Private Security Boom

Only a few years ago governments frowned at the private armed guards that some ships were using to ward off pirates. Today the private sector solution is being embraced as the best defense against increasingly desperate, greedy and violent pirates.

Somali piracy drives security boom
Ships are taking lethal steps to protect against piracy.
By Tristan McConnell, Global Post

NAIROBI, Kenya — Just a couple of years ago, nations with large navies looked with suspicion at the private, armed guards that some ships were using to ward off pirates.

No longer.

These days, such guards are embraced as the best defense against increasingly desperate, greedy and violent pirates.

“The unique selling point for the security companies is that to date no ship with armed guards has been hijacked,” said Stephen Askins, a leading expert on maritime security and piracy at the international law firm Ince and Co. International Maritime Bureau (IMB) figures confirm this.

Armed guards are now on about 1,500 voyages every month, according to the Security Association for the Maritime Industry.

“About half of all ships [now] use armed guards, up from 25 percent a year earlier,” said Andrew Mwangura, editor of the Piracy Report, a journal in Mombasa.

Providing ships with security is a lucrative and growing business: Ship owners spent over $1 billion on “security equipment and armed guards” last year, according to “The Economic Cost of Piracy,” a report by One Earth Future, a non-governmental organization promoting better governance.

Hiring a four-man team for a single voyage through pirate waters costs about $100,000, according to security experts. They say there are hundreds of these teams operating off the Somali coast at any time.

While armed guards are key, other measures have helped as well.

Shipowners have built citadels — fortified ‘panic rooms’ where the crew can be safe from assailants while maintaining control of the vessel. They’ve also………[access full article]

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