Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Mariners Union Cautious On Armed Guards Aboard

Welcome addition but not the only piracy answer
Shipping News Feature

UK/ INTERNATIONAL – Mariners Union Nautilus International has cautiously welcomed the British Prime Minister’s announcement that British-flagged vessels will be able to carry armed guards to protect them from pirate attack.

The Union — which represents some 23,000 ship masters, officers and other shipping industry staff — agrees that the deployment of armed guards on vessels will help to further secure the safety of maritime professionals sailing through high risk areas, but believes that there are still ‘questions to be asked and concerns to be addressed’.

‘There continue to be grave unanswered questions about liability and responsibility associated with the use of weapons onboard merchant ships,’ said Nautilus International general secretary, Mark Dickinson.

‘Whilst it may be reassuring to see that no ships carrying security teams have been hijacked – so far, at least – there are a number of unresolved issues arising from their deployment.

‘There needs to be consideration and agreement on key issues including the liabilities of masters and officers in the event of something going wrong, or the problem of flag states, coastal states and port states facilitating the carriage of weapons onboard. The thorny issue of the cost of providing security has the potential to give further incentives to ship owners to flag out and the quality and regulation of Private Armed Security Guards.’

The Union has previously stated its preference for military Vessel Protection Detachments rather than the privately contracted security operatives proposed by David Cameron in an interview with the BBC.

‘This would ensure there are no concerns regarding training, authority and liability,’ confirmed Mr Dickinson.

‘We believe this would be cost-effective and provide direct protection to merchant vessels. We also believe there should be absolute clarity on the type of weapons private security guards can use.

‘The industry and government are putting the focus on armed guards onboard ships, but there is still significant room for consideration of other, more passive yet highly effective, forms of defence against piracy and armed attacks.

‘It’s important to remember that for merchant seafarers, the problem of piracy is not simply confined to the immediate threat of attack and kidnap but also to health, safety and general welfare.’