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Floating Liabilities? Maritime Armouries, Risks and Solutions

USS Mitscher, US Fifth Fleet/flickr

This article was originally published by Sustainable Security on 2 January, 2015.

The use of security forces to protect merchant vessels from piracy has led to a rise in ‘floating armouries’: vessels that are used for weapons storage, often moored in international waters. This growing trend raises a number of concerns over security, oversight and transparency.

From 2005 onwards, cargo ships traversing the seas off the coast of Somalia into the Gulf of Aden have become targets of maritime piracy. One of the responses has been to station armed guards on the ships, or on support vessels travelling with the ships to protect them. On commercial ships these guards have generally been provided by Private Maritime Security Companies (PMSCs) with weapons owned by the PMSCs themselves or leased from governments or other PMSCs in the region.

PMSCs need to have storage for the weapons when not in use. One option is to store them in land-based armouries, the other is to store them in ‘floating armouries’. A new report  by the Omega Research Foundation commissioned by the Remote Control project examines the issue of floating armouries and offers recommendations for how they could be regulated.