COVID-19 travel restrictions to impact on armed guards on ships

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As the situation with COVID-19 novel coronavirus continues to evolve, states are increasingly taking measures to restrict the movements of personnel into and within their borders. A number of states have effectively closed their borders to people coming from perceived high-risk areas. These travel restrictions are placing a considerable logistical burden on the wider shipping industry and are very likely to increase as time goes on.

With such an evolving situation, there is a corresponding increase in uncertainty, according to Dryad Global. An example of this was seen in the recent decision by Sri Lanka to close its border to people coming from several countries, which led to potentially significant disruption in the embarkation and movement of Armed Security Teams (ASTs). With the corresponding confusion, Private Military Security Companies (PMSCs) were required to find alternative embarkation points for weapons and teams, and shipping companies faced increased ambiguities around the provision of security teams and potentially significantly increased costs. Whilst the ban on AST embarkation at Galle has since been lifted, Dryad assesses that while the situation evolves at pace, this decision will be under continuous review. At the time of writing Malaysia, which was a proposed alternative embarkation and disembarkation point, has significantly restricted foreign access.

“Since the outbreak of COVID-19 and the increased potential for disrupted security measures, Dryad has seen a significant growth in demand for Transit Risk Assessments and Vessel Safety Monitoring. As described in our current Indian Ocean risk assessment, we assess that on a large volume of transits through the Indian Ocean, Gulf of Aden and Southern Red Sea, the embarkation of Armed Security is an unnecessary cost,” Dryad said.

“The decision to take guards should only reflect the risks as it is at the time and not as it is perceived by legacy behaviours. We advise that for the majority of transits through those key areas, the risk can be adequately mitigated by thorough risk assessment and vessel monitoring.”



“Key concerns from our clients are the potential for increased costs, either as a result of being diverted to receive guards from a remote location or an increase in passed-on costs as the expense of logistical movements increase. In addition, a number of clients have expressed a justified concern at the prospect of having embarked AST who are then unable to disembark because of increased travel restrictions at their intended arrival point. The impact on commercial operations in both circumstances could potentially be significant,” Drayd said.