Hey Team Room members, here is a preview of something I am working on right now.  I’m still waiting on some additional information so this is still a work in progress.  Please keep this on the down low until I publish it on SOFREP. -Jack

Much has been made of the threat of piracy over the last several years. Considering that piracy predates terrorism by hundreds of years it strikes many of us in the Special Operations community as absurd that US and international law has had such difficultly in coping with the piracy issue off the coast of the horn of Africa and beyond.

The rise of the Private Military Company and private security contractors (often bemoaned by the same politicians who make use of their services or use them as proxies while keeping their hands clean) is something that simply is not going away. With ships valued at hundreds of millions of dollars with equally valuable cargo on board, it only makes sense to take on a few guns for hire when these commercial vessels travel through the maritime choke points frequented by pirates.

At this time perhaps as much as 80% of the maritime security industry is dominated by British companies, well over a hundred of them although one of the larger ones is called Control Risk. The British have a bit of home field advantage as many of their maritime concerns are focused around former colonies, such as Oman, where the Brits have deep historical and institutional ties. About 10% of the market is in the hands of American companies. These companies include Nexus Solutions run by a former US Marine and based out of Washington DC, Espada out of San Antonio, Trident Group run by a group of former SEALs, and SeaGuard.

If the ship includes defensive measures such are barbwire or concertina wire around it, this would be done while at port. The security team will often fly into a place like Oman with their weapons, then get on a water taxi and meet the ship they are detailed to while it is underway. This is actually the most dangerous part of the job for the security men. There are two ways to get from the ferry to the deck of the massive commercial ships. You can climb a ladder or get into a cargo net and be winched up to the deck. As squirrely as it sounds, the cargo net is actually the preferred method as it is safer. One British security contractor slipped off the ladder and fell into the water between the ship and the tug boat where he was crushed to death. Other accounts of men getting their legs crushed are more common.

Once on board, the security team begins working in shifts, usually four hours on and eight hours off. At its height, maritime security guards with Special Operations backgrounds could pull in $1,000 a day, but those days are long gone as the industry settles into a decline and the Private Military Companies seek to hire less qualified people at lower rates and cut every corner they can. Some British companies are now hiring guys for $100 a day. At that price you can imagine that you won’t be getting a highly trained former SAS operator or Royal Marine.

As with much of the private military industry, the use of Third Country Nationals (TCN’s) is becoming the norm. Now you will more often see one Brit or American supervising a team of three or four Filipinos, Thais, or Indians. The Maritime Security companies will do recruitment drives, pitching people in the Philippines, Thailand, or India who have military connections for personnel. Many TCN’s are straight shooters out of their country’s maritime commando units. Additionally, many Filipinos and Indians speak English which makes life easy on a team with a Western supervisor.

Weapons continue to be a vexing issue in the maritime security field. It is fairly straight forward for organizations like Trident Group which provide security for US flagged ships leaving America and returning to America. They are able to equip their men with the proper weaponry and night vision equipment. A ship like this can even have its own armory on board. However, few ships are US flagged in this day and age as companies seek to avoid US regulations and unions.