Privately armed ‘navies’ to protect ships off Somalia coast
Saturday, May 12, 2012
By PAUL REDFERN
Suspected Somali pirates appearing before a Kenyan magistrate in Mombasa charged with attacking a vessel and its crew in December 2011. FILE | AFRICA REVIEW |
Privately armed patrol boats aimed at deterring Somali pirates could be up and running by as early as next month, after a prominent insurance firm agreed to provide financial support.
Following the successful introduction of armed guards aboard several merchant ships plying the waters of the Gulf of Eden and the East African coast, Martin Reith, the founder and former chief executive of the Lloyd’s of London insurer Ascot Underwriting, has taken the protection business one stage further with his plans for a Convoy Escort Programme, which will complement the overstretched naval forces in the region.
According to the London Times newspaper, “Financial backing estimated at around $30 million, could be up and running as early as this summer.”
As such, the measure could be a good gamble as piracy off the Somalia coast is estimated to have cost the international shipping industry as much as $12 billion.
The investors are hoping that once the funding is in place, they will buy around seven second-hand naval patrol vessels; the money will also help to finance the armed security guards that will be on board.
“As well as four crew and eight armed security personnel, each vessel will have inflatable speedboats or ‘ribs’ that could be launched into combat if pirates threatened ships,” TheTimes report said. “The escort programme has already identified the boats that it wants and has a manufacturer for its ribs.”
Gulf of Aden
The reason for the idea is simple. The astronomical nature of insurance costs mean that ship owners can pay an additional $40,000 to $50,000 for each vessel they send through the Somali coastal region.
The naval protection fleet plans to charge a flat fee in three bands based on the speed capabilities of the boats they are accompanying.