Security at sea

Since its inception in 2010, Ambrey has established itself as the world’s largest operator in the maritime security and anti-piracy sector. As a provider of a comprehensive range of services for ships and offshore assets in high-risk environments such as East Africa and West Africa, the company has grown rapidly since its first offshore project in Kenya and Tanzania in the first quarter of 2011. Key to this growth was the company’s strategic decision to expand overseas in 2013 in line with the globalisation of the armed guard business, with new headquarters being set up in Dubai alongside offices in Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan and Korea.

Alongside these developments, the company spent a lot of time understanding the market to ensure it was agile enough to make fast changes and give the client what they want when they require it. Analysis of the market in 2012 forecasted rapid consolidation and so the business focused on a rapid expansion of the volume of armed guards it provides. With this volume came efficiencies in costs and the improvements in standards and responsiveness to clients that were essential in a highly competitive sector.

Seeking out other ways to remain competitive, Ambrey sought to take a leading role in writing the City and Guilds Maritime Security Operator 8269 course, as John Thompson, Senior Advisor of Ambrey, discussed with Shipping & Marine in March 2015: “We recognised that international training certifications were essential for the longevity of our business and have sought to Riskmove discussion on armed guard standards away from that of nationality and more on to military experience and internationally accredited civilian training standards.”

Having enjoyed a record month in July 2015 supporting 214 ships with security teams, the independent, privately owned company has remained strong in an intensely competitive sector. Indeed, where there were previously 200 private security firms, there are now around 60 as many businesses have gone out of business or merged with others. As part of Ambrey’s volume and standards strategy it recently acquired two of its competitors, Drum Cussac’s maritime transits security division and Control Risk’s maritime security business. The integration of these highly respected businesses enabled Ambrey to strengthen its customer base and services, as John comments: “This acquisition helped us to operate at scale so we could deliver a service to the price and level of quality that our customers want. These acquisitions were part of a plan we had in place to grow the business operationally as well as in terms of our customer base. We have completely integrated the clients we brought across from both acquisitions and have integrated the operational equipment and personnel that we acquired in that deal.”

Following these acquisitions, Ambrey established new operations following a drop in activity in Somalia and a rise in piracy attacks in West Africa’s Gulf of Guinea. John discusses these developments: “The number of anti piracy measures in Somalia was reduced in size by Ambrey’s customers because ships travelling through Asia and the Gulf were no longer going through the high risk area. This led to further consolidation in the market and Ambrey diversifying into a very different anti piracy market in West Africa.

“These operations in West Africa began in March 2016 and have been progressing well. We have brought our reputation for standards and cost effective but reliable services to a market that has not delivered this consistently before. As a result the business has grown rapidly. The number of piracy attacks off Nigeria have been significantly higher in 2016 than in previous years; in response to this we have been providing security escort vessels and local national armed guards from the Nigerian Navy, either on security patrol vessels or on board client ships, with the goal of countering the piracy threat,” he adds. “It is a different operating environment to the Indian Ocean, which has established operating standards, compliance standards and ISO standards around the service as well as a clear firearms licensing regime. In West Africa, the countries have complex rules on what you can and can’t do with armed security but these are fluid and so as a business you need to be prepared for constant change. As we rely on the services of local naval personnel the level of training and standards is highly varied, the regulatory environment is looser and standards can differ markedly.”

While the Gulf of Guinea remains a challenging area with a high piracy threat, Ambrey will focus on growing its reputation in this new area as a company that believes in setting and maintaining the highest of standards. “We want to make sure people are aware of what we can do and that we are open for business,” concludes John.

Ambrey Risk
• A leader in the field of maritime security services
• Led market consolidation through acquisitions in 2014 and 2015
• Strategic expansion into West Africa