Proposal for having armed naval guards on merchant vessels has been ruled out
As the government continues to discuss measures to check pirate attacks on the high seas, a proposal for having armed naval guards on merchant vessels has been ruled out.
The Navy has expressed its inability to the government to take up the task in view of the limited manpower for its various missions, informed sources told The Hindu. Besides being on an anti-piracy patrol mission in the Gulf of Aden, the Navy has also been carrying out a vigorous campaign against piracy closer to the Indian shores.
Sources in the government said discussions are on to work out modalities as also the agency to be tasked with providing armed security aboard ships.
As of now, there is no policy in the country of having armed private guards for protection on the high seas, a practice cleared by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) as an interim measure.
Last month, the IMO Maritime Safety Committee issued interim guidance that the use of privately contracted armed security personnel (PCASP) should not be considered an alternative to the Best Management Practices to Deter Piracy off the Coast of Somalia and in the Arabian Sea area and other protective measures.
“Placing armed guards on board as a means to secure and protect the vessel and its crew should only be considered after a risk assessment has been carried out. It is also important to involve the Master in the decision making process. The guidance includes sections on risk assessment, selection criteria, insurance cover, command and control, management and use of weapons and ammunition at all times when on board and rules for the use of force as agreed between the ship owner, the private maritime security company and the Master,” the IMO noted.
According to the interim recommendations, Flag States should have in place a policy on whether or not the use of PCASP will be authorised and, if so, under which conditions. It said a Flag State should take into account the possible escalation of violence which could result from the use of firearms and carriage of armed personnel on board ships when deciding on its policy.
Over the past few months, the Navy has thwarted a number of attempts on merchant ships in the region and rescued a Chinese ship that was noted by Beijing. The Navy has recommended that merchant ships have a strong room where the personnel can take refuge in case of a pirate attack before help arrives.
Source: The Hindu