Planning to allow shipping companies recruit armed guards
The government is planning to allow shipping companies recruit armed guards to fight pirates, who have hijacked 12 Indian merchant ships in last four years.
Ministries of shipping, external affairs and defence are working in tandem to come out with an enabling framework that will help to improve security apparatus on commercial vessels.
The industry has been seeking government permission to strengthen their on-board security apparatus specially on ships that use the busy Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean route, where Somali pirates have recently hijacked ships with Indian crew. Although the pirate have not attacked any passenger ship, they have hijacked 12 Indian merchant ships since 2007 and taken 171 crew members hostage.
“The government is considering the proposal (to allow armed guard on board ships),’ the official spokesperson of the Indian Navy said. The three ministries involved in the process have already held discuission with the industry to finalise the contours of the proposed norms.
“We are considering two options. One is to bring out a law and the second is to issue an executive order, which will be a faster way to safeguard our ships. However, the talks have not concluded as of now,” Rajiv Gupta, joint secretary in shipping ministry, said.
It is likely that new norms will favour appointment of ex-naval personnel on ships as they are equipped with necessary know how to deal with the pirate menace on high seas. Besides, it will be easier for the government to give clearance such personnel to carry arms in international waters.
The government has already placed a naval ship in the Gulf of Aden since 2008 to escort Indian merchant vessels. However, this is the first time that it is working on deployment of armed people on-board ships. “Some European countries have laws allowing armed guards on ships,” Gupta said.
Government officials, which did not want to be named, said formation of the enabling rules may take time as the government has to talk to various countries to gain experience on lawfully deploying armed guards in ships. “Guards can be allowed to board the ships in India but what would happen at the destination country. How would the authorities in that country treat these guards?” one of them said.
Source: Financial Express