Tuesday, October 28, 2008

US Navy Encourages Private Security Companies to Protect Ships from Piracy

The United States Navy has praised the rise of private security companies to protect private shipping from pirates as a "great trend."

Media commentators have been generally skeptical of Blackwater's dispatch of its 183-foot ship, the McArthur, to the Gulf of Aden to provide security for private ships that the United Nations and the world's navies are leaving vulnerable to Islamist criminal gangs.

However, a US Navy spokesman has praised the move and encourages more private security companies to follow Blackwater's example. British security companies are already active in protecting ships, but Blackwater plans to provide McArthur, which can carry two special operations helicopters complete with doorgunners, to escort civilian ships that the UN and government navies can't or won't protect.

"This is a great trend," a spokesman for the US Navy's 5th Fleet tells the Associated Press. "We would encourage shipping companies to take proactive measures to help ensure their own safety."

Insurance companies also like the idea. "Pirate attacks have driven up insurance premiums tenfold for ships plying the Gulf of Aden, increasing the cost of cargos that include a fifth of the world's oil. But some insurers will slash charges by up to 40 percent if boats hire their own security," according to AP.

A senior official of Somalia, off whose coast much of the piracy is taking place, says private security companies are welcome in Somali waters. Somalia's 1,800-mile coastline is difficult to avoid for ships traversing the Suez Canal.