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Vol 53 No 24

Published 30th November 2012


Floating arsenals in legal fog

Indian Ocean piracy is down, thanks to naval patrols, armed guards and ‘panic rooms’, but the law governing ship protection is murky

The hijacking of merchant ships off the coast of Somalia has decreased dramatically in the last year. Yet the private military security companies whose armed guards are largely credited with this turnaround still find themselves legally adrift. PMSCs are governed by the laws of the country – or its territorial waters – that they are in. Carrying arms into a country can be construed as arms smuggling, using weapons without licence, a breach of an arms embargo (especially in Somalia’s case) and other offences. Some countries that permit ships to enter port with armed guards may not allow them to leave with their weapons.

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