Sunday, February 12, 2012

Legal Problems For Security Guards On Container and Bulk Freight Vessels

Pirates Are Not the Only Risk to Seafarers Liberty as Another Ship Hijacked
Shipping News Feature

SOMALIA – KENYA - With the recent release of yet another maritime alert as one more bulk freight vessel goes missing, and armed guards aboard a container ship went on trial in Mombasa, information regarding the current state of the pirate ‘industry’ emerges both from within the country and from a study made by a subsidiary of the privately owned One Earth Future foundation, a not for profit operation supported by the somewhat mysterious entrepreneur and multi millionaire Marcel J.C. Arsenault.

The report this week from Oceans Beyond Piracy estimates the cost of the crime during 2011 cost almost $7 billion, with the shipping industry and its insurers bearing the brunt of the cost, around $5.5 billion, and goes into specific influences, from the extended monsoon season which reduced the number of attacks, the increased security levels which, whilst cutting the number of successful attacks cost over $1 billion alone, the growth in popularity and sophistication of the crimes etc. The report can be studied in full HERE or a useful précis is viewable HERE.

The latest report from Somalia indicates the capture of a bulk Greek owned, Liberian flagged tanker , the MV Free Goddess, carrying 20,000 tonnes of steel cabling from Egypt to Singapore. As the usual rumours and denials fly around in Somalia as to the particular pirate gang responsible, there is currently no word from the crew of twenty one Filipinos. The ship was hijacked northeast of Socotra Island (Yemen) and reportedly headed for the Somali coast and was the first major success for the pirates this year despite at least eight other serious attempts and came as weather conditions in the Gulf of Aden improved.

Further reports received from inside the troubled country say the gangs are gearing up for the new season despite the continued expansion of the ‘arms race’ as more countries either authorise or ignore the increased weaponry carried aboard their native ships. The use of armed guards of course is not without risks as many believe it will simply lead to escalating levels of violence and now a new hazard for those prepared to carry weapons has arisen.

On the 6th February two crewmen (also alleged to be armed guards) and the Captain of the MV Belgica were up before the Mombasa Court charged with illegally possessing weapons without a police permit, namely a Remington sniper rifle, three Russian made Izhmash Saiga-MK assault rifles (an updated AK47 type), two Glock pistols and over 600 rounds of ammunition. The guns were discovered when the German owned, Panama flagged 2,468 TEU box vessel was discharging containers at the local terminal a few days earlier.

The three, Captain Bernd Waschitzek and his two officers, Sven Bauermann and Jozef Michialik have been released on bail by the Kenyan authorities after having stated that the weapons were purely for anti piracy defence. Vessel owner Hammonia Reederei has made no comment on the company website but unconfirmed reports state the vessel is still moored at Mombasa and the two crewmen are ‘security officers’.

Photo: The haul of weapons discovered on the Belgica when examined by Kenyan authorities.