Navy assignment handed over to private company
Key foreign private security firms for international vessel operators were on Friday perturbed over the Sri Lankan government’s move to shift its weapons storage facility to a private firm. Currently weapons of merchant vessels are stored at the Sri Lanka Navy’s (SLN) two armouries in Colombo and Galle.
Vessels plying the East West sea lane route would stop over at Galle or Colombo to pick up their weapons stored at the SLN armouries before heading for other destinations crossing pirated waters. But on Friday, Rakna Arakshaka Lanka (RAL), security firm attached to the Defence Ministry, told industry officials that in future, private security firm – Avant Garde with whom the former has a joint venture, would be providing facilities for storage of these weapons on its floating armoury. This would be located 12 nautical miles off Galle and in six other locations elsewhere around the globe. Currently they have two operating floating storages off Fujairah and off Suez; in addition to Oman and Djibouti the company also has two land-based storages in Mombassa and Dar Es Salaam, industry sources said.
RAL’s GM Air Vice Marshall A.B. Premachandra, delivered the opening remarks at the Colombo meeting held with the invited foreign private security firms namely: Solace, PVI, Security Supply Services, Castorvali, Orchid Maritime and G4S International Maritime Security Services at the Cinnamon Grand in Colombo. PVI is said to have had a separate meeting as well with the local officials prior to this meeting.
RAL is currently involved in leasing out weapons from the Defence Ministry to vessels in addition to sea marshals.At present there are about 70 companies registered with SLN that is currently carrying out storage facilities, SLN spokesman Commander Kosala Warnakulasuriya told the Business Times.
During the meeting the security firms were given an overview of the operations conducted by Avant Garde and the operations of its floating armoury, a participant at the discussion told the Business Times.This new decision is learnt to have taken place due to the security concerns that too many weapons were entering the land for which the government was held responsible. In this respect, the officials present had explained the legality of the use of the floating armoury and addressed some of the concerns. However, other participants invited for the meeting said they were not impressed since the RAL and Avant Garde were not providing sufficient detailed information of the conduct of these operations and issues pertaining to reliability and legality were remained unanswered.
In this respect, the officials were expected to give their feedback within 15-20 days, it is learnt. Local agents concerned that their operations would be affected were assured that boat operations by these agents would continue in the future from shore to the floating armoury only. But from this point Avant Garde would take charge of boat operations to the respective vessels with the SLN providing security.
One representative each from the RAL and the Defence Ministry would be onboard the floating armoury that would be manned by the Avant Garde firm.Another participant speaking with the Business Times after the meeting said, it was a “strange situation” explaining “I don’t know why it’s been done because there is a model that works, so why change?”
During the one-and-a-half hour meeting the foreign private security firms did note that Sri Lanka was not the only option left for them since they all had licenses to operate in other countries as well.Questions were raised pertaining to the reliability of the floating armoury conducting about 30 operations per day and if it was logistically possible.
An answer was crucial for ships as this would mean if they were unable to handle it, it could cause delays and drive vessels away from Sri Lanka. In terms of legality it was observed that claims of being a fully sanctioned government organization were not sufficient and they needed to be convinced that the operations would be totally legal both in Sri Lanka and abroad.
“People would prefer to continue to use Sri Lanka since there is a pretty good and reliable service by the people currently running the system which if it should change they (international vessel operators) would look elsewhere,” one of those who attended the meeting said on the basis of anonymity.
The meeting was also attended by the Ceylon Association of Ships Agents (CASA) heads acting as observers in addition to a representative of the UK High Commission in Colombo (because of the involvement of UK vessels).
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