International Law Regarding Weapons On Merchant Ships
The present situation in the shipping industry is not too good with pirates taking over merchant ships, kidnapping the crew and demanding ransom from the companies or respective nations. This has led to the crew of many merchant ships to take measures to safeguard themselves like carrying weapons aboard the ships. However, there are international laws regarding weapons on merchant ships.
The international law allows merchant ships to carry small arms for self defense if that is necessary for their freedom to traverse and navigate. They are also allowed to hire guards and private security. However, it does state that the precautions taken for safety should be proportional to the possible threat that could be faced.
The laws and restrictions are all placed under the United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). In the event of a pirate attack, the law allows the crew of the vessel to use the required force to resist the attack. But, it also states a guideline that warning shots must be fired by the victim ship. The guideline states that the ship hiring professional security, or arming the crew with weapons must have a suitable amount of knowledge on the usage and the requirement of lethal or the non-lethal weapons. They must know how to reaction in the situation.
The current situation with the Somalian piracy has pushed many shipping companies towards making requests to their governments and the United Nations to help make a few amends in the laws in their favor. Also, internationally many governments have approached the Somalian government to try and work out a solution.
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