Taipei, May 20 (CNA) The Legislature’s Economics Committee passed a draft bill Monday that would allow Taiwanese fishermen to hire private armed security guards when operating in pirate-infested waters.
Ship owners would be able to deploy armed guards on their vessels when sailing in dangerous waters after receiving permission from the government, according to the legislation.
The bill also stipulates that foreign nationals hired to carry out the security duties would only be allowed to board and leave the fishing boats outside Taiwan’s territory.
Fishing boats could also recruit Taiwanese nationals to serve as security officers once the country’s law governing the possession and use of firearms in Taiwan is amended, said James Sha, the director-general of the Council of Agriculture’s Fisheries Agency, which is pushing the legislation.
High risk waters would currently include the Strait of Malacca and the Gulf of Aden, Sha said.
Under the draft bill, fishing boats that deployed security guards without prior permission or armed officers who boarded or left vessels inside Taiwan’s territory would face fines of between NT$60,000 (US$2,000) and NT$300,000.
The bill still needs to pass two more readings by the full Legislature before it can become law.
The safety of Taiwan’s fishermen came into the spotlight after a Philippine patrol boat sprayed bullets at an unarmed Taiwanese fishing boat and killed 65-year-old Taiwanese fisherman Hung Shih-cheng on May 9.
Several Taiwanese fishing boats have also been hijacked in the Indian Ocean over the past three years, most recently when the Chin Yi Wen was hijacked by Somali pirates while sailing off the coast of East Africa in November 2011.
The boat’s crew later overwhelmed the pirates to retake the ship.
(By Wang Chin-yi and Maia Huang)