Malta has introduced licensing for the armed guards used on ships to ward off piracy, with maritime lawyer Ann Fenech saying other countries should follow suit so the industry can grow in quality and professionalism, as well as size.

Dr Fenech, managing partner of Malta-based Fenech & Fenech Advocates, which helped to draft the pro-active regulation for the Government, said: “There has been a huge surge in demand for private maritime security companies and to date, we are informed, no vessel carrying armed guards has been hijacked. This speaks volumes, but the evident benefit of maritime security should not hide the fact that it is crucial for PMSCs to meet high standards and be properly vetted.”

The legislation was given the thumbs up by international provider Maritime Asset Security and Training (MAST) Ltd, which has offices in Malta, the UK, Germany, Djibouti, Oman, Sri Lanka, Nigeria, the US and China.

“MAST believes it will raise standards and professionalise maritime private security in the country. It is the only licensing regime of its kind in the EU, offering a clear framework for Maltese PMSCs,” the company noted. The new licensing regime ensures that companies actively involved in these high risk and dangerous operations are properly vetted, competent and regulated.

Maritime piracy cost the global economy between $5.7 billion and $6.1 billion in 2012. This sum includes ransom and recovery costs of $63.5 million, $290.5 million for rerouting along the Arabian Peninsula and Indian coast, as opposed to taking a direct route through the higher risk zones, and $1.53 billion on extra fuel for steaming at faster than optimal speeds in order to prevent attack.

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