Italy and Cyprus are set to become the latest countries to put armed guards on ships flying their flags in the fight against piracy.
Cypriot media said the government is preparing its first draft legislation this week.
The move is significant as the island has the third-biggest fleet in the European Union (EU) and ranks tenth in the world, as well as having a big shipmanagement presence.
“Of the 200 to 300 piracy [incidents] that take place every year, only two Cyprus-flag ships have been hijacked by pirates and both were released — one [was released] last week after being held in the eastern Atlantic, off the coast of Nigeria and Benin,” said Serghios Serghiou, director of the department of merchant shipping, to reporters.
“We are in the same situation as all the other maritime nations. We cannot rely on navies to protect ships all around the world.”
Serghiou explains that the new law will help overcome past legal obstacles and define issues such as the transfer of weapons on board ships and the protection of seamen in cases of conflict.
“This will also send out the message that Cyprus is willing to defend its ships, crew and cargoes,” he added.
Italy will start putting armed guards on vessels following an attack on the D’Alesio bulker Montecristo.
Defence minister Ignazio La Russa signed a deal this week with the confederation of Italian shipowners to place security personnel on vessels transiting pirate-infested waters in the Indian Ocean.