A very British export

Sri Lanka was the stated destination for military items worth more than £3m in just three months last year, used protecting shipping from Somali pirates.

A very British export: guns and mercenaries to fight piracy in Somalia

In the genteel world of clay pigeon and game shooting, the Sportsman Gun Centre is something of a household name as Britain’s leading purveyor of hunting rifles and related paraphernalia ranging from silk ties adorned with pheasant motifs, through moleskin breeches and tweed gilets, to full camouflage suits.

Lately however, the Exeter-based company appears to have been branching out into rather more exotic territory: details released by the government under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that it received licences last year to export more than 1,000 assault rifles, combat shotguns, pistols and other weapons to Sri Lanka.

The licences were granted at a time when UK arms exports to the south Asian country have been on the increase. Sri Lanka was the stated destination for military items worth more than £3m in just three months last year. More than £2m of those exports was under the “ML1” label – used by the UK’s Export Control Organisation (ECO) to denote small arms and weapons.

Yet, rather than going to the military of a country still classified by the Foreign Office as a “country of concern” for human rights abuses, the weapons sales are an apparent spin-off from a boom area for many British businesses – the protection of shipping from Somali pirates.

It is four years since raiders based on the Somali coast began to terrorise the busy shipping lanes of the Indian Ocean, and in that time the maritime security business has mushroomed on an unprecedented scale. It is now worth £100m a year to British companies according to ADS, a trade organisation for the UK’s aerospace, defence, security and space industries.

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Source: The Guardian.

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