2. Authority letter from the Flag State Control permitting the vessel to carry security guards
  3. Particulars (Quantity/Make/Model/bore/calibre/Sr. No.) of the Arms/Ammunitions
  4. Valid License of Arms/Ammunitions issued by a competent authority
  5. Agreement copy between the Ship Owners and the Security Company (e.g. GuardCon)
  6. Agreement copy between the Security Company and the Security Guard (this is only in cases of embarkation/disembarkation)

The Master should also ensure that he stores the arms and ammunition and satellite communication equipments in safe and strong locker with seal under his custody while vessel entering Indian Waters which should be opened only after leaving the Indian territorial waters.

The routine process includes the Master to give all the details to vessel’s local agents with requesting them to inform all concerned stakeholders about the weapons and the security team employed onboard.  A good practice is to always ask the vessel’s agents to acknowledge receipt of relevant messages send to them containing above mentioned information. 

Merchant vessels entering Indian EEZ should be aware and cautious of the dense fishing activity that may be encountered off west coast of India. Fishing in general is carried out by mechanized boats and single hull boats with outboard motors manned by small crews (4-5 persons).

It should be also noted that vessels traversing fishing nets are likely to be approached by fishing boats for safeguarding nets and lines and should not be mistaken as skiffs and/or pirates. Of course this is a matter that requires particular caution and attention.

Finally, merchant vessels transiting Indian EEZ with armed security guards should report the presence of the PCASP to the Indian Navy/Coast Guard.

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