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Ships turn to private security to fight pirates

The Local · 21 Jul 2011, 14:03

Published: 21 Jul 2011 14:03 GMT+02:00

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State secretary in the economics ministry responsible for maritime affairs, Hans-Joachim Otto, said on Thursday that he could not answer the repeated calls from shipping companies for soldiers or armed police officers to accompany their boats.

“We don’t want desperadoes, so we are looking into a certification,” said Otto. He said security firms offering protection would have to meet certain standards. The government had until now always rejected such a solution, unwilling to give up the state’s monopoly on the use of legitimate force.

He said the number of pirate attacks on German ships had risen from 100 to 163 during the first half of 2011. The number of successful hijackings had dropped though, from 27 in the first half of 2010 to 21 in the first six months of this year.

State efforts to offer protection have not made much of a splash, with the European Union mission ‘Atalanta’ offering two operation teams – a German and an Estonian – but German ships alone undertake around 1,700 trips through pirate-infested areas each year.

The frigate Bayern left the marine base at Wilhelmshaven this Monday to take over the leadership of ‘Atalanta’ mission for four months.

Otto justified the decision to allow private firms to take on the work saying that money transports were routinely accompanied or even undertaken by such companies – no-one would expect a police team to be stationed at every bank.

Shipping firms have started taking matters into their own hands, with a study published last week by the consultancy firm PwC showing 27 German ships already carry armed security men on board, with a further six employing unarmed security operatives. Just 17 percent of the 100 firms questioned said they thought the ‘Atalanta’ mission added to safety in the pirate regions.

The Association of German Ship Owners (VDR) confirmed the move towards employing armed guards, but said it was only a second-best solution. International ocean law says that fighting piracy should be a matter for nations – armed forces fighting piracy should at least be under contract of a state.

“We would be happy to pay for it – it’s not about saving money,” said Max Johns, VDR spokesman, acknowledging that arming ships carried risks. “The pirates are constantly upgrading their weaponry – it could come to exchange of fire which could be very bloody,” he said.

The problem of pirate attacks has led to hugely increased insurance premiums for ship owners, as well as taking costly diversions and making increased investment in ship security – as well as difficulties in recruiting.

“Around 200,000 additional shipping personnel are needed, including 50,000 officers, just for those ships on the global register,” said PwC shipping transport expert Claus Brandt.

Story continues below…

The outlook for German shipping firms was slowly improving, the PwC report said, as the world economy pulls itself back from the crash and trade increases. Around 48 percent of those asked said they expected increased turnover this year, while 29 percent said they expected stable results.

The Local/DAPD/DPA/hc

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

15:46 July 21, 2011 by twisted
This decision doesn¦#39;t bode well for the German government. The decision to reduce the size of the armed forces and then tell ship owners that the government cannot do the job to protect German interests doesn¦#39;t seem like a wise choice. What exactly are the armed forces for? Next, will the government say the armed forces are too small to protect the country and will turn to NATO to do it?
21:55 July 21, 2011 by whpmgr
It is interesting that one would think that the German Government would be responsible for every ship moving with a german flag. It is more economical and probably easier to have private security on the ships. THey can be there immediately as needed, they are paid fro by the people that need them, and if they never get used, it doesnt cost the german citizen.

The problem lies in this: If the German Government hired the ships to do a German Government mission, I can see where they should provide soem sort of security, but would believe that a private team that meets German Government standards would be used- cheaper than parsing out military uinits, and taking a chance on mobility issues if they are needed. Second is the fact that this does show that without the NATO allies, and US, German forces are way too small to cover requirements the government has for official Gevernment business.

It would be best if all Navies concentrated on Securing Somalia, and going after every pirate. Kill on sight. The marines did this in the 1800s when they went after the barbary coast pirates- so, that would help resolve the issue at large. If we made it so deadly to be a pirate, few would do it. If we made it a major problem of life and death for all of the families of the pirates and terrorists, no one be one, as their families would suffer. Many might continue, but fewer would make themselves available for the task if their moms, sons, dads, had to die for their crimes.
23:59 July 21, 2011 by Der Grenadier aus Aachen
I agree. Just sink the bastards and be done with it.

Merchant-flagged raiders, ala Wolves in Sheeps' Clothing, were very effective at flushing out the enemy during the war. I think a similar strategy would serve.
11:19 July 22, 2011 by Englishted
I agree with both above ,but don't understand why there is not a compulsory convoy system in operation ?.

Just blow them out the water and ask questions later.
20:41 July 22, 2011 by bernie1927
@Der Grenadier and @Enlightened.

I agree and can not understand why there is not a convoy policy and I also agree that if pirates try to board a ship in international waters they should be shot on the spot. That should also go for the Israelis who commit piracy by boarding in international waters.
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