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Photo: By G-Valeriy / Shutterstock

Shipping companies sailing through the Middle East Gulf are being urged to avoid having private armed security guards onboard as the risk of escalation in the region rises, industry associations say.

Relations between Iran and the West have become increasingly strained after Britain seized an Iranian tanker in Gibraltar last week and London said its warship HMS Montrose had to fend off Iranian vessels seeking to block a British-owned tanker from passing through the Strait of Hormuz.

The most recent incidents followed a spate of attacks on tankers since May around the Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf of Oman, which the United States has blamed on Iran and are denied by Tehran.

An advisory issued in recent days by leading shipping associations warned against using private armed guards in the critical areas.

“The use of force against threats recently encountered in the Gulf of Oman carries significant risk and has the potential to escalate security situations to the detriment of the safety of ship and crew,” the advisory said.

“The use of unarmed maritime advisors to assist with onboard security and watch-keeping is sensible,” it said, noting relevant legal guidelines.

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In Signals 113, our article “Scrapheap Challenge” outlined the new European Union (EU) regulations that require vessels flying the flag of an EU state can only be scrapped in approved ship-recycling facilities.

Outside the EU, some countries have already ratified the Hong Kong Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships, which will come into force 24 months after it is fully ratified.

What’s required?

Both regulations require ships to be in possession of an Inventory of Hazardous Material (IHM) which is approved by their Flag State.

The inventory is a list of hazardous materials that form part of the ship’s structure and equipment, operationally generated hazardous wastes and stores on board.

The below table, provided by GSR Services GmbH, outlines the requirements for new and existing vessels:

Inventory of Hazardous Materials

Shipbuilding & Operation

Prior to Recycling

Part 1

Structure & Equipment

Part 2

Hazardous Wastes

Part 3


IMO Table A (and EU Annex I):

Mandatory for all ships and installation




IMO Table B (and EU Annex II:

Mandatory for new ships and installations, voluntary for existing ships




Table C:

Potentially Hazardous Items




Table D:

Regular Consumer products