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Research Report

State or Private Protection against Maritime Piracy?: A Dutch Perspective

Bibi van Ginkel
Frans-Paul van der Putten
Willem Molenaar
Copyright Date: Feb. 1, 2013
Published by: Clingendael Institute
Pages: 55

Table of Contents

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  1. (pp. 1-4)
  2. (pp. 5-6)
  3. (pp. 9-11)
  4. (pp. 12-12)

    Since 2008, the international community has paid much attention to the threat of piracy off the coast of Somalia. With approximately 20,000 to 30,000 ships passing through the Gulf of Aden each year, transporting approximately 10-20% of the world’s trade, the economic interests for trading countries in providing security for commercial shipping are substantial. The steep increase in piracy attacks in the Somali region in 2008 triggered a variety of counter-piracy initiatives. Most prominently, and best known to the public, are the naval operations in the area to protect food transports of the World Food Programme and commercial shipping. In...

  5. (pp. 13-14)

    According to the Royal Association of Netherlands Shipowners (KVNR), the number of ships flying the Dutch flag that pass through the Gulf of Aden has dropped from 450 to 250-300 a year as a consequence of piracy.¹ Although the high security risk posed by pirates undeniably has an effect on the behaviour of shipping companies it is unclear to what extent the drop in transits through the Gulf of Aden is not also a consequence of the global economic crisis.² The security risk posed by piracy, however, undeniably plays an important role in deciding whether or not to transit the...

  6. (pp. 15-17)

    From the first deployment of VPDs in March 2011 up until November 2012 a total of 144 requests for VPD assistance had reached the Ministry of Defence. Of these, 33 requests were withdrawn early, another 58 requests were turned down and 53 were accepted. Of the 53 that were accepted, another 13 withdrew at a later stage. The total number of VPD deployments is therefore 40 (figure 1). Until November 2012, 33 VPDs have actually been deployed with the other 7 VPDs being scheduled for deployment after the 1st of November.11

    According to the KVNR, the ships on which the...

  7. (pp. 18-18)

    In order to assess whether ships should be able to rely on military assistance, the government developed a document in 2006: “Behandeling bijstandsaanvragen bij piraterij en gewapende overvallen op zee” or “draaiboek” (protocol). Since 2008, the draaiboek provides for a specific procedure for the handling of formal requests for assistance which qualifies the request either positively or negatively. Although the draaiboek originating from 2006 is a classified document and is therefore not accessible to the public, a public letter provides for an idea of what principles are used.17 These are; first, that the request for assistance can be made both...

  8. (pp. 19-20)

    The deployment of VPDs comes with a number of (mainly) technical problems and challenges. To deal with these problems a working group has been set up in which every two months, since June 2011, representatives of the Ministry of Defence and the shipping companies meet to discuss the practical matters with regard to VPDs.19 It has led to a number of modifications with regard to VPD deployment but it still seems to be dealing with some unresolved practical issues. A list of the problems and challenges relating to VPD deployment is set out below.

    From the perspective of the shipping...

  9. (pp. 21-22)

    Over the last two years opinions and practices in the international community with regard to the use of private armed security guards on board of ships have changed a great deal. Whilst five or so years ago most, if not all, important European maritime states prohibited the use of private armed security on ships, today a large number of these states either allow their use or are in the process of changing their legislation. The group of countries that allows PSCs comprises, among others, the UK and Norway which changed their legislation in 2011 and Denmark, Greece, Cyprus and Italy,...

  10. (pp. 23-24)

    The United Kingdom (UK) is an important player when it comes to counter-piracy and private maritime security company-regulatory initiatives. Whilst the number of British flagged ships sailing through the Gulf of Aden is relatively low compared to other nations, the UK plays a major role in maritime security for it is home to both a large number of active PSCs and an important number of insurance companies. It has also played an important role in developing the ICoC which came out in June 2010, prior to the announcement on the 30th of October of 2011 by the UK Prime Minister...

  11. (pp. 25-26)

    In addition to the question whether PSC personnel on board of ships can legally carry arms, one of the most discussed aspects of PSCs and their personnel is that of the laws that apply to them and their conduct. This is especially true in the field of international law, in which, to date, few binding norms exist to regulate their conduct or the responsibilities for states to regulate their obligation to ensure that their conduct is regulated. Although no internationally standardized regulation exists, it does not mean that there is no regulation whatsoever. On the contrary, a patchwork of soft...

  12. (pp. 27-29)

    The limited number of “hard law” norms regulating PMSC stands in stark contrast to the large and growing body of soft law that has been developed over the last five years. This set of generally non-enforceable standards mainly seeks to provide principles by which companies, their personnel and contractors (e.g. shipping companies or governments) should operate and can thus be instrumental in better monitoring the activities of PSCs and prevent abuse.

    One of the criticisms is that they are mainly self-regulatory instruments and therefore depend too much on the responsibility of the companies themselves and the idea that a fear...

  13. (pp. 30-33)

    Although on the international level the limited number of binding rules is complemented by a large and growing body of soft law which provides for additional guidance on the use of PSC and armed guards, still most of the regulation comes from the national level. European governments that allow private armed security have set different conditions for the deployment of PSCs and private armed guards that operate on ships flying their flag, which illustrates their different view on the matter.

    By comparing the different “models” of Denmark, Norway and the UK, all three of which are states that allow private...

  14. (pp. 34-34)

    Whether VPDs or PSCs are a better solution to the security needs of Dutch shipping companies and their personnel has been hotly debated for some time now but has recently seemed to be drawing new attention. The Dutch government’s position on the monopoly on the use of force, and its practice of VPD deployment, has, according to the shipping industry, not provided an adequate response to the risks they are facing, in a way that corresponds with the level playing field which they need to operate. Reflagging and loss of market share, they argue, can be the result.

    Whilst the...

  15. (pp. 35-35)

    An assessment of the pros and cons leads us to conclude that continuing the current Dutch policy without adjustments is not desirable. In order to move ahead, three scenarios are possible:

    1. The use of PSCs remains illegal. The requirements for VPD deployment should then be more flexible, the delivery time should be shorter, and the costs should be further reduced.

    2. The practice of VPD deployment remains the backbone of Dutch policy, but in addition the use of PSCs (either insourced as a government task, or privately contracted) is admitted under strict criteria and oversight mechanisms.

    3. The policy of VPD deployment...

  16. (pp. 36-52)
  17. (pp. 53-53)