The HRAS Interview with Peter Cook, Founder and CEO of the Security Association for the Maritime Industry (SAMI)

Peter Cook

The HRAS Interview with Peter Cook, Founder and CEO of the Security Association for the Maritime Industry (SAMI)

Peter Cook is the Founder and CEO of the Security Association for the Maritime Industry (SAMI), an international membership organisation, which represents companies working in the maritime security industry and acts as a focal point for global maritime security matters.

HRAS: What is SAMI’s latest successful project in the field of maritime security?

SAMI has recently launched the new SAMI website, incorporating the new SAMI Directory, which allows prospective clients of Private Maritime Security Companies (PMSC) to select the PMSC that is most ideally suited to a task according to their areas of operations, flag authorizations and level of compliance they have achieved against the extant international standards. This fulfills the original concept of SAMI to provide a list of reputable PMSC making it easier for the client to select the best PMSC for the job.

HRAS: Unprecedented migrant movement in the Mediterranean as well as in other seas and the loss of life at sea has raised to one of the most serious problem the whole maritime industry currently facing. Beyond its political aspects, from a pure commercial maritime perspective how does migration affect both the shipping and Private Maritime Security industries?

All ships work in accordance with a “code” called Safety of Life At Sea (SOLAS) in which one seafarer is duty bound to provide assistance to any other seafarer in distress. This clearly includes migrants at sea in sometimes unseaworthy vessels; the problem is that forcing migrants to sea in unseaworthy craft is an abuse of this “code” by the traffickers. There are a whole range of issues attached to a ship with a crew of 16-18 providing assistance to a large number of desperate migrants trying to get to southern Europe any way they can. The migrants could be armed, could be carrying infectious disease, like e-bola, some may even be terrorists. ANVER, a US Coast Guard sponsored organization, has estimated that it will cost a Bulk Carrier shipping company USD 12,000 per hour for each hour that it is involved in a Maritime Migrant Rescue operation. This may sound harsh but how many of us would instantly stop our cars on the motorway to pick up a large group of desperate people of unknown background to take them to a destination different to our own. There are commercial, financial and security issues that have to be carefully considered by the shipping company before these decisions are made.

Global displacement is a growing problem that is likely to impact international shipping lanes for many years and the private maritime security industry is working with the international shipping industry to find effective, responsible and humanitarian ways to respond.

HRAS: As Founder and CEO of SAMI, where would you like to see SAMI in the next decade? What is your personal vision and aspirations?

SAMI has worked incredibly hard to establish a profile with various international bodies like the United Nations (UN), International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and European Commission (EC) that hopefully defines us as the authoritative, responsible face of the private maritime security industry. As defense budgets become progressively tighter it is inevitable that a greater proportion of maritime security roles will be fulfilled by private companies. SAMI aspires to provide professional advice to international bodies about the most effective way to use these private companies, whilst ensuring that our members understand what the various clients are looking for. We would hope that SAMI would act as the hub for clients and providers so that we can join them together to improve maritime security. We want to ensure that private maritime security is part of the solution not part of the problem.

HRAS: What has been your biggest challenge to date in establishing SAMI?

When SAMI started armed guards on ships were referred to as the “wild eyed, ponytailed, gun toting mercenaries” and this was a challenging image to dispel. However with the high level of professionalism demonstrated by the vast majority of PMSCs the shipping industry looks upon armed guards far more favorably and as an effective solution to the problem of piracy on the High Seas. Most PMSCs have worked hard to comply with the new standards introduced by the IMO and other agencies and now more than one third of the industry has been certified as compliant with the new International standard ISO 28007 in just over a year, which is astonishingly fast, and proves that we are a professional industry seeking ever higher standards.

HRAS: Do you consider that both SAMI as a representative body and the international Private Maritime Security Industry in general has become more acceptable in their roles to both the shipping industry and the International Maritime Organisation (IMO)? If not, why not?

The hard work by the PMSCs and the ability of SAMI to represent the industry at key meetings globally has meant that we have always been visible and accessible. It is the conduct of the armed guards on ships that have had a 100% success rate which has been the undeniable and largest factor in making the role more acceptable to the shipping industry and at the IMO.

HRAS: With the downturn of piracy particularly in the Indian Ocean and offshore Somalia, Private Maritime Security Companies appear to be downscaling, going out of business, or having to diversify to survive. What impact has this had on SAMI and the direction it is taking?

Any organization that wants to survive in a dynamic international business environment must understand the environment it is working in and adapt to new situations as they arise. The industry is consolidating and some companies have ceased trading in the embarked armed guard space but maritime security covers all aspects of maritime crime from maritime cyber-crime, to port security, prevention of maritime fraud, stowaways, smuggling and trafficking, piracy and robbery at sea right up to terrorism at sea. The maritime industry is also enormous, transporting around 90% of all trade around the world. The maritime industry also covers cruise ships and international ferries, super yachts, offshore oil and gas industry (and increasingly offshore mining). Maritime security is not just about armed guards on vessels transiting the Indian Ocean it is a very big subject that will require a vast range of solutions and SAMI is in a key position to facilitate this.

HRAS: Has your membership engaged with SAMI in the field of human rights and related Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policy development, or does this remain a peripheral issue as it is not yet a contractual requirement in the provision of security services to shipowners?

Our members listen to their clients very carefully and provide them with support across the maritime security spectrum. SAMI foresees human rights and CSR as new areas that will require further understanding and application by PMSCs and therefore we actively support the HRAS project so that we can remain at the epicenter of developments in this new area and provide the best advice to our members.

HRAS: If you could influence and change one thing in the shipping industry, what would that be?

SAMI would like the maritime industry to embrace the adoption of security measures at the earliest opportunity in the planning rather than as an afterthought, which happens so often. They say the three most important things when buying a house are location, location, location and if you or your family in any way feel threatened or unsafe in a particular place there is no way you would buy that house yet we seem very ready to risk a security threat with a remote asset. Bad security doesn’t just happen; ; it is the commercial decision of somebody somewhere.

Thank you.


SAMI is a global organisation representing companies working in the maritime security industry and a focal point for global maritime security matters.

The international membership encompasses over 120 maritime security providers, consultants, trainers and maritime security equipment, technology and hardware manufacturers from more than 35 nations around the globe.

SAMI provides direct links to the commercial shipping industry, Cruise, Superyacht, Offshore Oil & Gas sectors and Ports too. Working in partnership with international shipping organisations, flag States, governments and regulatory bodies, insurance and legal professionals, SAMI bridges the gap between security and shipping.

Driving a positive agenda for maritime security, the Association is at the forefront of issues affecting the industry and works with a range of stakeholders to develop guidance, documentation, education, training and innovative technological solutions.

SAMI was awarded ‘Newsmaker of the Year’ in the Lloyd’s List Global Awards 2012.


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