As reported by the government on Tuesday, France is set to allow private armed guards to its ships in order to protect them against pirates.
France is one of most profound contributors regarding the international naval force aimed at stopping pirate attacks deriving from Somalia. The above-mentioned naval force patrols the Gulf of Aden and the northwestern part of the Indian Ocean.
Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault voiced an opinion that the arming of private security forces would greatly contribute to the improvement of the French merchant fleet as it would make it more competitive among its European rivals.
He was quoted as saying that recourse will be allowed to private teams that are fully capable of contributing to the navy’s missions. This measure comes as a direct result of the strong appeal made by ship owners .
It was made quite clear by a French government official that the private security guards would be armed.
This measure taken by France continues on a path set by Britain, Germany and the US as they already allow armed private security teams aboard their vessels.
Even though it has become almost mandatory for ships to have such guards in order to be protected from pirates, no industry guidelines nor has any kind of agreement been set to determine the use of lethal force by the anti-piracy teams, be them military or private.
Western naval patrols have significantly reduced the Somali pirates’ attacks but French vessels are beginning to be targeted even more in the Gulf of Guinea off West Africa, where France has kept trade ties with its former colonies.
In February a French-owned Luxembourg-flagged tanker was hijacked off Ivory Coast. Officials believe Nigerian pirates were responsible for the attack. Along with that in June a French sailor, who was later rescued by coast guards, was captured by pirates off the coast of Togo.
Eric Banel, head of Armateurs de France, the lobby for French shippers, praised and welcomed the decision of the government and added that the ship owners have waited for such a turn-out for almost 2 years since they first raised the question.
Ayralt also touched on the topic of France needing to be able to import fuel products by using its own tanker fleets. The big challenge of today according to him is to require oil importers into France to conduct their doings at the very least partially under the French flag. He pointed out that it is fundamental for France’s energy security to not rely solely on foreign fleets.
It is required of France by law to hold a strategic amount of crude and fuel products that are equivalent to 90 days of consumption if a major supply disruption is to happen. Also adding to the requirement is a French naval transport capacity for crude imports.
Banel said that the law changes would now ensure that the above-mentioned transport capacity fully encompasses refined products in order to give out a clearer picture of France’s import needs. This measure would also provide strong support regarding the French shipping sector.
According to government reports and statistics, at the moment there are 10 crude oil tankers and 19 refined oil products transporters that operate under the French flag.