Armed guards plan to tackle piracy
Vulnerable cargo ships off the coast of Somalia may be given armed guards by an EU task force being sent to combat the huge surge in piracy there. The British naval commander in charge of the operation, vice admiral Philip Jones, said the EU’s warship flotilla would seek to place “vessel-protection detachments” on board some ships transporting food aid to Somalia.
The EU mission includes four ships and two maritime reconnaissance aircraft and will replace the four-vessel NATO flotilla that has been conducting anti-piracy patrols off the Somali coast on December 15.
The plan to provide vessel protection detachments may threaten Security Firm Blackwater USA’s plans to provide armed security patrols in the region on a contract basis. Blackwater has offered the services of their own ship, the M/V Macarthur, for anti-piracy patrols as well as private maritime security guards to shipping companies, but has so far been unable – at least publicly – to find a client.
Instead, Shipping firms have chosen to re-route around the Cape of Good Hope or attempted with little success to use less expensive, unarmed security guards. The legal implications of using armed private security onboard commercial ships, the increased insurance costs, and the cost of the contractors themselves (often as high as $1,000 per day USD) seem to make the less expensive alternative of simply routing commercial vessels away from known danger areas a more viable alternative. However, this may only move the problem to the already volatile area of Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Liberia, creating the unintended consequence of a rise in piracy on the East coast of Africa.