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    Re: Piracy - this time complete message
    From: Jeremy C
    Date: 2014 Feb 24, 06:03 -0800

    I think that I have some background into this issue that might shed some light as to the practical application of the use of armed guards in High Risk Waters (HRW's), particularly those in the Western Indian Ocean up to the Suez Canal.

    For those new readers, who may not know me, I am a Master of a freighter who sails in those waters and embarks an armed security team.

    There are 2 kinds of armed security teams. The most common is the private security teams hired by commercial shipping interests e.g. the MAERSK ALABAMA. They contract a private company who has licenses to carry and transport firearms internationally. These people are typically former soldiers and/or policemen. There are set chains of actions that end with the use of deadly force. These action plans are reviewed by the Master, Vessel Security Officer, and security team once the team boards. The key is that the team operates under the authority and at the pleasure of the Master. They do not have the option to shoot unless the Master gives authorization either directly or through standing orders. Of course they will probably resort to shooting in self-defense, but to shoot in defense of the ship is the Master's prerogative alone. That being said, a good Master, who is trained in seeing the signs of drug and alcohol abuse, will take proactive measures to ensure that if any of these guards are suspected of drug use, they will no longer have access to the weapons. A last thing is that international standards for security teams including training requirements are currently in the works to regulate these people and companies.

    The second kind of security team is known in the USA as an embarked security team (EST.) These are active duty sailors or marines who are embarked on military vessels, or military vessels under certain charters. These ships may look like war ships, or may look like normal merchant ships. The big difference between an EST and a commercial security team is that the EST operates under their own (military) rules of engagement and only consult with the Master. An EST can, and have, taken independent action without Master's authorization, or even against the Master's wishes. The best known case of this was the MV GLOBAL PATRIOT whose EST killed some Egyptian civilians.

    As far as practice verses theory, if you are interested, download the Best Management Practices (BMP4) and take a look. Armed security guards are but a small part of a total defensive stance against piracy. The sailor's hope is first to avoid detection, but if detected, to present a hard target, and only resort to violent actions such as firearms, if presented with an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury. That means that I won't shoot unless I am being approached by a boat, or boats, displaying weapons and taking aggressive actions.

    As far as effectiveness of these teams, there hasn't been a ship in the Indian Ocean taken when confronted with armed guards. Their mere presence usually deters an attack.

    Jeremy

    PS, GCaptain is the best blog for maritime news and most merchant people I know read it on a regular basis.
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