Private security firms can apply for a license to provide German merchant ships in piracy-prone regions with armed protection onboard, the government has said. It said the security of crews would be greatly improved.
The German Economics Ministry confirmed that approval procedures for private security companies to accompany merchant ship crews through dangerous waters would start as of June 21.
It added that from December 1 onwards, only certified security firms would be allowed on merchant vessels under a German flag. The government said it wanted to ensure the highest possible level of skills and reliability when it came to protecting ship crews against potential attacks from offshore pirates near the Horn of Africa and in other piracy-prone regions.
The Economics Ministry announced approval procedures would be in the hands of the Federal Office of Economics and Export Control, a superior authority subordinated to the Ministry of Economics and Technology.
No easy decision
Berlin felt the approval policy would largely enhance domestic ship owners' legal certainty. The announcement noted that by introducing the highest possible standards in the selection of private security personnel it hope to set an example for others to follow.
Some 90 percent of global trade is done using shipping routes, with Germany having the world's third largest merchant fleet. Despite recent declines in some restricted areas, the total number of attacks by pirates remains on the rise, constituting a massive threat to crews and causing hundreds of millions of euros in economic damage annually.
The approval procedures for private security companies followed a protracted parliamentary debate in Germany on whether private firms should be used at all to guarantee the security of ship crews. But the lack of police and army forces to do the job left Berlin with no other reasonable option.