The world of floating armouries exposed
This is a post highlighting the work done by a UK based research group on the issue of Floating Armouries. Below is a paraphrasing of their document’s summary.
Last year the International Chamber of Commerce: International Maritime Bureau (IMB) reported 231 “instances” of piracy and armed robbery. This has consequences: with the limited naval security offered to commercial shipping, Private Maritime Security Companies have stepped in. Their aim is to offer armed protection to individual ships or small convoys. Increasingly they store their weapons in armouries based in international waters.
These ‘floating armouries’ present a new challenge to regulators and policy makers as there is a lack of laws and regulations on both national and international levels governing their operation.There is no centrally managed, publicly available register of floating armouries, making it difficult to ascertain the exact number of armouries in operation, and evaluate the challenge they pose.
The UN Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea has raised concerns that the lack of monitoring and regulation creates the opportunity for unscrupulous actors to exploit the situation and that floating armouries could represent a threat to regional peace and stability rather than the solution.
Currently there is nothing to prevent any vessel being turned into an armoury and moored in international waters. None of the vessels currently used as floating armouries have been purpose-built as an armoury, instead, they are adapted craft. As a result, vessels may not have safe and secure storage for arms and ammunition.
This is of particular concern if the flag state has limited (or no) controls over the storage and transfer of military equipment, and the company’s home state has no extraterritorial brokering controls on the weapons.
At present, there is no international body that regulates or evaluates the security of floating armouries. Potential bodies, such as the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), could implement regulations and standards such as the International Small Arms Control Standards, which provide guidelines on stockpile management of weapons that may be applicable to floating armouries.
There is also a lack of regulation on the storage capacity of floating armouries and no published limits on the quantity of arms and ammunition that can be stored on board.
It was a report commissioned by the Remote Control project, a project of the Network for Social Change hosted by Oxford Research Group. It can be viewed here: Floating Armouries.
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