Singapore – With piracy in Southeast Asia’s busy waterways, namely the Malacca Strait, showing no signs of abating despite stepped-up government patrols, some ship owners have turned to private armed guards to escort their oil tankers and other merchant vessels. The weapon-wielding guards are stationed on board the vessel as well as on armour-plated fast boats alongside.
Background Asia Risk Solution is one company which is offering ship owners such escort services. But its 60-man security team has yet to encounter pirates, though it has warned off several boats with loud hailers, flares or spotlights when they strayed too close to their client’s ship.
"When boats see we have well-disciplined, well-equipped teams, they usually move on and leave us alone,” Australian Alex Duperouzel, the company’s managing director, told The Straits Times.
Background Asia’s armed escort include members with combat experience in places like Afghanistan and Iraq and former combat divers from Singapore’s elite Naval Diving Unit.
Although Mr Duperouzel declined to reveal his company’s rates, security companies are believed to charge from US$250 to US$1,500 a day per guard.
However, not everyone in the shipping industry think that hiring armed guards is necessarily money well spent. Mr Noel Choong, head of the Kuala Lumpur-based Piracy Reporting Centre, said that armed guards have to comply with laws of the country the ship is registered in and those whose waters it passes through.
“The boat owner should also realise that if there’s a shootout and someone is killed, he’ll have to take responsibility.”
Mr Choong suggested that ship owners would be better off fitting their vessels with satellite tracking devices to alert them to the location of an attack.
Another way to thwart the pirates is to build electric fences around a ship’s perimeter to prevent uninvited boarding and powerful searchlights fitted to deter attacks, Mr Choong added.
* Ship owners using hired guns (The Straits Times, April 8)