Wow, this is quite the story.  Here is a Dutch company pleading with their government for them to authorize the use of private armed security on their ships. We are talking about the basic right of self defense here, and their government does not support this.

It also shows the kind of urgency that companies are experiencing. As more shipping companies contract armed security for their vessels, the pirates will be forced to focus their attention on unarmed or minimally armed vessels. If they know that certain flagged vessels are not allowed to have armed guards, well then guess who the pirates will attack?

Now I also wanted to mention another trend that is going on out there that must be looked at.  If you are the owner of a shipping company and are wanting to contract the services of a PSC or PNC, then you need to make sure that this team is in fact armed sufficiently to defend your vessel. Shotguns loaded with bird shot or old bolt action rifles are not sufficient weapons to defeat PKM’s, AK 47’s, or RPG’s–the preferred weapons of today’s pirates.

The reason why I mention this is that I am hearing reports from security contractors that are actually armed with such pathetic weapons, all because the company does not want to invest in sufficient fire power or are unwilling to go through the hoops to get that stuff.  To top it off, the companies are just throwing the weapons overboard before they come into port to avoid any legal problems. That has got to change, because if the ‘armed’ maritime security industry wants to maintain it’s excellent protection record on this seaborne battlefield, it must have sufficient weapons and arming authority.

Nor is having a couple of Glocks on a boat sufficient.(I am still shaking my head on that one, yet they still repelled the assault) Nor is having a total dependence on less than lethal munitions as a deterrence the right strategy. In this arms race on the sea, a team must have the tools necessary to repel an enemy assault. Current reports suggest that pirates are not using shotguns loaded with bird shot, bolt action rifles, or pistols. They are using the big stuff, and they have plenty of money to buy the big stuff.(thanks to all of these ransoms that are paid out)

I have also heard of companies poorly treating their security guards, or paying them a wage that is not the industry standard. What kind of folks do you think a company attracts when they pay so poorly? You be the judge, and I wouldn’t want that kind of force protecting a natural gas tanker/chemical tanker, or millions of dollars in boat and cargo. You pay peanuts, you get monkeys.

Basically, there are companies out there that are providing guard forces that are low paid and insufficiently armed and equipped. A shipping company that is shopping around for a guard force must really get into the details of what a sufficient guard force is.  They need to look at the operational history of that company, they need to look at the weapons and equipment used, the strategies and tactics used, and most importantly, they need to look at the reputation of that company.  A great way to shop is to actually ask the contracted guard force what they think of their company or their operational capabilities. Or you can ask some of the larger trade groups that deal with security contractors, and get some suggestions that way. Do not trust the slick sales tactics of shady companies who do not have the courage or desire to do things right.

The point is, you get what you pay for.  If you picked a security company because they were the cheapest, then doom on you.  If your vessel gets taken by pirates, or your crew is hurt/killed because of a poorly armed, poorly paid and poorly organized guard force, then that is your fault!  Of course you want to look at pricing for this stuff, but you also want the best value guard force that money can buy. Do the research and find the companies that are capable.

There are also no CORS or contracting officers overseeing your decisions. There is nothing to force you to use a capable guard force.  Although you are private industry, and should care about money well spent.

Oh, and you can certainly bet that the pirates will judge your choices and make you pay in blood and treasure for your poor investment in security…. -Matt

Sea transport firm may drop Dutch flag over piracy rules
June 8, 2011
Dual Dutch-Norwegian listed ocean transport company Dockwise has warned the Netherlands it will sail its vessels under a different flag unless it is allowed private guards to fend off pirates.
The company said in a statement on Tuesday it was making an urgent appeal to the Dutch government to remove some legal barriers to allow for armed private protection to combat piracy in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean.
Piracy has emerged as a major security risk for maritime firms, with the European Union saying the first three months of 2011 were the worst on record with 77 attacks and hijackings, up from 36 in the same period of 2010.
But the use of defensive military force at sea remains largely the preserve of states which are often reluctant to allow modern-day cargo ships, with their often multinational crews and ownership structures, to use weapons.

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