Maritime Security

UK Prime Minister authorises ships sailing under the British Flag to protect themselves from Pirates in a bid to help combat the risk to shipping off the coast of Somalia.

In a formal statement this weekend, Prime Minister David Cameron has given permission for British merchant vessels to carry armed guards to protect themselves from pirate attacks.

It has also been reported by the Government that ships, which carried armed guards so far, have a 100% success rate against armed pirates.

There are around 200 British flagged ships that sail close to Somalia, of which it is estimated that around half of those would look at applying for the authorisation to have armed guards aboard.

Zodiac Maritime Agencies Ltd with offices on the River Thames had UK flagged Tanker St James Park hijacked on 29Dec 09 and MV Asian Glory hijacked 1 Jan 10.  These two British flagged vessels were held to ransom until an undisclosed sum was paid for their release.

The new legislation is said to allow armed guards when passing through dangerous waters such as the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.

There are many ships from ‘flag states’ such as Liberia, Panama and the Bahamas that have already taken up services of armed protection on board.  These ships regularly pass through the Gulf of Aden.  Many British ships are also reported to already be carrying armed guards prior to this announcement.

The area that Somali pirates cover is roughly 1500 nautical miles off the Somali coast, covering most parts of the Indian Ocean.  Attacks have increased and attacks have even occurred on land as seen in Kenyan in recent months.

BBC’s Andrew Marr asked David Cameron whether he was comfortable giving private security operatives the right to ‘shoot to kill’ He replied by saying, ’we have to make choices’.

He said that the hijack and ransom of ships around the horn of Africa had become a ‘complete stain on our world’. He also went onto say ‘The fact that a bunch of pirates in Somalia are managing to hold to ransom the rest of the world and our trading system I think is a complete insult’.