Phoon Shuns Armed Guards

New Singapore Shipping Association president Patrick Phoon has expressed deep reservations about the use of armed guards to protect vessels from pirates.

Phoon, who took over the post from SS Teo yesterday, says the employment of security teams is viable right now but it is not a solution he is comfortable with.

“When you fire at people you encourage them to fire back,” said the Evergreen Shipping Agency deputy managing director.

“Accidents do happen and I do not like this arming of vessels, definitely not,” Phoon added.

He says there is huge potential for upset as a seafarer killed by pirates would generate only a few column inches while the shooting of a fisherman mistaken for a pirate would bring about a major incident.

Phoon is instead backing what he calls a “hybrid system” to beat piracy, details of which he will not reveal ahead of an SSA presentation to the UN on 16 July.

Singapore is presently in command of the international task force in the Gulf of Aden and transport minister Lui Tuk Yew has urged navies to stay on their toes to counter pirates’ ever changing tactics.

Speaking to TradeWinds at the SSA event, he said: “It [piracy] is a very amorphous entity. You squeeze it in one direction and it evolves into something different.

“It started out with operations very close to shore and now we are beginning to see incursions into the wider Indian Ocean. So we need to continue to evolve new ways to deal with this situation.”

The minister says Singapore is working with IMO to help owners separate the professional security outfits from the cowboys.

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