|That's not an AK-47 that pirate has|
Until February the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), which represents the world’s merchant shipowners, opposed the use of armed guards—even as some members were discreetly hiring them. Since the chamber changed its line, the number of owners tooling up has accelerated. Now, says Simon Bennett, its spokesman, perhaps 20% of all ships passing through the risky parts of the Indian Ocean have armed guards aboard—typically retired marines or the like.Meanwhile, the UK government seems to have decided armed guards aren't all that bad, as reported here:
In recruiting armed security men, some shipowners have defied the laws of the countries where their vessels are registered. But governments, unable to provide the naval cover the shipowners want, are one by one legalising the practice. Spain, one of the earliest to let its fishing-boats carry armed guards, said on September 27th that they would now be allowed to use machineguns and other heavy weapons against the pirates’ AK-47s.
The UN’s International Maritime Organisation (IMO), while still not endorsing the practice, last month asked Somalia’s neighbours to let armed merchant ships call at their ports. The ICS says it understands Egypt is to lift its ban on armed merchant ships’ passage through the Suez canal. But the Indian government is still said to disapprove of armed merchant ships calling at its ports: their guards either have to go elsewhere or dump their weapons overboard.
An official inquiry in the Netherlands last month recommended that the government itself do the hiring of armed guards, enlisting them as temporary members of the armed forces. This is one potential way to ease worries about the spread of what would in effect be private navies on the high seas—something not seen since government-sponsored “privateers” were banned in the 19th century.
Shipowners’ insurers are worried that ill-trained guards without insurance of their own might shoot someone and land them with huge claims. . . .
There do not yet seem to have been any claims, or lawsuits, over the use of armed ship guards, says Tom Heinan of International Registries (which runs the Marshall Islands’ shipping register). But shipowners using them could face legal action in various places: their own country, the flag state of their ship, the home countries of injured crewmen, and so on. All the more reason to ensure that the guards are competent and well-insured.
As reported in Lloyd’s List, any formal opposition to the use of private armed guards on board UK flagged vessels will now be dropped.The Dutch are going to provide an armed force for ship riding, as set out here, as will Italy.
UK Foreign Office minister Sir Henry Bellingham confirmed a reversal on the previous strong discouragement of armed vessel protection.
Welcome to 19th century, sorta. Sometimes you just have to shoot back.