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Practice of combating Maritime piracy in the twenty-first century
Material posted: Publication date: 03-03-2018

In the beginning of XXI century the level of safety of Maritime navigation has significantly decreased due to intensification in some regions of the world of modern pirates. According to the definition of International Maritime Bureau, piracy — "boarding any vessel with the intent to commit theft or any other crime and with the intent or capability to use force in order to facilitate the implementation of this act" [1].

Maritime piracy causes significant economic damage. However, a particular danger of seizure of vessels with dangerous cargo, such as nuclear materials, chemicals, arms and explosives, because of possible transfer of such cargo from pirates to terrorists or rebel groups. Attempts pirate seizure of ships greatly increases the risk of accidents on Board vehicles carrying dangerous goods.

Despite the fact that in recent years the overall level of the pirate threat has decreased, the study of best practices in countering piracy remains relevant and has an applied character.

Practices of counter-piracy can be divided into three groups:

  1. The protection of the vessel.
  2. The involvement of national and coalition armed forces to protect the vessel;
  3. The involvement of third-party companies to protect the vessel.

The practice of protection of the vessel's own

Without drawing on the assistance of third-party organizations, shipping and trading companies can counteract the pirates as follows:

- Follow the recommendations of the International Maritime Bureau relatively safe routes.

Of suppressing piracy at the level of the crew.

- To use technical means to prevent pirate attacks and to protect against it.

Often recommended routes are really safe. In itself, however, following the recommendations of the International Maritime Bureau regarding safe routes is not a guarantee against attacks by pirates and can be attributed to a number of preventive measures. Technical capabilities and combat training of the pirates from attack to attack is growing, which allows them to capture ships, the following the recommended trails and even vessels in the territorial waters of developed countries [2].

The practice of counter-piracy at the level of the crew involves the conduct of the exercise, carrying crew watch with increased vigilance, enhanced protection of the bridge (the pirates usually attack it because this is where the management of the ship), installation of physical barriers for access of pirates on the ship, the use of water hoses, manoeuvrability and other methods [3].

The use of technical means to ensure the safety of the ship from pirates may include measures such as installation of electronic equipment for homing movements of pirates and avoid meetings with them, the installation of alarm systems and surveillance cameras. Radars that can detect the approach of pirates on every ship in the base set. And the installation of alarm systems and video surveillance will certainly justify themselves from the point of view of security.

The involvement of national and coalition armed forces to protect the vessel

Shipowning company can rely on such assistance from the state or from the international, coordinated force, as:

- Placing the military on Board;

- Escorting commercial ships in the most dangerous regions of the warships;

- Patrolling warships particularly dangerous regions;

- The application States courts-traps.

So, in the Netherlands there is a system whereby any transport or shipping company that needs a military escort on Board, can leave the application and it will be considered [4, p. 15-18]. As a rule, such measures assistance may be provided in exceptional cases: only if the cargo is of exceptional importance for the state. In addition, not every shipping company has sufficient funds to pay for such services. In particular, in the Netherlands, a similar state protection services of the vessel use only 10% of the shipowners, the ships, which ply in piratepack regions, and 65%, of the total number of owners do not even apply due to the extreme cost of services [4, p.19].

It is worth considering the fact that placing armed men on Board a merchant ship by international law is permitted, but not encouraged [5]. Moreover, the presence of the military on Board a merchant vessel must be coordinated with the state through the territorial waters of which passes the ship. Some researchers believe that the deployment of armed forces on Board merchant vessels may complicate the situation[6]. Since the attacks of pirates, as a rule, are carried out for ransom, the hostages are not killed, and the crew often seems to voluntarily. The presence of the military on Board can cause conflict, which may suffer as the ship's crew and transported cargo.

Convoy is a formation of a group of combat ships, ensuring the safety of commercial vessels. To perform the tasks of convoy can be involved warships of one state or of the United naval forces. For example, since December 2008 in the Red sea and Gulf of Aden, the international operation "Atalanta" United coalition under the auspices of the EU. The mandate of the mission Atalanta has been extended until December 2018 [7]. In the framework of the operation of a ship owning company may request to escort their ships.

Preparation of a convoy of ships is a very long process [8], which merchant ships are idle, which leads to significant economic costs. The same problem arises in the cases when patrolling the ship stops a merchant ship for security reasons.

Patrolling, in accordance with the UN Convention on the law of the sea, means maneuvering in piratepack regions and the identification of suspicious vessels, which under certain circumstances may be detained by forces that were patrolling. Such patrol is required to help the ship attacked by pirates [9]. Patrolling and convoying ships for security purposes, do not choose the most optimal in terms of delivery routes.

Method vessels-traps suggests that the warships disguised as commercial and are used as bait for pirates. On Board such ships-traps deployed forces, which can capture pirates and transfer them to the appropriate authorities, which will attract them to legal liability. In addition, in some cases, certain Maritime laws [10], these two disguised warships could attack the pirates. This method is highly costly, and the state go at it reluctantly in those cases where other means have been exhausted.

Because, under international law, only the military ships in a peace time can be equipped with weapons, military force is allowed only in international waters [11]. For the use of force in the territorial waters of warships need special sanctions (as in the case of Somalia). Here the warships will not help. Shipping companies should take this into account. Courtroom-traps – it is, in fact, warships, or ships, which are armed men, so they also must adhere to the above mentioned legal norms.

The involvement of third-party companies to ensure the safety of the ship

Is carried out through two main approaches:

– Attract third-party private transport companies, which shifted the task of maintaining the security of the cargo;

– Involvement of private military companies who will provide direct security of the ship and the cargo on it.

The involvement of third-party companies from the point of view of reliability of transport of dangerous goods has several advantages. Many transport companies ready to provide their services. Some of them enlist the support of insurers [13], which also adds to their advantages from the point of view of security. However, in case of transporting particularly dangerous goods, to entrust a third party clients are not at risk.

For the foregoing reasons common is the practice of creating subsidiary companies that take responsibility for transportation and logistics services, legally independent, but are controlled by the main customer. For example, the transportation of goods to the Russian company "Techsnabexport" carries out JSC "Isotope" [14], which has broad opportunities of application of special protective equipment when transporting specific types of cargo. The French company "Orany" (formerly "AREVA") has a network of affiliated transport companies that are located in every country where the French are implementing their nuclear projects [15]. These companies, lying on the ground, know the specific route and can provide faster deliveries.

Private military companies (PMCs) provide services of the armed escort of cargo on Board the vessel. This practice is quite well established [16], and the services of PMCs is not only business, but also the state. PMC can offer experienced staff and advanced technology to effectively protect commercial vessels [17].

The market for private military services is a highly competitive and geographically presented by companies from different regions of the world, which makes this tool more beneficial to the clients among shipping companies. Premiumfocus Nautilus (Greece), Aspida Maritime Security Corp (Greece), Trident Group (USA), ESPADA Marine Services (USA), Halliday Finch (Kenya), Unity Resources Group (UAE, Australia), Trojan Security International (Australia), Securewest International (UK), Blue Mountain (UK), Drum Cussac (UK), Erus Maritime Security Services (UK), Neptune Maritime Security (UK), Ocean Marshalls (UK) – this is just a short list of companies providing services on protection and escorting vessels. Presented in this market and Russian companies. For example, RSB-Group or Moran Security Groups.

At the same time for themselves PMCs and their employees is much more promising, high-tech and profitable is the segment of consulting, which includes, including training personnel on best practices of combating pirate attacks. It is worth noting the experience of the Israeli PMC, which quickly reacted to the increased efforts to combat piracy, creating a center for training specialists of the corresponding profile.

As for Russian companies, if the market of protection and support vessels of the Russian company represented in this segment they are absent, doing substantially more primitive tasks than with contracts, which have foreign competitors. This is due to the serious obstacles put foreign PMCs and a desire to follow the path of least resistance, performing more familiar and intuitive to use.

A number of PMCs to offer their vessels to escort commercial vehicles. The involvement of armed professionals on Board can cost relatively inexpensive. So, the head of the German shipowners ' Association notes that it is cheaper to pay 10-20 thousand dollars 4-5 security guards of the vessel than to pay excessively high premiums to the insurance company, if these guards will not be there [16].

Many PMCs have recommendations from insurance companies [18]. However, under Maritime law, ships PMCs cannot place aboard their ships weapons similar to what is allowed for the naval forces of States [19]. Armed people can be on Board only with the consent of the state whose flag the ship is [5]. And if in some foreign countries the government support the cooperation of shipping companies with the PMC [20], that in the Russian legislation, their status still has not been fully determined. Of course, this creates certain obstacles for the involvement of these commercial structures to meet the challenges of the safety of ships sailing under the Russian flag, and therefore the renewed discussion of the prospects for the enactment of legislation can only be welcomed. However, the conclusion of contracts with foreign or Russian PMC, duly registered and signed international code of conduct for private security companies is not contrary to Russian law.

Support forces the PMC trade ships will be economically feasible only when there is no escorting or patrolling national or coalition armed forces. The maintenance of a merchant ship by the courts PMCs will certainly be high, since you need to consider their costs of operating additional ships and additional crew on these ships. However, we should not forget about costs when the government convoy, which arise due to the long preparation of the convoy. Practices, offer of PMCs affect the speed and continuity of supply slightly. Some delays could still occur on land, for example, when installing electronic equipment on a ship, at the instruction of the crew, who will have to work with people that are not related to the company-client and the cargo.

In the long run, the following possible scenarios for the development of the above practices of counter-piracy, which, however, are not mutually exclusive.

The first scenario: the company will reduce investments in protection of the vessel on their own and would be more willing to seek the services of PMCs. The use of recommended routes and instructions for crew training though, and provides relative safety, can not completely solve the problem and require additional measures. Expanding the circle of countries legalizing the activities of PMCs. It is countries like France, Germany, the Netherlands, which have a system of public services for the protection of vessels from pirates. Among the signatories to an international code of conduct for private security companies, there are also Norway, Sweden, Canada and others. [21]. In combination with other factors, it makes the practice of using PMCs more attractive.

The second scenario: the output of the first plan of government practices to combat piracy. Piracy is not in place, and to systematically confront him, require significant resources, which have only state. States in turn will have to unite and coordinate the efforts. At the same time those countries where widespread practice of hiring PMCs for the protection of commercial vessels, also participate in coalition operations to combat piracy in different regions of the world.

The efforts in the last 6-7 years has applied state carriers, their customers, as well as international organizations has led to a significant decrease in the number of efficiency of activity of pirates and threats from them as a whole. To improve the situation contributed to the use of the whole complex of the actions directed on increase of safety of navigation, and because it seems appropriate to continue to combine existing practices of counter-piracy, varying them depending on the specific situation in a given period of time.

A list of sources and literature


  1. International Maritime Bureau // [Electronic resource] – the official website Of International Chamber Of Commerce (ICC). URL: (date accessed: 19.02.2018)
  2. The most effective methods to prevent acts of piracy off the coast of Somalia and in the Arabian sea area developed by the industry (Best Management Practices to Deter Piracy off the Coast of Somalia and in the Arabian Sea Area Developed by the Industry) in the edition of June 2010 // (Circular ИМО1/Circ.1337 dated 4 August 2010).
  3. Methodical Recommendations to the captain of a merchant ship in the exercise of swimming in pirataporno area. URL: (date accessed: 18.02.2018.)
  4. Van Ginkel B., van der Putten F. P., W. Molenaar, State or Private Protection against Maritime Piracy? A Dutch Perspective, 2013.
  5. IMO circular MSC.1/Circ. 1334 URL: (date accessed: 20.02.2018)
  6. N.. Shatalkin, A. I. Nekrasov. Legal problems of combating piracy (Maritime banditry) in modern conditions// Transport law. 2013. No. 4.
  7. European Union. External Action. [Official page]. URL: (accessed: 28.02.2018)
  8. Y. Eshchenko, A. Novikov. Ways to counter Maritime piracy// Maritime collection. 2014. No. 1.
  9. Convention United Nations law of the sea (UNCLOS) [Text] // collected legislation of the Russian Federation. On 1 December 1997, No. 48. St. 5493.
  10. Convention United Nations law of the sea. St. 19. URL: (date accessed: 28.02.2018)
  11. Convention United Nations law of the sea. URL: (date accessed: 28.02.2018)
  12. Modern commercial fleet. [Official website]. URL: (accessed: 28.02.2018); Pacific Nuclear Transport Limited.[Official page]. URL: (accessed: 28.02.2018); THERE International Inc. [Official page]. URL: (accessed: 28.02.2018).
  13. Nuclear Risk Insurers. [Official page]. URL: (date accessed: 01.03.2018)
  14. OJSC "Saint-Petersburg Izotop". [Official website]. URL: (date accessed: 28.02.2018)
  15. [Official page]. URL: (date accessed: 01.03.2018)
  16. Utler S. Using Guards to Hunt Pirates: Germany May Loosen Shipping Laws [Electronic resource]//Spiegel-Online [Official page]. URL: (date accessed: 01.03.2018).
  17. NavSec Internationational Ltd. [Official page]. URL: (accessed: 01.03.2018)
  18. A letter of recommendation of the Russian pool of insurers. [Access mode]//RSB group [Official website]. URL: (date accessed: 01.03.2018).
  19. The Hague Convention of 18 October 1907 URL: (date accessed: 01.03.2018)
  20. Private military and security companies in the fight against piracy: the practice and regulatory issues [Electronic resource]//SlideShare [inform. the portal]. URL: (date accessed: 01.03.2018).
  21. International Code of Conduct Association [Electronic resource] URL: (date accessed: 03.2018).
Anastasia Malygina, Vladimir Olennikov, Vladimir Neelov

Source: Center for the study of strategic perspectives. 03.03.2018

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