UK plans armed ships to deter Somali pirates

BRITISH merchant ships sailing off the coast of Somalia will soon be able to carry armed guards to ward off pirate attacks, Prime Minister David Cameron said yesterday.

Britain is one of only a few countries with major shipping fleets to currently ban armed guards on its vessels, but owners of ships from other countries are increasingly putting guards onboard as national navies struggle to combat Somali piracy in the Indian Ocean.

Cameron told the BBC that Britain now planned to licence guards to carry firearms on ships.

“The evidence is that ships with armed guards don’t get attacked, don’t get taken for hostage or for ransom and so we think this is a very important step forward,” he said.

The International Chamber of Shipping, which represents over 80 per cent of the world’s merchant fleet, said arming guards was likely to be effective in deterring pirates for now, but was not a long-term solution.