The Dutch House of Representatives is debating today a bill on the introduction of private security guards on board Dutch merchant ships to protect the vessels and their crews from pirate attacks, especially in the Gulf of Aden and Somali waters.
At the moment, when sailing through the high-risk area near Somalia merchant ships are allowed to get protection from a military team through vessel protection detachments (VPD), commissioned by the Ministry of Defense. However, the VPD option often lacks in flexibility, speed and has proven to be a costly option for owners. This has been the case in particular for smaller vessels.
As a result, the owners should be provided with the possibility to hire private security agencies to protect the crews and ships from potential pirate attacks in all circumstances, the Dutch Shipowners Association KVNR says.
According to the bill, proposed by MPs Ten Broeke and Van Halvert, in order to be eligible, a private security firm has to be accredited in accordance with the EU rules.
Shipowner organizations across Europe have criticized the Dutch Government’s slow progress on giving the go-ahead to the carriage of private armed guards on Dutch-flagged ships.
As stressed earlier, the continuing failure to allow private security teams is undermining the competitiveness of the Dutch flag and exposing seafarers to an increased risk of pirates attacks.
In 2017, 136 vessels were boarded across the globe, while there were 22 attempted attacks, 16 vessels fired upon and six vessels hijacked.
In 15 separate incidents, 91 crewmembers were taken hostage and 75 were kidnapped from their vessels in 13 other incidents. Three crewmembers were killed in 2017 and six injured, figures from ICC IMB show.
World Maritime News Staff