Belgium has reportedly put the security ‚Äúcat‚Äù amongst the pirate ‚Äúpigeons‚Äù by deciding not just to¬†permit its owners to use private maritime security companies, but that they may¬†use heavy firearms up to 0.5-in calibre.
For those of you who don‚Äôt know your RPG from your elbow, this is some serious firepower ‚Äì and could, shock horror, kill pirates if they are foolish enough to attack armed vessels. That is not to say that smaller calibre weapons just tickle and leave a bruise, but the shift to heavier weapons¬†has generated debate in the industry over whether this constitutes appropriate use of force for deterring pirates.
For some the hand wringing has started in earnest, and they feel that such powerful weapons are not appropriate ‚Äì for others a more pragmatic view is taken. For instance, the Security Association for the Maritime Industry (SAMI) advocates the right to use this weaponry as it feels it strengthens the actual ability to warn pirates effectively, so long as effective rules are in place for their use.
When pirates are barrelling along with their old Mercury outboard screaming and the waves a splashing, they could miss the more subtle hints which the armed team are sending out to them ‚Äì whereas when a 0.5 calibre shell calls to you, you are in no doubt what the message is.
Once again it comes down to the Rules for the Use of Force ‚Äì properly trained, aware and skilled operatives will spot the pirates early, they will monitor them and determine their intentions ‚Äì then, assuming that they are attacking the vessel they will respond in a graduated manner. The size of the bullets should not play any role in this process ‚Äì but, when the warning shots fly the bigger the gun, the louder the splash, as they say. Then if the pirates keep coming, then‚Ä¶the bigger the size of the hole in the boat‚Ä¶and if they still keep coming‚Ä¶well then, sadly the bigger the size of the hole in their head.
It is a tragedy that people can be killed out at sea, but the reality is that this is a fight which the shipping industry did not want, which seafarers desperately want to avoid ‚Äì but pirates should be left under no illusion that they will be dealt with in a robust manner if they dare to try and hijack our ships.
Yes, there are concerns about an arms war, and any escalation which heavy weapons may prompt ‚Äì it is also true to say that guards have to be so careful that they are not mistakenly engaging innocent fishermen ‚Äì especially as the heavier weapons can allow them to strike at greater range. But assuming they do the right thing, that they are clear on the pirates‚Äô intentions to¬†attack, then the weapons used to deter them and to protect the vessel almost becomes secondary.