UK government guidance document on use of armed guards against piracy - November 2011

Interim guidance to UK flagged shipping on the use of armed guards to defend against the threat of piracy in exceptional circumstances

This pdf document sets out the UK government’s policy on the use of armed guards onboard UK ships and the exceptional circumstances under which their use may be considered.

The guidance stresses the importance of conducting a full risk assessment before taking a decision to use armed guards, and the factors that should be included in such a risk assessment. 

Selection and contracting
It also includes the process that a shipping company should go through to satisfy themselves as to the reputability and suitability of a private security company (PSC).  The range of factors that should be considered and included in a contract between a shipping company and a PSC before appointing them are also covered.

Establishment & briefing
Advice is given on deciding upon the size and composition of the security team, and the firearms and related equipment available to effectively and lawfully defend the ship from pirate attack including the storage, handling and movement of firearms;

Command and control of the security team, including the Master’s authority.  The recommendations include producing a counter-piracy plan, providing DoT with a copy and registration with the appropriate organisations who monitor regional pirate activity in the high risk area;

In the event of an attack
The section on what to do when under attack, includes guidance on developing rules on the use of force as well as what to do following an incident.

The contents of this thirty-five page document are set out below.


The piracy threat; The use of armed guards onboard UK flagged ships; Exceptional circumstances; Private security companies; Other supporting guidance

Risk assessment
Preliminary voyage risk assessment; Further mitigation measures; Armed guards risk assessment

Selection of a Private Security Company (PSC)
General checks; Specific checks; Individual armed guards; Training of personnel; Contractual agreements; Insurance

Security Team Size, Composition and Equipment
Size and composition of the security team; Firearms, ammunition and security equipment; Excess personnel

The Master’s authority; and command and control

Storage, handling and movement of firearms
Firearms and ammunitions log; Storage; Handling of firearms; Carriage of firearms outside of the HRA; Transiting foreign territorial seas with firearms onboard; Foreign ports;  UK ports and territorial seas;  UK Export and Trade controls

Liaison with MSCHOA and UKMTO

When under attack by pirates
First follow BMP; The use of force

Piracy follow-up report; Firearms incident report;  Post-incident investigation

Post-deployment report

Counter-Piracy Plan; Contact details; Crime scene investigation

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