Sea Transport Firm May Drop Dutch Flag over Piracy Rules

June 8, 2011

Dual Dutch-Norwegian listed ocean transport company Dockwise has warned the Netherlands it will sail its vessels under a different flag unless it is allowed private guards to fend off pirates.

The company said in a statement on Tuesday it was making an urgent appeal to the Dutch government to remove some legal barriers to allow for armed private protection to combat piracy in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean.

Piracy has emerged as a major security risk for maritime firms, with the European Union saying the first three months of 2011 were the worst on record with 77 attacks and hijackings, up from 36 in the same period of 2010.

But the use of defensive military force at sea remains largely the preserve of states which are often reluctant to allow modern-day cargo ships, with their often multinational crews and ownership structures, to use weapons.

Andre Goedee, chief executive of Dockwise, said the company, an oil and gas provider, was vulnerable and should be allowed by the Dutch government to have armed private security contractors on its ships as other nations allow.

“In the interest of our employees and because of the increasing pressure from the industry itself, we may be forced to seek other alternatives, such as bringing the vessels under a different jurisdiction and flag, if regulations are not adapted quickly,” Goedee said.

“We would regret having to take such a decision, but we are left with no choice should the Dutch government remain idle.”

The protection of vessels by armed escort vessels contracted by the cargo’s owner can be a solution in isolated cases, but many cargo owners are unable or not prepared to contract private security companies, Dockwise said.

The company said private security was a short-term solution, and a long-term solution should include better prosecution and imprisonment of pirates and coordinated attacks on their mother vessels.

(Reporting by Greg Roumeliotis; editing by Elizabeth Piper)

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