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Maritime PSC: Not the Solution, But Part of the Solution

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Those who follow the issue of attacks by Somali pirates on commercial shipping are likely aware that many shipowners' firms have turned to private security contractors to protect their ships. Of course, having actual security teams aboard ship is only one of the services that PSC provide. Others include security intelligence, risk assessment and consulting; crisis response; and intervention.

Yet while all these services offer some value, "the potential costs of hiring these firms would appear to outweigh the benefits," according to a recent article in Studies in Conflict & Terrorism journal.

However, the author, Lars Bangert Struwe of the Centre for Military Studies in Copenhagen, Denmark, does acknowledge that PSC can be a benefit "if they are used in a coordinated way by ship owners and the international society. In this way they can become an added value in the fight against piracy."

What value added way does he have in mind? Fight on land, not at sea.

Pirates operate from land out on the sea and return after the end of a tour to land again. Therefore, it is rather obvious to try to make that land a no-go for the pirates. In other words, to establish a local government and force that can establish law and order in land and at the coast. In Nigeria it is important to support and expand the existing security and governmental structures, while in Somalia governmental structures must first be established. In Somaliland local resources have been used to first establish and then maintain a government -- this experience can be used as a model to the rest of Somalia. In general there are multiple governmental structures around in Somalia -- structures that are not necessarily interconnected or well functioning, but who provide "...levels of governance, public security and even social services." Research in Somalia shows how the reestablishment of governance and authority can change the equation and stop or decline piracy. This is an extremely important point in the discussion of the use of PSCs by the shipping industry.

The shipping industry can, by concentrating its efforts and money on the already existing local governmental structures, get a relative high yield of its investment. Using PSCs to train local law enforcement units they can change the equation in antipiracy operations in perhaps a permanent way. It gives jobs to the local Somali community, it is an economic boost, and it could attract some pirates converting from a criminal career to a career in law enforcement. Establishing local governance and law enforcement is the way ahead as pointed out above.

Stuwe notes that Eric Prince, the former CEO of Blackwater, was involved in Saracen -- a PSC -- training at least 1,000 Somali men, preparing them to take part in security and antipiracy operations.

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