Piracy around the coast of Africa, particularly off Somalia and in the Gulf of Guinea, is a threat that all ships face when travelling those waters. Hiring armed guards from private security forces is one way that many countries are using to protect their fleets, and now France has decided that it will also allow this practice.
French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault explained that allowing French ships to hire help from private security companies would put them on a similar standing as European competitors who already use outside help. Britain, German, and the US use armed private security firms to protect their fleets.
France already offers a number of naval vessels to patrol waters off the coast of Somalia, which have helped to reduce pirate activity, but Africa’s west coast is now becoming more dangerous. French ships suffer in the Gulf of Guinea due to the strong trade ties that they still have with many former colonies along the coast. “We will allow recourse to private teams capable of complementing the navy's missions. There has been a strong appeal from shipowners and we have heard it,” said Ayrault.
Despite the common occurrence of using armed guards to protect ships, there are still no industry guidelines about the use of lethal force against pirates, whether the gunmen are part of the military or private firms.
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By allowing private security on their ships, France will now be able to use its own tankers for more of its energy imports, whereas before other fleets were preferred due to their higher level of protection.
Ayrault explained that “the challenge today is to require oil importers into France to do so at least partially under the French flag. It's fundamental for our energy security. In order to secure our energy supply, we cannot rely entirely on foreign fleets.”
According to Reuters France currently operates 10 crude oil tankers, and 19 refined oil products ships.
By. Charles Kennedy of Oilprice.com
Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com