SHANGHAI/BEIJING Global security companies and their smaller Chinese rivals are jostling for business along Beijing’s modern-day “Silk Road”, the grandiose plan for land and sea routes connecting the world’s second largest economy with the rest of Asia and beyond.
Representing investments of hundreds of billions of dollars, the pet project of Chinese President Xi Jinping is seen boosting economic growth at home, and as positive for everything from steel prices to cement makers.
Security firms also expect to tap the rush, offering to protect thousands of Chinese workers – and the pipelines, roads, railways and power plants they build – as they fan out across the world under the “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR) initiative.
It won’t be easy, however, with executives warning that state-owned enterprises running or planning projects from Africa to Vietnam sometimes prefer to deal with fellow Chinese, treat safety as an afterthought and try to keep costs to a minimum.
“OBOR is a lifetime (of work) for us,” said John Jiang, managing director of Chinese Overseas Security Group (COSG).
The small consortium of security providers was set up early last year and operates in six countries: Pakistan, Turkey, Mozambique, Cambodia, Malaysia and Thailand.
“In eight years’ time, we want to run a business that can cover 50-60 countries, which fits with the One Belt One Road coverage,” Jiang told Reuters.
Chinese personnel are essentially barred under Chinese law, and that of many host nations they work in, from carrying or using weapons.
Instead, COSG and its rivals usually work with and train local staff and focus on logistics and planning.
In Pakistan, for example, where attacks by militants and separatist insurgents are considered a serious threat, COSG has a joint venture with a local security firm with links to Pakistan’s navy.
The Pakistani army also plans to provide 14-15,000 armed personnel dedicated to guarding Chinese projects, according to local media reports.
The $57 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, the largest single project under the OBOR banner, envisages roads, railways, pipelines and power lines that link China’s western reaches with the Arabian Sea via Pakistan.
CHINESE VERSUS INTERNATIONAL
Major international security operators hope their scale and experience can convince China’s price-conscious state-owned giants to pay for foreign expertise.
Firms like Control Risks and G4S (GFS.L) offer staff with military backgrounds and decades of experience in risky regions around the world.
G4S said it had seen an acceleration of interest in its services since OBOR began gaining traction.
Michael Humphreys, a Shanghai-based partner at Control Risks, said around a third of the security consultancy’s work in China was related to OBOR.
Hong Kong-based logistics firm Frontier Services Group (0500.HK), co-founded by Erik Prince who created the U.S. military security services business Blackwater, announced in December it was shifting strategy to capitalize on OBOR.
It plans to set up an office in the southwestern province of Yunnan, which adjoins Southeast Asia, and another base in Xinjiang in China’s west, the starting point for the CPEC project crossing Pakistan.
Smaller Chinese firms like COSG, Shanghai-based Weldon Security and Dewei Security, meanwhile, see their advantage over multinationals in state-owned enterprises’ preference for hiring Chinese to handle sensitive projects.
Only a handful of the estimated 5,800 Chinese security companies operate overseas, with the vast majority focusing on the domestic market.
“For Chinese firms, especially with security work, they (state companies) want to speak with another Chinese person. We can also one hundred percent reflect their thinking when we work,” said Dewei general manager Hao Gang.
NO EASY SELL
Security risks facing Chinese workers abroad are varied and often unpredictable.
Yu Xuezhao, a former soldier working in Kenya for Dewei, is helping to train hundreds of local guards to protect Chinese contractors operating there, including oil giant Sinopec (600028.SS) and China Road and Bridge.
Africa, where China invested long before OBOR was formally created, is considered a part of the initiative.
“The most common incidents we encounter are thefts and strikes,” 27-year-old Yu said, speaking from a training compound in the Kenyan capital Nairobi he has managed since 2015. “We train security guards to inspect cars and do ground patrols.”
Events can quickly escalate.
In 2015, for example, an attack on a hotel in Mali killed three workers at a Chinese state firm, leading to calls by Beijing for beefed up security.
Officials revealed then that 350 security incidents had occurred between 2010-2015 involving Chinese firms abroad.
Such concerns do not easily translate into lucrative contracts, however.
In some cases, security companies are called in to deal with an emergency rather than to coordinate a long-term strategy.
“For a lot of companies, they come to us when they’ve (already) got a problem,” said Humphreys of Control Risks.
“They’ve started the project and they can’t move it forward because they have a labor dispute or someone is throwing petrol bombs at their trucks.”
Hao and other Chinese security executives added that most state-owned enterprises were building their overseas security capabilities from a low base.
“A lot of the larger state-owned enterprises have only just started to go out in the last few years. As such, overseas security work remains a blank space for those firms who had not gone out before,” he said.Some Chinese experts said companies operating abroad were beginning to think more about the importance of safety.
“This is something Chinese companies need to study more,” said Lu Guiqing, general manager of private builder Zhongnan Group and former chief economist at China State Construction Engineering Corporation.
“When you ‘go out’ safety is the most important. What’s the point if you end up losing people?”
(Additional reporting by Joseph Campbell in BEIJING and George Ng’ang’a in NAIROBI; Editing by Mike Collett-White)
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By Victoria Castleberry
The need for security of international maritime trade has never been greater as over 90 percent of internationally traded goods are transported via maritime shipping and 70 percent of maritime shipped goods are containerized cargo.1 Most trade vessels are funneled through one or more of six strategic chokepoints around the world: the Suez and Panama Canals, Strait of Malacca, Strait of Bab el-Mandeb, Strait of Gibraltar, and the Strait of Hormuz.2 Perhaps the most unique of these chokepoints is the Strait of Hormuz, and the presence of six 110 Coast Guard Cutters in its vicinity. Coast Guard presence provides what no other U.S. asset can to this hostile region: provide security without an escalation of arms and the facilitation of transnational cooperation through various interagency programs. Expanding this model of strategic deterrence by increasing the U.S. Coast Guard s presence internationally, the United States will be capable of protecting our most precious passages, promote international cooperation, and give the U.S. an advantage in determining how the international maritime waterways are governed.
According to the Energy Information Administration, the Strait of Hormuz exports approximately 20 percent of the global oil market and a total of 35 percent of all sea-based trade.3 With such a valuable resource transported through a small area, the necessity of security for this strait is clearly essential to the international market. Unfortunately, tensions within the region are rising and the risk of port closure, piracy, and military interference are all real possibilities that the global market may face when transporting through this region.4 In an effort to counter potential mishaps the United States has already utilized the Coast Guard to provide an authoritative yet non-threatening presence in the Persian Gulf that over time has proven effective.
Currently the Coast Guard spearheads several programs in Patrol Forces Southwest Asia (PATFORCESWA).5 Programs in the region specialize in the training of Coast Guards from around the world to bolster international maritime security cooperation. These programs help to support Article 43 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) agreement which requires user and bordering states to cooperate for the necessity of navigation and safety for vessels transiting.6 This specific call to duty for the user and bordering states by UNCLOS is a mission set specialized by the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard is currently operating in Freedom of Navigation Operations, escorting of military vessels, hosts an International Port Security Liaison Officer program, and possesses a Middle East Training Team responsible for conducting operations in conjunction with foreign militaries.7
As previously stated, the Coast Guard currently offers programs which work toward international cooperation for maritime security. Programs offered in the Persian Gulf include the International Port Security Liaison Officer (IPSLO) program and the Middle East Training Team (METT). These programs act as partnerships between the U.S. Coast Guard and foreign militaries to build up and sustain their own Coast Guards, as well as improve their own port security to facilitate trade between all nations.8 The IPSLO program allows for a sound foundation from which countries can build their own domestic maritime security system. This foundation is built through the education and enforcement of the international codes.9 Other programs such as the METT regularly participate in theater security cooperation engagements with foreign navies and coast guards throughout the region. These teams focus on teaching other coast guards and navies proper procedure for LE boarding and smuggling interception.10 These are the programs which need support to protect maritime chokepoints globally.
Lieutenant Jared Korn, USCG, was the Operations Officer aboard USCGC Adak, one of the six cutters deployed to PATFORCESWA. When asked about situations experienced while deployed within the Persian Gulf region, LT Korn described instances where Iranian vessels would approach the cutter and eventually depart. LT Korn to explained that in whole, the U.S. Coast Guard is an internationally recognizable symbol for aid, security, and is notably less threatening than a grey-hulled naval vessel within the Persian Gulf region.11
The presence of the U.S. Coast Guard in the Persian Gulf has been an effective tool in deterrence of hostiles within the region. This model can and should be applied to the other strategic chokepoints around the world. In 2014 the Panama Canal was faced with 44 reported piracy attacks, the Suez Canal is similarly plagued with piracy, off the coast of Somalia pirates have collected ransoms for over 10,000 dollars.12 Other strategic chokepoints such as the Strait of Gibraltar, Strait of Malacca, and Strait of Bab el-Mandeb would also benefit from the presence of the U.S. Coast Guard within their regions. Although these regions are not experiencing as severe of a threat to their maritime trade route imminently, prevention-based presence could avoid severe consequences of trade shutdown in these strategic chokepoints. The best way to do this is to grow the U.S. Coast Guard s patrol craft fleet internationally as well as the training programs which aid in the diplomatic relations and sovereignty of nations security.
Although the solution of expanding the Coast Guard s mission internationally is possible, it does have two potential obstacles. The first obstacle is public perception, the second, asset availability. Public perception of law enforcement today is already at an all-time low. By allowing our only armed service with law enforcement capabilities to shift its mission internationally the United States runs the risk of the American people s perceptions shifting as well.13 The positive perception by the American people of the Coast Guard is at risk of being diminished due to the perception of war-like actions by our domestic maritime law enforcement. More clearly, however, is the logistics. As the smallest branch of the armed services the U.S. Coast Guard accomplishes its mission set with just a fraction of the assets, personnel, and budget as her Department of Defense counterparts. Expanding the mission set of the Coast Guard will only spread these resources more thin without congressional budgetary aid to gradually build up international forces overseas.
The solution to the problem of securing strategic maritime passageways is a complex one. The solution cannot escalate tensions, must facilitate international cooperation, be non-intrusive, and help bolster nations forces. In many of the strategic chokepoints around the world, tensions run high. The necessity for diplomatic operations makes the Coast Guard the best choice to accomplish this mission. Expanding the United States Coast Guard s assets and programs internationally will allow for these requirements to be met and give the United States a strategic advantage in the control of international maritime security.
Victoria Castleberry is a student at the Coast Guard Academy. She is a junior who studies government and focuses on security studies. She is the varsity coxswain for the women s crew team. She participates in the cadet musical and was recently a dancer in the musical Footloose. She has 2 dogs named Ezekiel (Zeke) and McCain (Mac) and grew up in Northern Virginia. She will be stationed in Puerto Rico on the USCGC Richard Dixon this summer. She hopes to become a Deck Watch Officer and drive big white boats somewhere south of the Mason-Dixon Line and attend law school.
Allen, Craig, Jr. White Hulls Must Prepare for Grey Zone Challenges. U.S. Naval Institute, November 2016: 365.
Castonguay, James. International Shipping: Globalization in Crisis. Witness Magizine. n.d. http://www.visionproject.org/images/img_magazine/pdfs/international_shipping.pdf (accessed March 28, 2017).
Katzman, Kenneth, Neelesh Nerurkar, Ronald O Rourke, R. Chuck Mason, and Michael Ratner. Iran s Threat to the Strait of Hormuz. Congressional Research Service, 2012: 1-23.
Korn, LT Jared, interview by Victoria Castleberry. Operations Officer CGC Adak Interview (March 29, 2017).
Rodrigue, Jean-Paul. Stragetic Maritime Passages. The Geography of Transport Systems. n.d. https://people.hofstra.edu/geotrans/eng/ch1en/appl1en/table_chokepoints_challenges.htm (accessed March 27, 2017).
US Coast Guard. United States Coast Guard. December 12, 2016. https://www.uscg.mil/lantarea/PATFORSWA/ (accessed March 30, 2017).
. United States Coast Guard. December 21, 2016. https://www.uscg.mil/d14/feact/Maritime_Security.asp (accessed March 31, 2017).
Williams, Colonel Robin L. Somalia Piracy: Challenges and Solutions. Academic Reseach Project, Carlisle Barraks: United States Army War College, 2013.
1. Castonguay, James. International Shipping: Globalization in Crisis. Witness Magizine. n.d. http://www.visionproject.org/images/img_magazine/pdfs/international_shipping.pdf (accessed March 28, 2017).
2. Rodrigue, Jean-Paul. Stragetic Maritime Passages. The Geography of Transport Systems. n.d. https://people.hofstra.edu/geotrans/eng/ch1en/appl1en/table_chokepoints_challenges.htm (accessed March 27, 2017).
3. Katzman, Kenneth, Neelesh Nerurkar, Ronald O Rourke, R. Chuck Mason, and Michael Ratner. Iran s Threat to the Strait of Hormuz. Congressional Research Service, 2012: 1-23.
5. US Coast Guard. United States Coast Guard. December 12, 2016. https://www.uscg.mil/lantarea/PATFORSWA/ (accessed March 30, 2017).
6. United Nations. United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, Part III Straits Used for International Navigation (n.d.).
7. US Coast Guard. United States Coast Guard. December 12, 2016. _______https://www.uscg.mil/lantarea/PATFORSWA/ (accessed March 30, 2017).
-United States Coast Guard. December 21, 2016. https://www.uscg.mil/d14/feact/Maritime_Security.asp (accessed March 31, 2017).
8. United States Coast Guard. Maritime Security
9. United States Coast Guard. Maritime Security
12. Williams, Colonel Robin L. Somalia Piracy: Challenges and Solutions. Academic Reseach Project, Carlisle Barraks: United States Army War College, 2013.
Featured Image: ASTORIA, Ore. Two Coast Guard 47-foot motor lifeboat crews comprised of members from smallboat stations throughout the Thirteenth District train in the surf at Umpqua River near Winchester Bay, Ore. (Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer First Class Shawn Eggert)
There was confusion today over whether a guard of honour will be given to Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Singh Sajjan tomorrow. As per official programme, he was to be accorded a tri- service guard of honour outside South Block lawns in Raisina Hills tomorrow morning. However, the defence ministry, in the evening, issued a revised media invite, saying the guard of honour to the Canadian Minister stands cancelled.
But later, it clarified that the guard of honour will take place as scheduled and there was miscommunication on the issue. When contacted, the Canadian High Commission refused to comment. Earlier in the day, official invitation was sent to visual media for coverage of the event.
Sajjan will have wide-ranging talks with Defence Minister Arun Jaitley and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on a range of bilateral issues, particularly on ramping up defence and security ties. Ahead of Sajjan’s visit, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said he would not meet him alleging that the Canadian Minister is a “Khalistani sympathiser”. Canada had termed the allegation as “disappointing and inaccurate”.
(This article has not been edited by DNA’s editorial team and is auto-generated from an agency feed.)