There were two interesting stories out in the last week involving Iran and the fight against pirates.

First, we have Iran’s statement that the best way to protect merchant shipping against pirates is to arm the ships:

Iran backs guns on ships – ARMED forces placed aboard merchant ships would be the cheapest and most effective way to deter pirates, an Iranian shipping leader said today.

Mohammad Souri, chairman of National Iranian Tanker, told the International Union of Marine Insurance conference in Bruges: “Having armed forces on board would be the cheapest way to counter piracy in the short term.”

He explained: “If a pirate thinks his life is in danger, he will try and escape the vessel. But insurers are reluctant to support their use on board.”

Multinational forces have included the use of more than 34 warships, helicopters and long-range patrolling aircraft from 16 different nations, he pointed out – all of which runs up huge expenses. But forces on the targeted ships would close down attacks much quicker, he suggested. As an average hijacking episode lasts two months, owners now face long-term fuel, equipment and charter costs – not to mention legal fees and ransoms.

As for his own fleet, Souri reported a dozen piracy attacks on vessels carrying about 2M barrels of crude.

About 30 of the company’s tankers have installed attack-delaying barbed wire, and all entrances are locked. – Fairplay Homepage

I have argued before that it makes the most sense to arm the ships since it is the ships that are the targets. (See link below)

The second article notes just where the Iranians are getting their armed guards:

EX-ROYAL Marines are being routinely deployed as anti-piracy forces onboard fully laden large Iranian oil tankers now under regular attack from heavily armed pirates off the Gulf of Aden. – Lloyd’s List, Former Royal Marines hired to protect Iranian tankers

The Iranians have interestingly stuck to using foreign teams and more interestingly with Brits, who I bet had to think twice before taking the job given Iran’s recent treatment of their fellow countrymen. This probably has more to do with issues related to where the vessels are trading (my guess is Europe) than with a lack of trained personnel in Iran.

Iran has decided to embark professionals onboard. I still think there is a case for training merchant mariners to defend their own vessel. After all, at some point, these armed-guards disembark and surely pirates will migrate to where they are not around.

Just today comes word that Pirates were thwarted by armed guards just long enough for Naval forces to come to the rescue.

“When pirates see the frigate, they usually abort,” said Cyrus Mody from IMB’s Piracy Reporting Centre. HMAS Toowoomba responded to an emergency call from Bockstiegel’s MPP BBC Portugal (3,490dwt, built 2001) on Sunday night.

Nick Davis, speaking for Gulf of Aden Group Transits, told Fairplay today that it had posted an armed Yemeni navy team on the German general cargo ship, which opened fire, causing the pirates to flee while the crew called for help. – Fairplay

Did the armed guards prevent another hijacking? It is impossible to know for sure. However, they were there to defend the ship when the anti-pirate patrols were not.

Armed Merchant Ship Crews Will Not Escalate The Pirate Problem

Posted by Fred Fry.

Posted by FFry in Maritime Security
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  • D. E. Reddick

    The Syrian captain of the MV Barwaqo has been murdered by Somali Pirates while the ship was approaching the port of Magadishu. African Union peacekeeping forces and Somali police soon arrived and engaged the pirates. One policeman and three members of the ship’s crew were also injured.

    Somali pirates kill Syrian captain, ship rescued