Swedish shipper deploys armed guards against pirates

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Swedish car shipper Wallenius Lines said it had deployed guards with rifles on its vessels to ward off Somali pirates, the first Swedish-flagged shipper to state publicly it had armed personnel on board.

Somali pirates are making millions of dollars in ransoms from seizing ships in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden, despite attempts by international navies to clamp down on such attacks.

Shippers transiting these waters are increasingly warming to the idea of turning to private security suppliers to combat the threat, but have been tight-lipped about details, Reuters reports.
“Because violence has escalated from the pirates’ side we feel we need to take further steps, as best we can, not to be attacked. We have therefore hired companies that deploy experienced staff to handle weapons, to protect our sailors,” said Peter Jodin, head of maritime safety at Wallenius.

He said privately held Wallenius, which transports cars and trucks worldwide, said the arms consisted of assault rifles and sniper rifles.
“It’s weapons that enable us to show approaching pirates from afar that we are armed. This is not meant for close protection.”

The global shipping industry says it is arming vessels extremely reluctantly.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO), the U.N. body charged with ensuring the safety of shipping leaves the decision on whether they travel with specialist security personnel up to the state where a ship is registered.

Jodin said Wallenius’ move matched the IMO’s guidelines and the firm had found no Swedish legislation that forbids it. “We apply the right to self-defence.”

Experts and military officers have said firefights between contractors and pirates in the region may be a daily occurrence, although many are never reported.

They say it is difficult to estimate the number of private security contractors now working off Somalia, but most experts say it could be as high as the mid-hundreds at any one time. Until last year, security contractors usually acted as unarmed advisers.