06 October 2010

Private Navy Planned For Ship Escort Duty

The international naval force combating Somali pirates may be getting a hand from a private navy that is being set up by a UK insurance company.
A leading British insurer is reported to be planning the world's first private navy to combat Somali pirates raking in an estimated $150 million a year in ransoms from shipping companies.

At the same time, on the other side of Africa, the security market in oil-rich, piracy plagued Nigeria, which has long been dominated by the British, is being shaken up after three French seamen were kidnapped Sept. 21.

The Independent newspaper of London says that the Jardine Lloyd Thompson Group, which insures 14 percent of the world's commercial shipping, seeks to set up a fleet of 20 private vessels specifically to protect ships in the Gulf of Aden region where the Somali pirates operate. Start-up costs are estimated at around $15 million.

"We're looking at setting up a private navy to escort vessels through the danger zones," said Sean Woollerson, a senior JLT partner.

"We'd have armed personnel with fast boats escorting ships and make it very clear to any Somali vessels in the vicinity they they're entering a protected area," he told The Independent.

The report coincides with calls by shipping organizations and seafarers' unions for the governments of maritime states to deploy greater resources to combat piracy off Somalia, which has been wracked by clan warfare since 1991.


Some shipping companies hire armed personnel from security contractors to accompany their vessels using the Gulf of Aden but most don't for fear the practice will provoke an escalation by the pirate gangs.

"At the moment, there's a disconnect between the private security sector and the international naval force," Woollerson explained.

"We think we can help remedy and place this force under the control of the multinational force. We look after about 5,000 ships and have had 10 taken in total, including a seizure where one crewmember was shot and killed."

Several obstacles remain before the proposed force can be launched, particularly the tricky question of the private navy's legal status and its relationship with the naval task forces.

But major shipping companies are showing interest, although they're adamant JLT's private navy shouldn't lead to a reduction in the naval deployment that they feel is inadequate.
By: Shelldrake

1 comment:

BillP said...

Surely this isn't "the world's first private navy". Didn't the John Company run what amounted to their own navy for 150 years or more?