“In 2011, the numbers of private armed security teams went up significantly and that has been a big game-changer as well, though not the only factor,” Olive said. “If that pressure is taken off it can all start to be unpicked relatively rapidly,” he added, referring to industry and military measures to combat piracy.

It’s nice to see some recognition going towards the efforts of armed security out there. They have been a ‘big game-changer’ and the statistics speak for themselves.

Although one looming iceberg that can really mangle the record of private armed guards are shootings that result in innocent people being killed. I have to imagine that we will see private maritime security industry involved in such a thing, and an example of how that might turn out can be seen with the shooting accident that happened last February between some Italian Marine vessel protection guards and an Indian fishing vessel.

In that accident, one innocent person was killed, and it is the type of deal that has been all over the news in both India and Italy. This kind of international incident would literally destroy a security company and absolutely embarrass the client. But it would also be the kind of incident that would put some extreme negative attention on the maritime security industry as a whole. The question is how do you prevent something like that from happening, and can you?

Logically speaking, it is bound to happen. So the prudent thing for companies is to actually prepare your legal strategic defense for such an event. To study how this specific event between the Italians and Indians, and learn from it to get a good game plan together. Of course you always want to refine your rules of engagement and enforce it with training and good management/leadership, but in the realm of combat, unfortunate things happen and companies must be prepared.

One final point is the use of the Letter of Marque (LoM) or a similar licensing system. This could be used as a form of protection for those armed guards on the high seas. If the ship’s captain carries a LoM for that vessel, issued by the same state the vessel is flagged under, then in that case the state can identify through that license what they are legally willing to support when it comes to the defense of that vessel. Under the terms of the LoM, you can list all sorts of requirements of the vessel’s protection team, and you can write up legal protections for that team and vessel.

The main point of this type of LoM is to get the state back into the game of regulating armed force on these vessels and provide some kind of legal protections and accountability. If states are willing to put their flag on a vessel, then why not go the whole way and allow them to issue a LoM or similar license for this kind of ‘warfare on the high seas’? -Matt

 

Piracy plunges as more ships start carrying armed guards
November 30, 2012
By Michelle Wiese Bockmann
Pirate attacks on merchant vessels in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean fell 81 per cent this year as the use of armed security guards on ships acted as a “game-changer,” according to the European Union’s naval force.
There were 34 attacks by Somali pirates, with five vessels hijacked so far in 2012, compared to a record 176 assaults in the whole of last year that resulted in 25 ships seized for ransom, according to Peter Olive, the EU Naval Force’s chief of staff.
Ransom payments to Somali pirates totaled $36 million so far this year, compared with $147 million last year, he said Thursday at a briefing at the EU’s naval force headquarters at Northwood, England. As well as more aggressive military operations, the increasing deployment of private guards over the last 18 months on vessels transiting high-risk areas contributed to the declines, Olive said.
“In 2011, the numbers of private armed security teams went up significantly and that has been a big game-changer as well, though not the only factor,” Olive said. “If that pressure is taken off it can all start to be unpicked relatively rapidly,” he added, referring to industry and military measures to combat piracy.


Naval forces from three missions are deploying as many as 20 ships at a time, patrolling an area larger than Europe, to disrupt pirates who threaten international trade. The cost of piracy last year was estimated at $6.9 billion, including $1.3 billion spent on military operations and $1.16 billion on armed guards and vessel security, according to a report in February by One Earth Future Foundation. About 42,450 vessels transit the region each year, with as many as half using armed guards by the end of 2011, the Broomfield, Colo.-based nonprofit said.
“The fact there is private armed security employed in the region, there’s nobody who’s happy with that,” said Hank Ort, chief of staff for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s counter-piracy mission. “From a NATO point of view, it’s not something we take a position on. Having said that, it does help; ships that get attacked that have security have always been able to get away.”
Trade through the region is valued at $1 trillion, according to the EU naval force, known as EU Navfor. About 35 per cent of crude oil shipped by sea and 20 per cent of oil traded worldwide transits through the Strait of Hormuz, which connects the Persian Gulf with the Gulf of Oman, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Twenty per cent of the world’s liquefied natural gas from Qatar also passed through the strait, it said.
Story here.