Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Government restrictions are the reason that Somali pirates thrive

Two weeks ago I asked why shippers don't hire private security to deal with Somali pirates off the coast of East Africa, and instead spend hundreds of thousands of dollars avoiding the area by taking a different route. I postulated that the reason they didn't was because they were worried they'd lose their subsidies in the form of states' navies securing the high seas if they showed themselves capable of doing the job themselves, but since then I've heard of another, better reason: they're not allowed to properly defend themselves.

Channeling the investigative powers of the internets, Wired finds that shippers don't forgo effective private defense of their cargo for financial reasons, but rather because they're flat-out not allowed to. The Times of London found that it's "almost impossible to carry firearms through Customs and on to vessels in most countries," and so shippers are left defending themselves with increasingly ineffective non-lethal weapons. It also noted that there are security risks to carrying firearms on board a flammable oil tanker, however the founder of a private security company in his blog doesn't buy this excuse, noting that real militaries mix weapons and ammunition and oil all the time. An analyst with another private security firm echoed this sentiment, noting that "the downstream legal implications of hiring private security are really pretty substantial."

And just for a comparison against the quarter- to half-million dollar hit that shipping companies have been taking by avoiding the Somali coast that I mentioned two weeks ago, the half-baked private security solutions involving non-lethal weapons cost at most £12,000 per journey.


Anonymous said...

Seems to me, that there ought to be places where ships could get weapons - at least small arms - onto their vessels. Of course, the UN would get all a-twitter if some shipowner or captain decided to arm their vessel. But a few .50-caliber machine guns mounted at strategic locations on a ship would probably suffice to put paid to most pirates....

Brooks Lyman

49erDweet said...

And again we see a fulmination of the Law of Unintended Consequences.

30 years ago one assumed masters of vessels were well armed, ergo, not much chance for piracy. Now with all the "feel good" anti-gun laws in effect everywhere in the "feel good" world, unarmed vessels of every sort and size are now sitting ducks.

Next they'll outlaw two way radios.

RightWingNutter said...

I'm very skeptical that a ship owner who wanted to put a few Mausers, Springfields, or M1 Garands and some ammo into a locker under the Captain's control couldn't do so. Then hire a few crew who know how to use them, particularly at ranges over 300 yards. Once on board and locked up, customs need never see them.

A large ship is a pretty stable platform with a lot of steel cover for someone plinking at small boats with exposed AK waving crews.

Anonymous said...

Rightwingnutter -
that's not the problem -
While in port, loading or unloading, the local, um, authorities can come aboard and SEARCH ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING they want.
If firearms are found and they are illegal in that particular country ( which is the case almost everywhere ) you suddenly find yourself and your ship in custody and being held for some sort of ransom ( bribes etc. ) by 'authorities'.
This is why most ships, merchant and private are unarmed.
Stupid, idiotic and dangerous but true.

gdp said...

The arming of merchant ships is strictly forbidden under International Law --- specifically, the 1856 "Declaration of Paris," which among other things declared the practice of arming merchant vessels and of issuing Letters of Marque and Reprisal to "Privateers" to be themselves the moral equivalent of sanctioning piracy.

Subsequent to the Declaration of Paris, only military vessels are allowed to mount deadly weapons of any type, and only military officers are allowed to be armed at sea.

While no President of the U.S. Federal Government has ever signed the "Declaration of Paris" treaty, it has remained the policy of every President of the U.S. Government since 1861 to nevertheless abide by its terms.