"Perspectives from an Armed Guard Provider" by William Moschella 21.05.2012

ESC Global Security Chief Operating Officer William Moschella gave a speech at SAARPSCO conference "Piracy: Orchestrating a Response. Armed Guards Onboard Ships: A Solution?" in Brussels in May 2012. The presentation was about the perspectives on piracy from an armed security guard provider. Some points from his speech can be read here.

Statistics show that if you have armed security on your vessels, they do not get hijacked, they do not become hostage situations, and, exactly as has been mentioned before, they will approach a vessel, they will be warned by flares, they will have warning shots fired, and then they do break away.  That was pretty much the similar incident that we had on February 28th when we were security for the MV Spiliani.  Exact same thing.  They approached, eight people in a skiff, all armed with an RPG, we fired four flares, they still came, we fired five warning shots, and then they broke off and found a softer target.

Some of the issues that are being raised today are issues that we welcome.  We welcome the fact that SAMI or some other reputable, recognized, international organization will do a vetting process for people within our industry.  We, as an organization, have to be more than guys with guns.  That is not what we want.  We don’t want to be the “cowboys” that were described.  That is not what we endeavor to be.


After 27 years in the FBI, I understand the rule of law, I understand what needs to be done, I understand how people have to be trained, and I understand that they need to understand the use of force.  Just to clarify, as a civilian security agency, we operate under a Use of Force policy, not a Rules of Engagement policy.


Rules of Engagement is for military, Use of Force is for civilians.  So, we operate under a Use of Force policy.  All of our people understand the Use of Force.  I go over it before they go out on the vessels.  I explain to them what is required.  I explain to them what the indicia are.  When we talk about the Use of Force in the United States, if you are a law enforcement officer, you have the same guideline that you have to be faced with the imminent threat of serious bodily harm or death.  You have to be acting to prevent serious bodily harm or death to yourself or to an individual.


Those are standard rules that operate with the Use of Force, whether you are law enforcement in the United States, or you are maritime security on a vessel.  You need to be able to show that there is that imminent, immediate threat of serious bodily harm or death to yourself or to others.  That is your minimum requirement, so we talk about that.


But let me give you an anecdotal situation.  There are a lot of things that, in the heat of battle, in that moment that we then look later and say “Well, maybe they didn’t give the proper amount of warning shots, or maybe they didn’t appropriately follow the regulations.”  But not being on that vessel, not being in that situation, I am reluctant to draw conclusions, as are our colleagues in the State Department.


But let me give you a situation from Estonia, because for two years I was an advisor to the Estonian Police Board:


You have an individual who breaks into his girlfriend’s apartment.  He has strapped to his body what he says are explosives.  When his jacket is opened, he has silver canisters strapped to his body.  The police respond.  They come.  They see it.  He screams “I’ve got a bomb.  I’m going to kill everyone.”  He then wants to leave the apartment.  They don’t have enough police to secure the building.  He leaves the building.  The police establish a cordon around the area.  He now walks around a building.  A police officer walks around the other side.  They approach each other.  At some point the gentleman with the bomb breaks off and runs through the street, where he then jumps into a police car next to a policewoman and a dog.  The outcome is he detonates the bomb, kills the policewoman and the dog, and other people are injured.


We did an “after action inquiry” of that for the police department.  And we were discussing, well, when the police officer came around the corner and he faced the individual with the explosive device on him, which he clearly said “I’m going to kill everybody.  I have an explosive device.”


At what point is that law enforcement officer allowed to use deadly force?


And that is what I wanted to get to.  The Use of Deadly Force.  100 meters?  50 meters?  How close do I have to let that individual approach me before it becomes…  But at what point does he become that imminent threat?  At what distance am I, as a law enforcement officer, allowed to shoot him?  At what point, when I am faced with imminent threat, am I allowed to use deadly force?


The same situation now exists on vessels.  We have skiffs come.  We do warning shots.  We fire flares.  We do that.  But we are able to discern, that not only do they have small firearms, but they are also carrying RPGs.  One or two RPGs.  Let’s say we have an effective range of 500 meters for an RPG.  At what range does that become a threat to the ship, to its crew, and, let’s say, it is carrying liquid natural gas.  At what point does that 500 meter range become a deadly threat?  Is it 500 meters?  Do I have to wait for him to get to 300 meters?  200 meters?  When am I allowed, now, when faced with that RPG, which is clearly not a fishing piece of equipment (because that is an additional part of our profiling) – At what point does that RPG pose a threat?  And when can I effectively use deadly force?  Or, as we say, what is the appropriate and proportionate amount of force that I am now allowed to use?


I will tell you my feeling.  That when that individual and that weapon become effective and become a deadly force, I consider that a deadly threat.  I don’t know if that’s acceptable.  But I think that if I have an effective range of 500 meters for an RPG, and I know they are not fishing, I would recommend that we try to disable the boat or to effectively dissuade that individual from getting closer or being able to use that RPG.


If they don’t have RPGs, but they only have firearms, at what point does the firearm become effective?  300 meters?  200 meters?  What does it take for a lucky shot to hit a crewmember or maybe someone on the Bridge?


These are things we have to look at as a security agency in the light and the heat of the moment, but not later when we are doing an inquiry.  The judgments that we make at that point in time and in that instance are going to be looked at coolly and calmly in a much more different setting.


I don’t like to waste bullets like that because they are expensive.  We try to talk about fire management to our teams and to be able to make sure that they are trying to neutralize a particular threat.


Those are things that, we as an agency, we look at.  The incident with the Italian naval vessel, which is now the subject of the most recent bulletin by the Director of the Indian shipping company that came out in March, which alerts, now, everybody to the fact that when that skiff is coming, it is trying to wave you off so that you don’t cut their fishing lines.


Well, the history of that is that in the owners of that vessel had been the subject of a hijacking before.  There was obviously a lot of apprehension when they see this boat approaching quickly.  I don’t want to make rash judgments.  It’s an unfortunate incident.  People were killed.  No one wants to take another individual’s life, but it’s a judgment call that our peers will have to make.


Armed protection is always part of the first pillar.  The second one is let’s get that political stability.  Let’s make the country be able to defend itself.  We’re trying to do that in Afghanistan.  I don’t know how well we’re doing there, but we’re trying.  But, thirdly, the social programs.  As a law enforcement officer, I think that is just a different way of paying a ransom, but at least we don’t have to worry about shipping.


But the fourth thing that I would like to do as a former law enforcement officer is specifically talk about money.  There are two things that we always did to follow a criminal investigation.  Communications and funds.  You always track them.  You always try to find them.  It always leads you back to the thing that you were looking for.

There is an adjunct that we then did with relationship to drugs. I think we need to look at asset forfeiture.  If we can track the money, and you can track the money from the ransom payment to his new house in Nairobi, and we can do it in a legally sanctioned way with evidence that supports that, take the house.  Take away their money.  Take away their resources.  The less money they have, the less fuel they can buy, the less operations they can run, the less weapons they can maintain, the less ammunition they can purchase.  Those things all affect their ability to act aggressively against us.


Hopefully we can look at something along those lines.  But as a security provider, I will tell you – Give us rules that we can follow.  I listened here at how there are so many different rules from Denmark and from Germany is coming up, and Greece just passed it.  The situation we run into is that if the lawyers and the people that are creating the laws can’t come up with a unified system that is internationally acceptable, how are we supposed to be able to operate, and then not be held to a higher standard later?


Please give us a set of rules that we can use.  Give us something that is acceptable everywhere.  Somehow, whether it’s through the IMO or other organizations, have the nations that border the high-risk areas all come up with consistent and uniform customs regulations, disembarkation and embarkation regulations.  Give us a set of rules that we can work with, because if we have a set of rules, we can do a better job, and we won’t fall afoul of your laws and your regulations.  Give us standard practices.


I don’t want to leave and embark a team one day, and going towards a port of disembarkation, only to find that they have changed their regulations after the boat has left, and now I have an issue where I can’t disembark because the licenses that have been perfectly acceptable, whether US firearms or Greek firearms or Malta firearms or Sri Lanka firearms, they have always been acceptable to you up until Tuesday.  But on Wednesday, you’ve decided “Well, we don’t like those End User Certificates anymore.  They’re in Greek.  We don’t do Greek.  We want English or French.”


So, then, you’re now stuck with… Hmmmm, do I put the Captain at risk by trying to hide the weapons?  No.  You can’t do that.  So they go where all the other weapons in a similar situation have gone.  Into the Indian Ocean.


I would love to be a salvage operator.  There is probably so much metal at the bottom of the Indian Ocean in some of these ports.  We could make a fortune!


So, those are just some of my sentiments.  Please take them for what they’re worth.  I would like to close with a phrase that used to be on a TV series called Hill Street Blues.  And there is the Watch Commander Sergeant who used to stand in front of his group of police officers who were going to go out and enforce the laws.  He would go – “Folks, let’s be careful out there.”