Think pirates and it might conjure up childhood images from Treasure Island, pieces of eight and walking the plank.  But there is a new and very much more real and sinister association now and the threat to UK shipping is a serious one.

Last month Prime Minister David Cameron backed the use of armed guards on British-registered ships passing through dangerous waters.  No ship carrying armed security is thought to have been hijacked in modern times, says Peter Cook, Director of the Security Association for the Maritime Industry (SAMI).  The seas off the coast of Somalia are of particular concern with 49 of the world’s 53 high jacking taking place there last year.  Up to 200 vessels flying the British Merchant Navy flag regularly pass close to Somalia.  Estimations are that as many as 100 of those will apply for permission to employ armed guards immediately.

Naval forces from EU states have been protecting shipping off the Horn of Africa since 2008 in a mission known as EU NAVFOR, which follows UN Security Council resolutions.  However, the vast area covered by these patrols makes rapid response near impossible.

There are several UK based security firms specialising in maritime security and counter piracy measures.  Peter Cook (director of SAMI) said many armed guards were former Royal Navy and Royal Marines personnel, and he added: “With the current redundancies it has provided them with an ideal place to go.”

Secretary General of the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), Peter Hinchliffe said the ICS was concerned about how pirates would respond to the move.  “To date, no ships with armed guards on board have been captured. But pirates will respond with increased fire power to overwhelm the armed guards, and when that happens the impact on the crew will be pretty dreadful, ” he told Reuters.  The International Maritime Bureau (IMB), a maritime business body, has also expressed concerns that pirates could respond with increased violence.

Although few could argue with wanting to protect ships and their crews little is heard in the mainstream press about the root causes of this problem.  To stop piracy we need to fully understand the motivations of the pirates.  We will look at this in part two, coming soon,

We have recently received a number of enquiries and orders from shipping companies and private individuals for our range of Luna Optics night vision technology.  The Lunar Optics LN-PB range of award winning night vision binoculars, with 3x, 5x, or 7x magnification are proving particularly suitable marine night vision optics.  With the addition of a Luna Optics IR laser range extender you can get a good visual on objects up to 1km away.

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