Rules of engagement for armed guards must be clarified
Rules of engagement for armed guards on UK-flagged ships against Somali pirates must be clarified, the Government is to be told.
The call comes after private shipping companies were authorised to use armed guards for self-protection following continued pirate attacks on vessels in the Indian Ocean.
The influential parliamentary Foreign Affairs Select Committee welcomed the decision last year to allow armed guards on British vessels but a new report said guidance on the use of “lethal force” is very limited, leaving ship captains in a difficult position.
The committee of MPs also concluded that the solutions to combating Somali pirates lie on land, with a need for better support for Somalian civil society organisations and local projects.
Some fishermen have said they turned to piracy after central government control collapsed in the country.
And in response to criticism from former captives Paul and Rachel Chandler about the Foreign Office’s support for their family during their 13-month captivity, the committee said the Government should review its communication and other procedures when Britons are kidnapped abroad.
Although NATO and other countries patrol vast tracts of international waters by ship and air – including long-endurance US drones – attacks and kidnaps continue.
Committee chairman Richard Ottaway said: “It is unacceptable that 2.6 million square miles of the Indian Ocean has become a no-go area for small vessels, and a dangerous one for commercial shipping. There is a clear need to take decisive action.
“Naval forces have had some success, but they cannot hope to police such a large area of operation. Ship owners must take responsibility for their own protection, and the Government must let them do so.
“The Government was right to permit private armed guards to defend British-flagged shipping against Somali pirates, but its guidance on the legal use of force lacks critical detail.
“The question anyone would ask is that if a private armed guard on board a UK-flagged vessel sees an armed skiff approaching at high speed, can the guard open fire? The Government must provide clearer direction on what is permissible and what is not.”
Mark Brownrigg, director general of the UK Chamber of Shipping , said: “This substantial report covers the full spectrum of complex issues surrounding piracy. Shipping carries more than 80% of world trade and therefore any threat to ships and seafarers on major routes will have its own impact on the UK and global economy.
“This is why it’s essential that the current effective military presence in the Indian Ocean must be maintained and strengthened, even in the face of today’s economic pressures.”
An upcoming conference in London on Somalia will look at the political, humanitarian and international response needed to fight piracy.
Foreign Secretary William Hague said: “Somali piracy has grown into a major international problem, exacerbating the wider challenges we face in helping Somalia recover from conflict and drought.
Britain supports establishing an extra-territorial Somali court and a policy of prosecuting pirates in local courts.
“Britain will continue to work with the UN, African Union, regional partners and the Somali people to build a stable Somalia and through our work with DFID to build sustainable alternative livelihoods for coastal communities in Somalia,” Mr Hague said.
Source: Sky News