Sea Transportation: Hunting Permits Legalized


June 23, 2011: The UN has kind of, sort of, unofficially but grudgingly given shipping companies "permission" to hire armed guards for vessels passing through pirate infested waters off the Somali coast. This was done via "interim guidelines" issued last month by the UN and the IMO (International Maritime Organization). Until now, it was understood that armed guards on merchant ships was a grey area, and companies allowing it were risking lawsuits from their victims (even if they were armed pirates) and anyone caught in the crossfire. Some countries flatly forbid ships flying their flag from employing armed guards. This has caused some shipping companies to shift the registration of ships plying pirate infested waters, or threatening to do so if their current country of registration does not openly allow armed guards. Some nations, like the United States and France, have done this, and gone after any pirates seizing ships flying the French or American flag.

Before the new UN/IMO guidelines, only about ten percent of the ships moving through pirate infested waters carried armed guards. It was noted by all that these were the ships least likely to be taken, and frequently the cause of pirates being shot dead (and not officially reported). With the new guidelines, more ships are believed ready to employ armed guards.

The pirates may respond by threatening to kill hostages, but this would invite what the pirates least want; an invasion of their coastal bases. So the UN move may prove to be one of the most effective anti-piracy actions in years.



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