According to an announcement made to Hong Kong shipowners, the US now “insists” that all US-flagged ships carry security personnel, whether armed or unarmed.
The steps are needed to defend against pirate attacks, and it is being seen by many as the latest in a long line of signals that international approval of armed guards is rapidly becoming standard practice.
US Assistant secretary of state for political and military affairs Andrew Shapiro made the statement to members of the Hong Kong Shipowners Association during a visit by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Both Clinton and Shapiro have been outspoken on the issue of piracy, and it seems that they are pushing through rapid and positive change.
Speaking to Lloyd’s List, Arthur Bowring, managing director of the Hong Kong Shipowners’ Association, said the US authorities want to know what is happening, and they want to find out the best way of doing things. Speaking of Shapiro, Bowring added: “He was given the job to talk to people about what the industry thinks.” Which appears to many observers to be a very positive sign.
It is understood that the shipowners present were interested in proposals for UN “blue berets” to serve as armed guards on ships as an alternative solution to using private contractors, but given the large number of UN peacekeeping forces necessary for such an undertaking it seems likely that the private companies will continue to fill the security gap.