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THERE was an impressive weapon on display at Stephenson Harwood’s offices in the form of a sniper’s rifle when Maritime London members met to hear a presentation on maritime security from Sven Hanson of PGS Group.

As SH partner Alex Davis pointed out, there have been varying degrees of support for armed guards on ships and plenty of concern that this solution may itself create its own problems, a point demonstrated by the arrest of two Italian marines following the shooting of two Indian fishermen.

Hanson, who with other members of his team, boasted 40 years collective experience in the Special Boat Service, stressed that projecting strength to deter pirates is preferable to engaging them. The quality of armed personnel is vital. Shipping companies need to employ personnel who understand the tactical and legal issues as well as the damage that can be caused to their reputation if things go wrong. Security personnel with military backgrounds may not have picked up a weapon for some time and can suffer from “skill fade” Hanson warned, so due diligence investigations are advisable. Some security personnel may also have problems with the concept that they are to take orders from the ship’s master.

We at Spinnaker think that shipowners would be well advised to contact our chums at Gray Page ( to take advantage of their expertise in piracy and security matters, which includes vetting armed security providers.

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