SEPTEMBER 12, 2012 — A report from a Sydney, Australia, based think tank says "the fight against Somali-based pirates is becoming a private battle as global defense cuts reduce naval counter-piracy deployments. Because governments have struggled to contain the spread of piracy in the Indian Ocean, shipping companies have turned to private military security companies to guarantee the safety of their crews and cargo. Private armed teams have proliferated on commercial shipping and several private armed vessels are operating in the region. Meanwhile, some governments are hiring out their own national militaries as security guards onboard ships."
The report, Pirates and Privateers: Managing the Indian Ocean's Private Security Boom, is from the the Lowy Institute an independent, nonpartisan international policy think tank.
If the report's conclusions are accurate, then there are more security firms out there than most maritime commentators may have realized. The report also suggests that some of them may be using unusual ways to deal with the patchwork of regulations dealing with the carriage of arms aboard merchant ships. Another finding that may raise some eyebrows is that "up to 40 private armed patrol boats are, or will soon be, operating in the Indian Ocean with plans to escort commercial shipping and intercept suspected pirate attacks. Some of these private armed patrol boats are being outfitted with drones and helicopters."
In fact, the private security presence in the Indian Ocean may not be of nearly the epic proportions that the report suggests. On examination, many of the sources cited in the report turn out to be press stories and internet postings where journalists in search of a headline have been a little too ready to take at face value security firms' assertions about their capabilities and assets.
Still, the report is free and worth a read. Download it HERE