Norwegian shipowners have welcomed a clarification from the country’s government on the use of armed guards on their ships.
The Norwegian government is expected to release new regulations today, after giving a briefing to the country’s shipowners this week, that will strengthen and clarify certain aspects of the country’s existing ship security laws.
Norway developed its first rules on ship security in 2007 but they did not deal with the then unknown threat of piracy.
The new rules will give owners of Norway-flagged vessels the procedures they will need to follow if they wish to employ armed security when transiting the Gulf of Aden or any other waters believed to be at risk from piracy.
The rule clarification will see owners required to get a general framework permission from a Norwegian police authority and the country’s maritime directorate and then to document the actual use of a properly trained and vetted armed services with the authorities.
Rather than offer a list of approved armed services, Lloyd’s List has been told that the government will develop a blacklist of companies that the country’s flagged owners may not use.
Alongside this new rule there will also be a further clarification on the types of arms that can be brought onto a Norwegian vessel, limiting it to suitable firearms as opposed to any heavy weaponry.
Norwegian Shipowners’ Association director Haakan Svane said it was important for Norwegian owners to get this clarification sorted out as they have been in the dark as to whether any armed guards being used are legal or not.
The NSA has also been critical in the past of the government’s lack of concrete action in tackling the problem in the Gulf of Aden, calling for it to take a stronger role in solving the problem.
The use of armed guards has been escalating in recent months. One prediction offered to Lloyd’s List suggests that six months ago only one in every 20 vessels passing through the waters off Somalia had an armed presence on board. The figure today could be as high as 20%.
The increased use of armed guards on merchant vessels passing through the Gulf of Aden has been highlighted by the guidelines to owners from the International Maritime Organization.
However, the acceptance of national administrations to allow armed personnel to travel through their countries when embarking or disembarking a vessel is an issue an owner should be aware of.