British confirm gun law changes for Indian Ocean

Wed Dec 7 2011, 16:25 PM

Armed guards now legal on UK vessels

All UK-registered vessels — including superyachts — can now employ armed guards to defend themselves against pirates in exceptional circumstances, the British government has confirmed.

The move comes just weeks after Prime Minister David Cameron's promised a swift change to the law in order to protect British vessels from pirate attack in the Indian Ocean. 

"Evidence shows that vessels with armed guards are less likely to be successfully attacked, which is why the Government has been working in recent months to allow the lawful use of armed guards in exceptional circumstances," says British shipping minister Mike Penning.

"Modern pirates are dangerous, organised criminals who have shown they are not shy of using violence to achieve their goals.

"We have not taken this decision lightly. It is clear that we must offer those flying the Red Ensign every opportunity to ensure the safety of their crews and vessels.

"By allowing the use of armed guards in a structured, legal framework we can move to a system where ship owners can provide an adequate deterrent against this scourge on the maritime industry."

The UK government has also published advice on implementing risk assessment ands selecting a private security company (PSC). 

Shipping companies and owners who use armed guards must submit a detailed counter-piracy plan to the Department for Transport in advance.

Under the changes, any PSC employed to put armed guards onboard UK ships will require authorisation from the Home Office for the possession of prohibited firearms. 

The Home Office and police will carry out checks into the PSC and its personnel before an authorisation is granted.