NEWS

State Department Says Commercial Ships Should Use Armed Guards for Protection

By Carlton Purvis

The United Nations Security Council on Tuesday adopted a resolution calling for a comprehensive international response to maritime piracy off the coast of Somalia and asking members to cooperate with the Somali government to use “all necessary means” to combat piracy. Continued instability, escalating ransom payments, and the flow of arms into the region fuel the growth of piracy in the region, the UN said. Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of State said that because it’s difficult for naval forces patrolling international waters to protect every commercial vessel, the vessels should hire armed security.

The 15-member body unanimously adopted resolution 2020 (2011) stressing the need for international support to combat piracy and its causes. The resolution calls on states to take part in fighting Somalia’s pirate problem by deploying ships, arms, and military aircraft to the region. It also asks them to take part in seizures of equipment used by pirates.

Pirates are increasingly turning to kidnapping and hostage-taking to generate funding to purchase weapons and continue operations, according to the resolution.

Assistant Secretary Andrew Shapiro at the State Department Bureau of Political-Military Affairs said that there has been a decline in the number of successful pirate attacks this year because of security steps taken by commercial vessels traveling in high-risk areas.

While speaking to the Defense Trade Advisory Group earlier this month, Shapiro said the U.S. had recently helped Somalia establish a national policy encouraging countries to allow their commercial ships sailing in high-risk waters to carry armed security personnel on board.

“The reason for this is simple: to date no ship with an armed security team aboard has been successfully pirated,” he said. “We have recently demarched countries to permit the use of privately contracted armed security personnel on commercial vessels.”

Shapiro said the State Department is working with countries to make it easier for privately contracted security personnel to transit foreign ports with weapons intended for the self-defense of ships.

It sounds like a simple solution, but it just isn’t that easy Robert Young Pelton of Somalia Report, a Somalia-based news organization said.

“There is also much work to do internationally to allow the unimpeded flow of vessels with weapons on board," he wrote in response to Shapiro’s comments. "Certain regions like the Suez controlled by Egypt specifically banned the presence of weapons and armed guards. Now they request a detailed list of weapons and personnel on board. Armed guards are confined to deploying from countries like Yemen or Oman who have a working relationship with security companies. But landing a ship in Mogadishu and offloading an armed crew would be violating the UN Arms Embargo.”

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