Tuesday, April 29, 2008

International Piracy: The Real Deal

The other evening we were watching Wes Anderson's Life Aquatic, a film which - somewhat mockingly - includes some international pirates. I was reminded, however, that this is a serious problem that still plagues much of the world's seas, and doubtless would threaten even more of them if it were not for the US Navy.

As Standish has recently pointed out, private security contractors are helping to fight this menace. Below is most of his article:

A report released by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich... cites statistics from the International Maritime Bureau showing that piracy is on the rise. Recent news accounts regarding French and Spanish vessels reinforce this story.

Within the private sector, shipping, oil and insurance firms have been impacted by a significant and long-term increase in pirate attacks mounted against off-shore oil platforms, tankers and cargo vessels traveling throughout the world's shipping lanes. In strategic choke points like the Malacca Straits, large, slow-moving container ships and tug-pulled drilling rigs are easily approached and boarded by the much smaller, agile and quicker boats used by today's pirates. These attacks, measured in terms of ship and cargo losses as well as increased insurance premiums, have amounted to losses of up to US$16 billion annually.

That's where PSCs come in.

At the federal level, both the Department of Homeland Security and the US Coast Guard have solicited advice from PSCs on matters of maritime security. For example, after the 9/11 attacks, a number of British firms - including Marine Underwater Security Consultants and Hart Security - were invited to participate in a committee drafting of the US Coast Guard's ISPS Code submission to the International Maritime Organisation. After the bombing of the USS Cole, the PSC Blackwater was awarded a contract to train over 50,000 US sailors in the use of small arms to defend their ships from terrorist attacks.

This US public-private interface has not been limited to merely an advisory or training role. At the local government level, the US has launched a number of pilot programs using the firm Seawolf Marine Patrol to provide manned guarding services for a US ports. Overseas, the US navy has relied upon the PSC Glenn Defense Marine Asia to provide security - complete with armed ghurkhas - for its naval vessels while in port.

The United States is not the only employer of maritime PSCs:

Middle Eastern and Asian states have hired PSCs like Britam to provide training for their own maritime security forces to protect state-owned high-risk maritime assets. In the wake of the 2002 assault on the Limburg tanker in Yemeni coastal waters, for example, Hart Security was hired to train the Yemeni Navy in waterborne anti-terrorist tactics. African states have turned to PSCs in an even more proactive capacity....

Traditionally, various members of the maritime industry more broadly have hired PSCs in risk mitigation roles. For example, the marine insurance industry utilizes PSCs in various political risk advisory, due diligence, asset recovery and maritime kidnap and ransom (k&r) services associated with piracy and terrorism.... Large shipping and oil companies sensitive to increasingly violent pirate attacks against their oil tankers and drilling rigs have turned to PSCs like Background Asia Risk Solutions to provide armed personnel and armored escort vessels to "ride shotgun" while escorting these expensive assets through some of the world's most dangerous waterways.

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