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Guards now mandatory on US-flagged ships near Somalia

Guards now mandatory on US-flagged ships near Somalia

Fort Lauderdale: The U.S. Coast Guard will require U.S.-flagged ships sailing around the Horn of Africa to post guards and ship owners to submit anti-piracy security plans for approval, a Coast Guard official told Reuters on Tuesday.

The new requirements, which respond to a surge of piracy off the coast of Somalia, allow ship owners to decide whether to use armed or unarmed guards, Coast Guard Rear Admiral James Watson told shipping industry representatives at a maritime security meeting in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

The revised Maritime Security Directive, highly anticipated by the shipping industry, was signed on Monday by Coast Guard Commandant Thad Allen.

"We expect to see additional security on U.S.-flagged vessels that transit these waters," said Watson, the Coast Guard's director of prevention policy.

"It can involve the use of firearms," he said, but added, "We are looking for things that work but that don't make the situation worse."

The requirement to post guards applies only to ships sailing off the Horn of Africa, but the owners of all U.S.-flagged ships must submit security plans to the Coast Guard within two weeks, Watson said.

"They're going to tell us what they propose," and then the Coast Guard will give thumbs up or thumbs down, Watson said.

He said the directive does not dictate how many guards must be posted on each vessel, or what type of training they must have. He said the Coast Guard would work with ship owners whose plans are deemed inadequate to fend off pirate attacks.

"We're not interested in putting ships out of business," he said. [13/05/09]


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