Prevention is better than a cure.

Six ex-British soldiers are being held in India for not having the correct paperwork with company weapons whilst working on a floating armoury. The company who was responsible for them and their ship is nowhere to be seen in defence of the men who now languish in squalor. I am investigating this case and trying to help on them out. Below I have written a piece on how I perceive the problem and how we might be able to stop guys getting themselves in the same scenario.

The Indian Ocean has seen numerous numbers of piracy attacks over the last decade. The M.O. is to stop the ship, board it, overrun the crew and set sail to Somali waters before holding the whole lot for ransom. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been paid for the release of crews. I was in and out of the area running ships up and down the pirate corridor for around five years. When I was there in the early days, there were no weapons and to escape capture you needed to use your cunning. It was widely agreed that teams needed to be equipped properly. We did manage to thwart several attempts to board us, but I would not have said no to even the crudest of firearms; however much fun we had fighting them off with fire hoses and even a fridge. As I left the scene, the number of companies using weapons increased and there was the first of the so-called floating armouries popping up. The use of weapons and armed guards has dramatically reduced the attempts being made by the pirates to take the ships on. And even though the trend seems to have shifted from swapping well qualified western teams for indigenous teams led by expats, having a half-decent rifle at their disposal has become a game changer.

Unfortunately as with all theatres where privateers are used, there will always be a number of companies which appear who fail their staff in times of need and are solely cash cows for those who set them up. It was one of the reasons I got out of there, watching fly by night companies making piles of dough and reducing wages whilst relying on whatever staff they could get their hands on was enough for me. Knowing that there was dodgy insurance if any and that nobody was likely to be in my corner if it went wrong and tipped me over the edge. I was lucky to be long enough in the tooth to spot the signs before it was too late. Not so lucky were the guys who got out and went straight there with promises of great wages, decent rotations and career opportunities. They took advantage of decent guys who got out and tried to make a proper living to set themselves up for life. It’s tough leaving the forces and this was sold as a good way of sorting yourself out. However much the authorities say the that they are regulating the private security industry, it doesn’t matter a fuck once you’re set up and you stall in Djibouti and trade however you like. Even some of the largest shipping companies don’t care as long as they can fulfil the insurance requirements. Guys who need the work to support themselves and their families will flock to anywhere in the world if they think they can improve their lot.

Regardless of what paperwork you are told you need, or what the company says it has and how much you are being offered (quite often the clincher). Anyone wanting to travel to inhospitable areas of the world and work in security armed, needs to have fully carried out their own due diligence before they depart. Having a mate who has been there for ages and has supposedly paid his mortgage off and drives a Porsche is not due diligence. A large salary does not always mean a decent company. I once worked for a company whose pay was relatively low. The upside was they would send whatever I needed if it went noisy.

Before you send your resume into any company, you should have at least Googled them. You need to satisfy yourself with the following questions: Who are they? How long have they been trading? Who owns them? Who insures them? What’s are you covered for? What accreditation do they have? Do they have the correct paperwork for their weapons, body armor and helmets? I was lifted in Togo and held in a container as a mercenary for having the wrong paperwork with my body armor once. (It was the companion’s fault but I went to jail). Any company worth its salt will be far from offended if you go digging for answers to these questions. In fact, quite the opposite it shows you are taking things seriously. If you have any doubt and no matter how much you could do with the work if you are not happy, you have to decline the offer. If you cannot physically see the paperwork you are happy with then you need to think about pulling the plug.

I have met many people who have very successful companies and who wouldn’t dream of sending me away unless I was completely covered. I have also seen companies fleshed out on the back of cigarette packets by people who have sniffed a quick buck. Everyone I have ever worked for has come highly recommended to me by someone I trust or I have had a friendship or served with the owner. Even then, I once made a mistake and was lucky to get myself out of jail and back to the UK. I have never just sent my resume to the four corners of the internet in the hope of a bite. And I certainly would never work for anyone I could not do a decent check up on. When I have struggled for work, I have laboured on building sites and taken low paid jobs to feed my kids. There is no quick fix to making it big. There is just hard work.

Featured image courtesy of ABC News