The European Community Shipowners’ Associations (ECSA) and the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) note in a recent report that the use of private armed guards has increased in recent years and become a necessity to ensure safe passage through the risky waters of the Gulf of Aden.

ECSA say that they welcome the fact that some EU countries, including Belgium and Italy, have recently adopted legislation which allows vessels flying their flag to use private armed security teams. ECSA also notes that in other EU states (such as the Netherlands), political discussions seem to go in the same direction.

Pirate attacks and hijackings off the coast of Somalia have gradually dwindled while a variety of factors has successfully contributed to the decline of piracy in the Gulf of Aden. Self-protection measures adopted by shipowners, as well as the use of private armed guards, have decreased ships’ vulnerability and made it easier to ward off attacks by armed gangs, while at the same time acting as a deterrent.

The presence of international naval units such as EU NAVFOR Atalanta, whose invaluable contribution is highly appreciated by the shipping industry, has also decisively improved the security situation off the coast of Somalia.

Nevertheless, ECSA warns that the situation is fragile and remains easily reversible. The problem off the coasts of Somalia and the Indian Ocean may have been curtailed, but it remains to this day unsolved.