Armed Ships under the Red Ensign?

2 Nov

Prime Minister David Cameron said on Sunday that ships flying the British flag would be allowed to carry armed security guards if they chose to, but it was not immediately clear whether this would apply to other members of the Red Ensign group, including the Falkland Islands, all of which are deemed to be British ships.

“We are now going to say to British flag ships that they will be licensed, if they want to, to have security guards, armed guards on their ships,” Mr Cameron told the BBC. “Frankly, the extent of the hijack and ransom of ships round the Horn of Africa is a complete stain on our world. The fact that a bunch of pirates in Somalia are managing to hold to ransom the rest of the world and our trading system is a complete insult and the rest of the world needs to come together with much more vigour.”

Until now the UK had strongly discouraged operators against carrying armed guards on board their ships, a position that was echoed across the Red Ensign group.

But faced with a mounting threat, many owners ignored the advice and were left wrestling with the complex legal and financial consequences of carrying armed guards.

Although opinion is split in the industry as to the wisdom of carrying armed guards, one fact is inescapable: pirates have never hijacked a ship carrying armed personnel.

Under the plans, Britain’s home secretary would be given the power to license armed guards for UK-flag ships. Whether the wider Red Ensign group will follow suit remains to be seen.


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