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Private Arsenal Ships in the Fight Against Piracy

by John Reed on March 22, 2012

If you’re a private security company patrolling for pirates in the waters off East Africa where do you store all your firepower when the nearby countries won’t let you store heavy weapons within their boundaries? Why you create a floating arsenal of course!

Creating arsenal ships is exactly what private security firms are up to in the waters off Somalia, the AP is reporting. The only problem is that there are zero safety standards for such vessels, something even the private security firms say is a problem. With up to twevle of these floating arsenals sitting off the African coast, the varying safety standards means that poorly guarded or improperly stored weapons on a boat could find their way into the wrong hands or  worse; one of the boats may be a ripe target for the pirates they’re in place to guard against.

Per the AP:

Storing guns on boats offshore really took off as a business last year. Britain — where many of the operators are from — is investigating the legality of the practice, which has received little publicity outside of shipping industry circles.

Floating armories have become a viable business in the wake of increased security practices by the maritime industry, which has struggled for years to combat attacks by Somali pirates. But those in the industry say the standards vary widely.

Governments and industry leaders “need to urgently address standards for floating armories and get flag state approval,” said Nick Davis of the Maritime Guard Group “Everything has got to be secured correctly, recorded, bonded, the correct locks, and so on. It’s not just a case of find a room, put some weapons in it and everybody chill out.”

Some floating armories did not have proper storage for weapons, enough watchmen, or enough space for guards to sleep indoors, forcing them to sleep on deck, he said.

In the absence of applicable laws, he said, “companies are just being economical with the truth.”

Davis said his company operates two tugs as floating armories and carefully maintains log books for his company’s hundreds of weapons and records for each shot fired. He did not allow other companies to rent out space on his tugs because of regulatory problems, he said, but hopes to do so soon and has sent out advertisements.

“Ships have to use armed guards, yet none of the governments want to provide an ethical and accountable way of using firearms,” he said.

 

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