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Sunday, 28 April 2013

Armed guards off Somalia lead to problems

There is at the moment in Swedish media (and hopefully IRL as well) a discussion about problems with security companies used to protect ships from pirates. There are reports of fishermen being killed by armed guards on ships and that the companies lead to arms smuggling and more, in short; the many security companies in the area lead to problems of them self. I’m not that surprised and have heard similar rumours the last couple of years. The one thing I’ve noticed the most in my research is that the high involvement of security companies has affected the incident reports negatively. I think the effects on reports are a symptom of the same thing: some of the companies are not that interested in telling the world about how they work and the ship owners hiring them understand why.

When I about two years ago had a brief discussion with the person investigating the possibility to regulate the use of armed guards on Swedish ships (as a protection against pirates) I suggested that there should be a risk analysis that looked in to the potential gain with the regulation versus the potential problems with such a regulation. As I understand there never was one, the suggested law is based on the legal possibilities. However the law says (as IMO recommends) that the ship owner should do a risk analysis before taking the decision about hiring armed guards. This leads to two problems:

(1) There is a big difference in a risk analysis for a ship and an analysis of the industry/business of armed guards on ships. In the analysis for the ship such things as dead fishermen and arms smuggling by security companies are not consequences included in the analysis.
(2) There is no (good and well thought through) guideline for how ship owners are to do the risk analysis and how and to what extent the analysis should be audited. There is a possibility that a useless analysis fulfils the requirements.

The result is a multinational business on the waters off Somalia without any real control and too many without enough ethics. I’m convinced that there are good security companies and serious ship owners, but for every month without control there is a risk that the good percentage will decrease.

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