Back in April the Dongfang Glory, a Malaysian-owned tanker, was attacked by pirates. After detaining the crew, the assailants offloaded fuel stored in the hold. After three hours of siphoning the cargo, the pirates destroyed the ship’s communications systems and escaped with around $100,000 worth of petroleum1
In light of such attacks vessel owners have to consider what measures are most effective for their protection and to repel such occurrences. In 2010 armed guards went from being a risky prospect to the industry standard for many of the world’s big shipping firms2. The industry has been dominated by British firms and guards who have had careers in the military, particularly highly experienced former Royal Marines and there are now hundreds of armed guards at sea every day.
However, the transition to the use of armed guards has not been without resistance and the potential escalation of the use of force remains one of the bedrocks of the argument against their deployment. Permitting the use of weapons also heightens the risk of serious injury to people, property, the ship itself and the surrounding area. Historically, the main concerns have been:
- The fear of escalating violence;
- Identity of the guards;
- Issues of jurisdiction in foreign waters; and
- The issues of control and who will have final say.