As the UK government continues its evaluation of private security provisions for ships, the UK shipping minister Mike Penning as spoken and stated that “We do not want cowboys.”
The list of governments that are moving to regularise the legal position of ships under their flags carrying armed guards is increasing and the vetting and due diligence which is required is coming to the fore.
The UK is planning to change its laws to permit UK flag ships to carry armed guards. Norway has recently passed legislation to allow armed security guards on its ships, while the US is actively encouraging their use and pressure is mounting on other governments such as Germany to follow suit.
Even the EU is getting involved. The European Commission Task Force on Maritime Employment has stated, “flag States should grant appropriate legal authority subject to conditions concerning the organisations providing armed protection”.
So it is clear that private security is the answer, but there are a few tough questions to be asked first. Lloyd’s List has stressed that selecting a private security provider offering armed protection is not straightforward, and very careful precautions are needed when when selecting a contractor to who will be providing potentially lethal services.
This is far outside the normal procurement process or procedure, and it is increasingly the case that owners and their shipping associations are looking for guidance.