Changing View

Industry experts are calling for the deployment of armed guards on merchant vessels to combat piracy.

A slew of maritime professionals who may previously opposed the measure for fear of escalating the violence, have changed their minds, according to the Women’s International Shipping & Trading Association (WISTA).

The debate voted by 42 votes to 16, with 13 abstentions, to support armed guards on ships.

Peter Hinchliffe, Secretary General of the International Chamber of Shipping said the International Maritime Bureau had reported that there were 440 attacks on shipping in 2010, and he cited the rising brutality in some recent cases. He said “the current version of piracy” involved Somali youths, who were financed by organised crime syndicates.

“It is our belief that the use of armed guards be permitted by the flag state when considered appropriate,” added Hinchliffe.

However, Leslie-Anne Duvic-Paoli, of the UK’s Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security, questioned the trustworthyness of private security companies in a market which was unregulated and a legal framework that was vague.

And she warned: “When pirates see that there are armed guards on board they will resort to more violence.”

Jim Davis, Chairman of the International Maritime Industries Forum, and a Wista-UK Ambassador, said that the problem of rules of engagement had not been raised clearly during the debate.

He said: “In the medium term, we must get the United Nations behind us. In the long term, there is the need to address the question of an anarchic, totally poor country [Somalia].

“The freedom of the high seas and trading thereon is one of the oldest legal requirements. That must be reinforced. On land, too. In Somalia we have a big job to do.

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