Protecting merchant shipping against piracy


Piracy poses a threat to the free passage of ships. This is particularly the case on the shipping routes through the Gulf of Aden and around the Horn of Africa near Somalia. Since 2011, shipowners have been able to call on special security teams from the Netherlands Ministry of Defence. These Vessel Protection Detachments (VPDs) are made up of members of the Marine Corps. On request, they protect Dutch ships passing through the so-called High Risk Area (HRA) near Somalia. 

After the Merchant Shipping (Protection) Act comes into force, merchant vessels sailing under the Dutch flag will be allowed, under certain conditions, to carry armed private security guards. Currently, security is provided only by the VPDs of the Ministry of Defence.

VPDVPD marines protecting a ship. (Photo: Netherlands Ministry of Defence)

A ship's manager can apply to the Netherlands Coastguard for security provided by a VPD team. After an agreement for security provided by a VPD team, the ship's manager will in future also be able to request permission for security provided by private security guards. In order to be able to carry armed private security guards on board, the Act sets out a number of conditions that must be met. The Coastguard assesses the request for permission for the use of armed private security guards and, if the conditions are met, grants permission on behalf of the Minister of Justice and Security.