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World Cargo News: Ban on private armed guards on ships

The Dutch Labour Party has proposed a motion in Parliament to ban the use of private armed guards on Dutch-flagged merchant vessels. The Dutch shipowners’ association KVNR and the seafarers’ union Nautilus have expressed their annoyance with the plan, proposed by the Dutch Social Democrats (PfdA) in Parliament.

If a Bill is passed into law, says KVNR’s Chairwoman Tineke Netelenbos, herself a former Minister of Trabsport, KVNR will not hesisate to go to court against the Dutch state.
Sultan Günal-Gezer, MP, said that the PvdA, a member of the governing coalition, will enter a motion against the Cabinet’s plan to legalise private armed guards on board of Dutch-flagged merchant ships as a deterrent against piracy. “It is unheard of, that someone from behind a desk in The Hague knows better than the Defence Department, or than the seafarers who actually sails these dangerous areas,” Netelenbos said. “The PvdA wants to deprive the seafarers and their relatives of the hope for a lasting solution,” added Marcel van den Broek, chairman of Nautilus.

The Defence Department has acknowledged that private armed guards should be allowed in specific cases. They include smaller ships whose schedule is likely to be changed while at sea to take advantage of a “spot” commodity market. A report commissioned by the previous Dutch cabinet even argued that the state has the legal obligation to allow this, if the state is unable to offer adequate protection itself. According to Netelenbos, it is no secret that the drop in armed piracy attacks off Somalia is due to the fact that all merchant ships sailing these waters enjoy armed private protection.

However, the Dutch shippers’ association says that it is sceptical about legalising armed protection, adding that the deployment of Royal Dutch Marines should be eased. According to the Defence Department’s guidelines, the deployment must include 11 marines plus support staff, per merchant ship. Shipowners have complained that the application for Royal Marines’ protection takes too long, and the deployment itself is too costly.

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