Gunslingers on the High Seas: A Call for Regulation
55 Pages Posted: 6 Mar 2013 Last revised: 8 Mar 2014
Date Written: January 18, 2014
Since only mid-2011, states have increasingly authorized their shippers to hire private armed guards to protect them as they travel through pirate-infested waters. Estimates indicate that in 2011, the percentage of ships employing armed guards rose from approximately 10% to upwards of 50%. Primarily, the guards are hired out by the 200 to 300 private maritime security companies (PMSCs) that have been created overnight to capitalize on this new opportunity. This article recognizes the importance of protecting innocent seafarers from violent pirate attacks. It also recognizes that the worlds' navies may not be able to protect each and every ship and crew from being attacked. Nevertheless, it argues that states should not be permitted to include private citizens in the fight against piracy without first ensuring that those guards will abide by governing laws and norms and be held accountable should they fail to do so. Yet, as the article shows through a comparison and analysis of the laws and guidance of five states, only some states appear to be providing any guidance regarding the necessary training and qualifications that armed guards must possess or how and when they may lawfully use and transport weapons. This article argues that states need to do more. At the very least, it urges states to agree on vetting and monitoring procedures to make certain that any guards who are hired by shippers are well trained and prepared to safely transport, store, and use weapons. States are responsible for the fight against piracy, and if they want to include private contractors in that fight, then they should act responsibly and regulate and monitor the guards' conduct. Otherwise, in a world where each state is creating its own rules or even no rules at all, the likely outcome is chaotic and violent seas — and perhaps the next "Blackwater" moment.
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