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Experts in Every Room and One Dunce in a Corner January 25, 2012

Posted by Chris Mark in Piracy & Maritime Security.
Tags: , , , ,

The influx of new companies within the maritime security industry has increased competition.  In response, some companies have given in to the temptation to embellish the experience or expertise of individuals or companies in an attempt to differentiate themselves from the crowd.  It is an unfortunate reality of business.  In an effort to help shipping companies evaluate the vendors selling “today’s solution to tomorrow’s problem”, I have put together a quick paper on ‘expertise’.  Below is an excerpt of the paper you can read here:


The current market for maritime security and anti-piracy has resulted in the creation of a cottage industry of self-proclaimed experts speaking on the subject of anti-piracy and selling maritime security and anti-piracy services.  A review of some of these “experts’” comments and the services being promoted suggests that the expertise espoused is a rarer trait than one would be led to believe.  This paper is intended to provide information to allow prospective clients to separate the experts from those that claim expertise to capitalize on the current market for maritime security services.   For brevity’s sake, this paper will use the generic term Maritime Security to refer to both anti-piracy and maritime security services.

 Author’s Note

While knowledgeable on the subject, I do not consider myself an expert in maritime security.  I am a payment security expert and probably have expertise in a number of other areas but have not achieved a level of experience or education that would allow me to call myself an expert by any means.

Expertise Defined

To understand how to identify those with actual expertise from those who simply call themselves experts it is important to have a definition of the term ‘expert’. Webster’s dictionary provides the following definition for the noun ‘expert’:


“…one with the special skill or knowledge representing mastery of a particular subject”

 Within the context of maritime security, expert, as a noun would be applied as follows:

“Joe is an Expert in maritime security.” 

Making this statement implies that Joe possesses a special skill or knowledge representing mastery of a particular subject.  In this case, the subject is maritime security.  The focus of this statement should be the word “mastery”.  This suggests that Joe possesses an intimate knowledge rather than a passing familiarity with the topic.

Webster’s dictionary provides the following definition for the adjective ‘expert’:


“…having, involving, or displaying special skill or knowledge derived from training or experience”

Within the context of maritime security the term expert, as an adjective, would be applied as follows:

“Joe’s expertise in maritime security is derived from his formal training and experience.”  

Making this statement indicates that Joe has a special skill or knowledge derived from training or experience.  Within this context, the key is “training or experience”.  Without relevant or appropriate training or experience (or both, in most cases), it is difficult to see how a person could be defined as an ‘expert’.

Consider the example of a Doctor that has passed her medical boards.  While the doctor may be a general practitioner and not considered an expert in neurosurgery, she would arguably be considered an expert in medicine relative to those who have not attended similar training or passed the medical boards.  The doctor’s expertise is qualified by training (medical school) and experience (residency), as well as quantified by passing medical school boards.  If a person were to sit at home and read anatomy and medical books they could certainly attain some level of medical knowledge but it is extremely difficult to see how a person such as the one described would be considered an ‘expert’ in medicine.

While it is not suggested that becoming an expert within the maritime security industry is similar to that of becoming a neurosurgeon, the complexity of the industry and the maritime security challenges should not be underestimated since valuable resources and human lives are at stake.  The maritime security industry is complex and the ever-changing regulatory landscape coupled with the changes the pirates’ tactics increase the complexity.  In his popular book, Outliers, Malcolm McGladry references Neurologist Daniel Levetin who says:

“The emerging pictures from such studies is that ten thousand hours of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert-in anything.””

You can read the full paper here.


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