Piracy : challenges of the private security companies

Comparative approach of the interest, limits and future challenges of the private security companies in the fight against maritime piracy off the Coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Guinea. 

Accepted paper proposal for the Conference on maritime piracy, University of Southern Denmark, December 8-9, 2014 

by Dr. Cédric LEBOEUF1 & Dr. Gwenaele PROUTIERE-MAULION2

The downsizing of national budgets creates a favorable situation for the use of private security companies, which are now effective and seemingly deterrent actors of the fight against piracy. Even though some States remain reluctant to authorize such possibility for shipowners, private companies are in practice a reality. Some interesting studies describe the issues and challenges, often in a casuistic approach3. The role of such new maritime security actors raises a number of questions that must be answered through a comparative, comprehensive and global approach. 

Such a practice requires to recall the problematic of armed civilians onboard ships. This solution presents advantages for the Flag State with regard to the externalization of the costs. Use of private security companies illustrates the privatization of maritime security and safety, whose consequences have to be considered: the responsibility of the shipowner and of the crew, mostly the master, has to be questioned. The corporate social responsibility is a way to involve all the maritime stakeholders in the fight against piracy without increasing the burden only on the States4. It should lead to the harmonization of practices, by the implementation of binding instruments, stronger than the relevant IMO guidelines and mandatory compliance with relevant international instruments such as the Maritime Labour Convention, 20065.

Some legal issues should also be addressed as to prosecution, collection of evidence, judicial collaboration. What should be the role, or even the relevant and necessary competences of private security companies agents in order to carry out certain functions and duties that fall classically within the tasks of the agents of the States? This paper proposal intends thus to draw up the main aspects of new private modalities of the fight against piracy, which do not oust state initiatives and inter-state cooperation6, but rather define new outlines of the necessary cooperation frameworks. Some lessons should be learned from the fight against piracy off the Coast of Somalia. But how would they be applied to the Gulf of Guinea? Are the geographical, political and legal characteristics of this region so particular that different interests have to be taken into account?

  1. Research scholar at Maritime and Oceanic Law Centre (Human Sea Project), University of Nantes, France; Associate Researcher at Corbett Centre for Maritime Policy Studies, King’s College London, United Kingdom; Member of the Ethics Advisory Board of the European Project PROMERC (Protection Measures for Merchant Ships), World Maritime University, Sweden. []
  2. Senior lecturer in European and International Labour Law, European and International Social Law, EC Fisheries Law; Vice-President of the University of Nantes, International Affairs, France []
  3. among others: Liss C., Private Security Companies in the Fight Against Piracy in Asia, Working Paper n°120, June 2005 ; Mo J., Options to Combat Maritime Piracy in Southeast Asia, Ocean Development & International Law, Volume 33, Issue 3-4, 2002 ; Ortiz C., The Private Military Company: An Entity at the Center of Overlapping Spheres of Commercial Activity and Responsibility, in Jäger T., Kümmel G. (eds), Private Military and Security Companies, VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, 2007, pp 55-68 []
  4. Proutière-Maulion G., Piracy in comparative perspectives. Problems, Strategies, Law., Paris-London, Pedone-Hart, 2012 []
  5. Leboeuf C., « Maritime Piracy Round Table at the International Labour Organization, Geneva, December 13, 2011 », Neptunus, vol. 18, 2012/1 []
  6. About this aspect: Proutière-Maulion G., Leboeuf C., « De la responsabilité d’agir face à la piraterie maritime dans la corne de l’Afrique. Retour sur quelques initiatives privées et publiques, leurs évolutions et implications juridiques », in Actes du Colloque, Stratégie logistique et de transport au service du développement, Université de Djibouti, Djibouti, 15-16 déc. 2013, to be published, (L’Harmattan, 2015) []

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