Home' Ships and Shipping : April 2011 Contents make clients aware of some of the key arguments in the debate
over how best to protect your ship and crew, should your security
strategy ever be called into question by the media.
Arguments in favour of private security
1) Armed guards on board ships will act as a strong deterrent to
pirates and lead to a decrease in vessels and crew being hijacked.
Crew will feel safer transiting the Gulf of Aden and other pirate
hotspots if they have trained professionals onboard to protect
them. Ships must be able to defend themselves.
2) Vessels are being hijacked or attacked every week, and this will
only increase until someone takes a stand. Other types of
non-violent defence have proved unsuccessful time and again, while
no ship that has had armed guards onboard has ever been hijacked.
3) The airline industry uses armed guards both on land and in
the air. Why shouldn’t shipping?
4) Paying ransoms only encourages pirates to repeat their actions
and significantly increases the likelihood that pirates will continue
to attack unarmed vessels. Governments don’t negotiate with
terrorists so why should shipping companies negotiate with pirates.
5) Convoys are largely ineffective. Different types of ships travel
at different speeds. If a ship falls behind in a convoy it is very
possible it could get picked off by pirates waiting for the military
escort to pass.
6) Detours around the Cape of Good Hope take around three
weeks and the costs of this will subsequently drive up prices
including insurance premiums, fuel costs, emissions and transport
costs for companies which choose to sail this route; costs that will
eventually be passed onto consumers everywhere.
7) Private military personnel are trained to elite standards with
many having operated within the military before. They would apply
a strict chain of command and operational procedures for engaging
in combat with an adversary. They would be taking up defensive
duties only and would engage with pirates only when attacked.
8) With the pirates using mother ships to widen the scope of
their operations it is impossible to be part of a naval convoy in
every area of water where piracy is a risk. The “Naval Corridor” has
been successful principally because it concentrates forces being
used on a specific strip of waterway. Is the whole of shipping in the
Indian Ocean and other new piracy-threatened water areas to
become part of a convoy? This is an impossible solution.
Arguments against private security
1) The record in Iraq of security companies like Blackwater,
which is being investigated for its role in the fatal shooting of 17
Iraqi civilians in 2007, raises concerns about unregulated armed
activity and possible legal wrangles of employing private security.
The US came under heavy fire from the media for their
employment of reckless guards and it is easy to see how the same
or fiercer condemnation could be levelled at a commercial
shipping company were they to employ overly aggressive or
reckless private security.
2) Cases of mistaken identity have already occurred in the
struggle to fight piracy in the Gulf of Aden. On November 18, 2008
the Indian Navy claimed to have blown up a pirate vessel which
later emerged to have been a Thai fishing trawler. Only one of the
15-man crew survived and confirmed the gross miscalculation. Were
this to have been a private shipping company responsible for such a
mistake this would greatly damage the reputation of your company
and could possibly lead to law suits and criminal proceedings.
3) Private Military Contractors (PMC’s) are not state-controlled
armed forces, they are mercenaries. Airlines are patrolled by the
police or other government security services in most countries and
are subject to a great deal of oversight and to the laws of the
relevant countries they operate in. PMC’s, on the other hand,
operate in an international legal grey area, with next to no
regulation or oversight. The companies themselves are far from
transparent and there are few ways of authenticating the
experience and validity of PMCs’ resumes.
4) Hijackings do not frequently result in death or injury.
Weapons on board ships could easily lead to an arms race between
predators and prey and injuries or deaths could easily begin to rise.
Why take this risk?
5) So far pirates have treated the majority of captives
respectfully. Some even seem to abide by a pirate code not to harm
captives. This could change if pirates capture a vessel after being
shot at or wounded and the chances of them continuing to show
restraint towards captives would no doubt diminish quickly.
6) Check with both your P&I club and your Flag State before
taking a position on arming your ships. In some cases one or both
will not allow armed security or guns to travel on board the vessel.
Moreover, some countries will not allow armed merchant vessels to
sail through their waters and some ports will not allow a vessel to
enter if there are lethal weapons on board.
7) PSC escorts would cost approx US$100,000 per journey. Costs
could quickly add up and ultimately there may be little financial
difference between paying security contractors and diverting
around the Cape of Good Hope.
9) An arms race and an increase in violence could lead to a
catastrophic environmental disaster if rocket launchers breach a
cargo hold of a vessel carrying combustible or toxic cargo.
10) In some instances non-lethal evasive measures have proved to
be effective. In one case a tug put itself into a high-speed spin and
continued until the attackers gave up and left. This suggests that in
some cases training captains in evasive manoeuvring could be a more
effective strategy than armed guards. Citadels have also proved
effective in buying crew time to await the arrival of naval assistance.
11) It is widely reported that the majority of pirates involved in
cases of attacks or hijackings are under the influence of a highly
potent and widely used drug called “khat”, a plant that produces a
euphoric feeling which experts say renders them fearless. It should
therefore be considered whether a small number of armed guards
would pose a sufficient deterrent to desperate pirates.
12) If under attack it is unclear as to who would be in charge of
the vessel and its crew if there is armed security on board. Would
the captain have authority over the actions of armed guards? Or
would contractors do what they deemed necessary to defend the
vessel even if it contravened with the masters orders? This is an
important consideration as ultimately companies are responsible
for the people they install on their vessel.
13) Dealing with pirates is a moral hardship. Nobody likes the
idea of paying ransom money to pirates but such a payment is
always preferable to the alternative of losing the lives of the crew.
*To access the complete MTI Network Piracy Report 2011, including
invaluable advice regarding media handling, contact:
MTI Network Asia, Hong Kong.
Web: www.mtinetwork.com .hk
MTI Network Asia recommends, among others, the following
contacts as part of preperation when entering dangerous waters:
IMB Piracy Reporting Centre, Malaysia.
24 Hours Anti Piracy HELPLINE Tel: + 60 3 2031 0014
SHIPS AND SHIPPING April 2011 17
The crew of the merchant vessel ‘Faina’ stand on the deck after a US Navy
request to check on their health and welfare. The ship was seized by pirates on
September 25 and forced to proceed to anchorage off the Somali Coast. The ship
was carrying a cargo of Ukrainian T-72 tanks and related military equipment
16, 17 Piracy Feature:Layout 1 25/3/11 11:26 AM Page 17
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