The Cyprus register today ranks 10th amongst international fleets with 1,857 ocean going vessels of a gross tonnage exceeeding 21 million (source: Republic of Cyprus Merchant Shipping). Taking that element into consideration together with the extent of piracy and unlawful acts that take place world-wide, one can understand the need that has led to the recent enactment of a law that would regulate the provision of armed or unarmed ship security services to Cyprus flag carriers.
The Law provides that protection from piracy and other unlawful acts can be offered to Cyprus ships by a private security company (“the company”). Such a company is defined in the Law as “a legal entity that has received approval according to the provisions of the Law and to which it has been issued a certificate according to para (1) of article 22 of the Law and whereby any reference in the Law to a private ship security company includes a private vessel guard unless from the context it is implied otherwise”.
By means of “a private vessel guard” the Law means “a person that works for a private ship security company with the condition that that person is mentioned in the certificate issued to the company according to para (1) of article 22 of the Law and any reference to a security guard includes reference to the security company that employs the guard unless from the context it is implied otherwise”.
In order for the company to be able to provide security related services to Cyprus flag carriers both the private ship security company and its personnel should be vetted by the Government of the Republic of Cyprus and be issued with the respective certificate.
Approval of private companies as ship security companies (Part III of the Law)
Any company that is seeking to provide armed or unarmed security services to a Cyprus vessel should apply to the competent Authority for the issuance of a certificate. As “competent Authority” in the Law is identified the Cyprus Minister of Communications and Works (“the Minister”).
The Minister can grant a certificate to a company that falls within the following criteria:
- It is a Cyprus company, meaning a company that its management and control are exercised in Cyprus. The most common form is a Cyprus limited liability company.
- It is a European Union company incorporated according to the laws of a Member State, with a registered office in a member state, provided that it has an authorised representative in the Republic of Cyprus for the whole duration of the certificate's validity.
- It is a third country company provided that it has authorised representation in Cyprus for the whole duration of the certificate's validity and provided that the Ministry of Communication and Works is satisfied that the criteria set out in the Law are met.
Irrespective of the above criteria, the Minister will not issue a certificate in those cases where the company's beneficial owner or the company's Shareholder, co-owner, Director, Secretary, Managing Partner, authorised representative of the company in Cyprus or employee are subject to the following:
- Pending sanctions/penalties by the United Nations Security Council or by the European Union according to European Law
- Have been fired by a public sector or educational organisation or from the Police or Army forces of the Republic of Cyprus or by any other state on grounds of a disciplinary action, dishonesty or moral upheaval
- Are currently employed at the public sector or by an educational organisation or by the Police or Army forces of the Republic of Cyprus or by any other state
- Make use of an illegal drug substance or of other psychotropic substances
- Are suffering from a mental illness that will prevent them from carrying out their duties. In relation to a mental illness issue the Minister may ask for a medical certificate to be provided by the candidates
- They have filed an application or are in the process of forming a private security services company or have done so in the past. The term “Private security services company” is defined in the “Private Security Companies Laws of 2007 to 2011”
- Is currently or has been employed by a private security services company or is/was in possession of a private security guard license. The Minister has the right to request that the Cyprus Police issues a relevant certificate to certify this
- Is currently or has in the past been involved in an illegal activity or is connected to persons that carry out activities against the law
- Have been found guilty or have pending criminal proceedings against them or a warrant by any court or have been found guilty of one or more offences (as listed in schedule V of the Law). Such offences are the offence of murder, manslaughter, unlawful homicide, arson, use of explosives, use of firearms and/or guns, possession of drugs or other illegal substances, robbery, attack with grave bodily harm, child or women trafficking and child exploitation, operation of a betting services establishment and other.
Restrictions to operation
The private security company will not be permitted to operate in the following cases:
- The company does not hold a relevant certificate issued by the competent Authority
- The certificate that the company holds has expired, is not valid, has been annulled, cancelled or will be annulled and cancelled
- The company has not filed an application with the relevant Authority for the issuance of a certificate or for the extension of its validity or the certificate issued has a limited duration which has expired
- The competent Authority does not intend to proceeed with the renewal of the certificate or is planning to amend it in a manner that the company will not be able to provide the initially described services
- The type of vessel is not included in the certificate
- The special security forces that will embark the vessel are not listed in the certificate
- A copy of the signed agreement between the two parties (company- vessel) has not been filed with the relevant Authority.
In addition to the certificate it is a requirement that the company holds adequate idemnity insurance.
For each one of the company's security guards, the company should hold on file the following information:
- Guard's name
- Guard's surname
- Identity card copy or passport copy
Procedure for the issuance of a certificate to operate as a private security company for Cyprus vessels
The application by the security company (“the company”)
The application is filed with the Minister of Communications and Works by an advocate or by the company's authorised representative in the official language of the Republic or in a language that can be understood by the Minister. The application should contain certain information and evidence, as that described in detail in Schedule VI of the Law. According to the Law it is stated that the application for the issuance of a certificate allowing the provision of services by a private maritime security company should be submitted to the Minister and should include the following:
- The name and address of the applicant
- The company 's certificate of incorporation
- The certificate of the registered office of the company
- The company Shareholder certificate
- The Director and company Secretary certificates
- Personal details (name, nationality, address etc) together with a brief CV of the company Director and of the company Secretary
- Personal details (name, nationality, address etc) together with a brief CV of the person in charge of the company
- The address of the location at which the business operates
- The name, surname, nationality, identity card or passport number or the general declaration of all people that are employed by the company together with their post description
- Personal details (name, nationality, address etc) together with a brief CV for each of the private ship guards employed by the company
- A description of the company activities together with an organisational chart
- A description of the services offered by the company in relation to the present law
- A detailed description of the weapons and/or guns that might be used
- A statement by the applicant or by the company that all company directors, shareholders, personnel etc do not fall in the scope of para (a), section (3) of article 20 of the present law
- A statement by the applicant that the weapons used are in legal possession and that they will not be transferred or sold elsewhere
- A statement by the applicant that he/she assumes responsibility for the payment of compensation to those on board or to the owner of the vessel for damages that might be caused by the private ship guards or by other people employed by the security company
- A statement by the applicant that the private ship guards mentioned in point 10 above, have a valid contractual relation with the company and that are properly and adequately trained for the use, transport and safekeeping of the weapons that might be used
- A statement by the applicant or by the company that the company will be responsible for the medical care or the repatriation of the security guards or of any other persons employed by the company
- A statement by the applicant or the company that they will comply with the provisions of the present Law and the rules set out by the competent Authority
- A statement by each of the company Director, company Secretary, officers, security guards and other personnel that they will comply with the provisions of the present Law and the rules set out by the relevant Authority.
- In relation to the cases mentioned in para (b) and (c) of section (2) of article 20 of the present Law, a letter of appointment of the authorised representative as well as his/her statement that he/she does not come under the rule of para (a), section (3) of article 20 of the present law.
Once the Minister is satisfied that the information included in the application together with the relevant evidence is appropriate, he will proceed with the issuance of a certificate confirming that the company is permitted to provide security services to a Cyprus flag ship, which carries the respective certificate for engaging the services of such company.
The person/s that have applied for the issuance of a certificate by the Minister and had their application rejected have a right to appeal. The Law lays out in detail the grounds for appeal, the procedure followed and the possible outcomes.
According to article 23 of the Law, the authorised representative can be:
- A Cyprus resident or a national of a Member state who is resident in the Republic for the scope of the Income Tax Law 2002 to 2011
- A legal entity that has been incorporated in Cyprus according to the Laws of the Republic and employs permanent personnel in the Republic
The Law lays out in detail the authorised representative's rights and responsibilities.
The company's duties
One of the main duties of the company includes the company's responsibility to keep a file with copies of all company agreements or activities carried out in relation to the said provision of security services and make it available to the Minister, if requested. Also, the company is under duty to inform promptly the Minister of any changes in relation to its services, agreements,hiring or dismissal of personnel.
In the event of a negligent act or omission on the part of the ship owner, the ship master or the crew, the security company is entitled to compensation for damages.
In the event of contributory negligence caused by the ship owner, the ship master or the crew, the company shares responsibility in relation to payable damages with the contributory party, unless the company decides to waive that obligation.
The company's liability is limited according to the provisions of the Convention on Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims (LLMC).
The private security company in relation to its duties is governed by the laws of the Republic of Cyprus.