We have spoken at length in the past about armed guards on ships, and over the past couple of months a number of flag States have begun to show their hand.
Amongst the most proactive has been Norway, and their government, ably supported by the Norwegian Shipowners Association has issued extremely useful clarification on a number of issues relating to the deployment of armed guards.
The Norwegian regulations have set out the type of weaponry that can deployed, how to get an exemption from local firearm laws, and define how cases will be investigated by Norwegian authorities.
Provisional guidelines issued with the rules offer extremely practical advice on the lines of command and legal responsibility in the event of an attack. The net effect of the Norwegian legislation is to give the flag’s owners a stronger foundation for taking action and a serious set of limits.
The fact remains that ships carrying armed guards have (up to now) managed to keep pirates at bay. There are no guarantees that this will remain the case, but for the moment the use of private security is the best option we have to protect ships which may be too far away from naval assets.
For shipping in general, it provides a practical approach to deployment of armed guards that other nations can build upon. Not many people really, truly want to see weapons on ships, but…but what else can we do? We have to recognise that guns are becoming the norm, but the industry has to ensure that their use is properly managed.