Ilja Van Hespen has published an article in the Journal of Maritime Law and Commerce with support of the Maritime Institute of the UGent.
The debate today is no longer focused on whether private maritime security companies (PMSC) should be used in the fight against maritime crime, but instead on how they can be used safely, the unique selling point for the security companies being that to date no ship with armed guards on board has been hijacked.
On 15 February 2011 the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) officially changed its stance and became in favor of the use of armed guards. As a consequence, estimates indicate that in 2011 the percentage of ships employing armed guards rose from approximately 10% to 50%. However, there are some serious issues. First of all, while it may well be that these private guards can keep ships safe from attack, there is no guarantee that they can or always will be able to do so without causing an escalation of violence, endangering innocent seafarers, involving the unlawful use of force or even causing international incidents. Another political issue has to do with state sovereignty. Some scholars and some states are convinced that securing the seas is a governmental function and thus has to remain the prerogative of the public authorities.
This paper looks at the problem of combating international crime at sea, in order to assess whether it is legally possible for States to use Private Maritime Security Companies (PMSCs) to deal with maritime crime effectively and efficiently. This study comprises 55 countries, representing 71,46% of the world’s fleet of large merchant ships.