The Norwegian government has approved ships to carry weapons in efforts to resist piracy.
Trade and Industry Minister Trond Giske and Minister of Justice Knut Storberget presented new rules and regulations, Wednesday, following ongoing discussions since March.
The Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean are witness to increasingly common and violent piracy. Approximately half of the Norwegian-owned 1,000 vessels sail under the Norwegian flag off the Somali coast, and several sailors in the Indian Ocean have been killed.
Up to 300 Norwegian citizens are in the Indian Ocean region at any one time, NTB reports.
“We see that other countries are also introducingsimilar legislation. The pirates have goodintelligence. They know the contents of the cargo, who the creware, and whether there are armed guards aboard. We want our sailorsto feel safe,” said Minister Giske.
Shipping companies can already apply on behalf of contracted security firms from tomorrow, but according to the minister have to prove “that allother measures have been tried first.”
Conducting their own risk assessments of the need for armed guards, as well as presenting security company documentation about training, qualifications, recruitment, proper weapons storage and deployment procedures also for part of the requirements.
Seafarers unions have been split on the issue of carrying arms, with pirate researchers fearing this could lead to revenge.
However, today’s move by the government makes previous practises and statements by different shipping companies history, and was greeted positively by the Norwegian Shipowners’ Association.
“Nobody is served by cowboy conditions at sea. It’s good, therefore, that the rules of armament are now clear,” says Haakon Svane, Director of the Contingency Planning Secretariat.
Underlining the Association only advocates having armed guards aboard when the shipping company feels they are necessary, however, he concludes, “Pirates threaten ships and crewsaggressively, and unfortunately, passive safety measures are not always sufficient. Wemust realise that armed guards make the difference between being hijacked and not.”