Swiftships is proud to announce the launch of a new subsidiary known as Swift Maritime Security (SMS), which is creating a private fleet to provide maritime security services. Registered in Dubai, SMS will operate throughout the world to provide escort services through hot-spots on short term contracts using its own fleet of patrol boats with armed crew.
According Shehraze Shah, CEO of Swiftships, the inspiration for SMS stemmed from incidents such as the 2009 hijacking of the Maersk, Alabama, and the 2013 kidnapping of mariners off the coast of Nigeria from a ship owned by Edison Chouest.
The SMS idea was further matured during the company’s more recent delivery of a 35m patrol boat from Bahrain to the Iraq Navy at Umm Qasr.
‘We had the US Navy Fifth Fleet on our boats,’ he related.’ We had a chopper. We had a boat on the side. And we had guys with the guns on the boat. And the bad guys are scared off when you have guns on the boat.’
Shah said that all of those experiences, coupled with the current maritime security climate, led to a business decision to begin investing in a private security fleet.
‘Insurance brokers want a fleet to have a good boat and a good team,’ he said. ‘We have a good team and we produce better boats than anybody that we know of.
In terms of pricing the services, Shah alluded to ‘a day rate perspective that everybody shoots for in this market.’ Describing that day rate as ‘pretty out there’, he added: ‘But if you have a full team of both a boat and security services that makes it even friendlier for everybody.’
He added that the easiest part was to get a contract; the hardest part is to create the fleet.
‘We have a 56 footer that’s being built as we speak. We’ve finished the design and we’ve got the pedal to the metal. We have engines and jets already in place. We just have to finish with some of the technology that’s not ITAR restricted.’
SMS growth plans include the construction of ‘at least 12 boats over the next five years’ up to 25m in length. Some of the vessels may be built in Egypt, where Swiftships currently has a co-production operation underway.
Shah emphasized the importance of compliance with all maritime laws, with the growing fleet to be equipped with only non-lethal capabilities. In future operational settings the boats will be manned by expatriates licensed to carry weapons by the UAE.
‘We have already applied for the licenses and have already been given the clearances.’ Shah said. ‘We are ensuring that we are following all maritime laws.’
He argued that there was strong market demand for such elite maritime security services.
‘This is a gold rush, because not many people are combining the vessel and security team together. Most of the companies doing security services have one or two or three people show up on your boat. We’re actually giving them full fleet support. For instance, if the boat needs to go from one channel to another channel, we will escort them the entire time, on our own boat,’ he explained.
‘We show up and, whether it’s a cargo vessel or a yacht, and we will make sure they get the coverage.’