Sunday, January 06, 2013
BRITAIN'S first private navy in almost two centuries is being created by a group of businessmen to take on the Somali pirates who are terrorising an expanse of the Indian Ocean.
Its armed vessels - including a 10,000-ton mother ship and high-speed armoured patrol boats - will be led by a former Royal Navy commodore. He is recruiting 240 former marines and other sailors for the force.
It will escort its first convoy of oil tankers, bulk carriers - and possibly an occasional yacht - along the east coast of Africa in late March or April.
Typhon, the company behind the venture, is chaired by Simon Murray, a millionaire businessman who joined the French Foreign Legion as a teenager and walked unsupported to the South Pole aged 63.
Typhon has been set up because the Royal Navy, NATO and the European Union Naval Force lack the vessels to patrol an area of ocean that is as large as North America, said Anthony Sharp, chief executive. "They can't do the job because they haven't got the budget and deploying a billion-pound warship against six guys [pirates] with $500 of kit is not a very good use of the asset," he said.
Typhon said its aim is to deter pirates from attacking its convoys, rather than engaging in firefights.
The pirates will face former marines in armoured patrol boats capable of 40 knots and able to withstand incoming Kalashnikov fire. They will be armed with close-quarter battle weapons, such as the M4 carbine, and sniper rifles with a range of 2km.
The Britons intend to sail under a sovereign flag which will give them the legal right to carry their weaponry into harbour, rather than cache them on platforms in international waters.
Mr Murray is chairman of Glencore, one of the world's largest commodities traders. He is backing the new force alongside other investors.
It will be funded by shipping firms in much the same way as the cargo ships sailing under Indian, Chinese and Russian flags hire private convoys.
Other Typhon directors include Admiral Henry Ulrich, former commander of US Naval Forces Europe, General Sir Jack Deverell, former commander in chief Allied Forces Northern Europe, and Lord Dannatt, former chief of the general staff.