UK Green Light

The issue of maritime security, and more particularly the use of armed security teams onboard vessels has been debated at length lately, and according to reports the UK governmen is set to give legal backing to the use of armed guards on UK-flag ships.

According to Lloyd’s List draft legislation is being drawn up, which means we are close to formal acceptance of the use of private security personnel on UK ships sailing through waters where pirates are active.

The use of armed protection has been going on for a while now, but the use of armed teams has increased as the numbers of pirate attacks have risen and the effectiveness of the global navy taskforce seems to have lessened. With pirates ranging over such as vast sea space, there is indeed a feeling of each ship for itself. Armed guards are a natural consequence of this.

These proposed changes to the law which will ensure shipowners whose vessels have firearms on board are not at risk of prosecution are a positive step, it will help owners who simply want to protect their crews and vessels. It should also make it easier to control the standards of the armed guards used and the companies which provide them.

There is still much to be settled, and the full legal ramifications of armed guards killing people, whether pirates or innocent fishermen still need to be tested. The UK Shipping Minister Mike Penning likened it to, “opening a Pandora’s box”. In truth the box has been open for some time, and it makes sense to actively police its contents.

The consequences of the Firearms Act will need to be amended, as a result, the jurisdiction of coroners’ courts will possibly extended and private security firms properly regulated.

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