Getting maritime security personnel to the ships that they are to guard is the job of Dubai based logistics provider Sinbad Navigation whose General Manager heads the operation.
The company has a fleet of four ships which it both owns and manages so as to keep a tight control on the service it provides.
So what are the challenges that PMSCs are facing?. Maritime security companies are being squeezed. “The maritime security industry is becoming increasingly commoditised,” he says. That is driven by two things – increased competition in the form of more security providers, which adds to the challenges they have because it is driving down the price. Shipping companies are pushing hard on forcing down the security companies’ prices because of current market conditions.
Shipping companies have been under pressure on price and that has been pushed onto security companies, he says. “They are trying to reduce their spend on security,” he says. This filters down to his company as a third party provider to remain competitive in the market. There are a lot of new companies in the market and, he says, Sinbad has to be careful who they take on and have to ensure they continue to provide a good, safe, and cost effective service as well as providing a cost effective service so PMSC clients can also remain competitive.
Another challenge is checking clients’ licences and their compliance. The issue of armed security on ships is something of a taboo subject, he says and therefore Sinbad needs to be sure it is dealing with the right companies. He says he looks closely at the companies that he deals with.
Sinbad Navigation has been operating since 2010 and has a good understanding of the market and who the good and bad players are, he says. The company runs checks as to whether potential clients are registered with bodies like SAMI and are signatories to the International Code of Conduct. It also checks in cases where there are firearms on board whether they have an end user certificate to ensure they have been exported legally. Sinbad also does an informal due diligence process on clients in terms of their systems and procedures. “Whilst they are on board our ships, we have to make sure that they comply with our systems and procedures”. Checks are done in a very personal manor and in strict confidence, he says. The working relationship with clients is very close, and the company wants to understand in detail what the client’s requirements are. “We try to tailor services on an individual basis”. The relationship between the PMSC and the shipping company is separate from the service that Sinbad provides, he explains, as Sinbad is involved in the process of storing PMSCs equipment and feeding and accommodating personnel when not on the job.
During the past 12 months, Sinbad has made a significant investment in the company’s operating capability, he says and owns and manage all four of its ships with full autonomy over its supply chain which is critical for clients, because it means there is no risk of commercial disputes as there would be in the case where a ship management company was being used.
In the event of third party ships being involved a dispute over payment could lead to the PMSC finding his equipment was held on a ship to which he no longer had access, a risk that many security companies are not aware of, he says. For Sinbad this is not a problem because the company manages its own ships.
Sinbad has invested significantly this year with the acquisition of former cruise ship the Antarctic Dream which is currently operating in the Gulf of Oman. The company has dry docked all four of its ships this year in Dubai. The company also has military specification RHIBs which it uses to transport teams to the vessels. The RHIBs, which are of the same type as those used by the US military are designed to operate in harsh environments and the emphasis, he says is on delivering the teams safely. On each of the ships there are also a number of smaller Zodiac RHIBs which can be used as contingency.
The Antarctic Dream is on station in the Gulf of Oman and Sinbad has just launched a new service in the Red Sea with the MV Sinbad and the company has obtained the necessary licencing to run a shuttle service in and out of Port Sudan, making it one of only two companies holding a licence to operate within Port Sudan. It is very important, he says, that the company has complete control over its supply chain because once ships have security equipment on board they cannot make port calls and Sinbad’s supply boats run provisions backwards and forwards to them as well as handling crew changes, Typically there would be a regular shuttle twice a week in both directions.
One issue he is keen to stress is that while there may be several companies providing this kind of service, Sinbad is one of the few who is taking a long view of the business. The company is a market leader, he says, and that is a result of providing a good and reliable service to its clients. The scale of investment this year is proof of its long term commitment to the business, he says. “We want to be provider of choice to responsible PMSCs”.
The company is one of only two to have a licence to operate within Port Sudan.
Port Sudan is strategically located at 19°N and has substantially implemented the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code. The country also offers more than 25 International flights per day and a good assortment of four and five star hotels.
At present the company is building the Red Sea business and the main focus is on delivering a faultless service to its clients there and in the Gulf of Oman.
In terms of specific issues relating to the business he says he sees lots of providers that are not necessarily operating in a responsible way. While Sinbad’s Antarctic Dream is designed to take on passengers, other providers are using vessels that are not designed for taking passengers and in consequence do not have the necessary amenities and are not SOLAS compliant from a safety perspective because they are being overloaded with personnel.
The safety issue is particularly important because ships which are carrying weapons cannot call in ports if they have a problem, he says. Some PMSCs are turning a blind eye to the fact their personnel are being accommodated on non-compliant vessels, he warns. The issue is being driven totally by price, he says, whereas Sinbad has made the investment to ensure it is compliant and has the right kind of ship to accommodate up to 250 passengers. “We are saying to responsible PMSCs is what you get from us is a good service at a fair price, and most of all you don’t have to worry that we are breaking the law in some fashion, and the safety of your personnel on board our ships is of paramount importance to us”.
The company does not do ship to ship transfers. All the transfers are done by RHIB which is the safest way to transfer personnel and equipment from one Ship to another. The RHIBs Sinbad uses cost $120,000 but are designed for carrying personnel safely and quickly particularly in poor sea states.
Sinbad’s business is twice as large as it was a year ago, which is attributed to the company’s ability to provide a safe, efficient and reliable service. “Continuous improvement is part of our agenda, and we look very carefully at our business from one end to the other to make sure we are delivering in all areas, not just the physical delivery of people to ships”.
The company is also going through the process of getting accreditation for ISO 28007 although strictly speaking this is not necessary because the company is not providing security services but acting in a logistics capacity. It is important he says to marry up the company’s procedures with those of its clients. He expects the process to be complete next year.
The main thing he says is that Sinbad concentrates on delivering the best service to their clients, so that they can concentrate on providing the service to their clients without “worrying that we will let them down”.
Sinbad is based in the UAE which is an excellent business environment and geographically well placed for the area in which the company operates as well as having good communication links.
“We have covered a lot of ground this year, and we’ve spent a lot of time on training and continue to invest in our people, to make sure we do the best we can do”.
UAE (HEAD OFFICE)