A bill to allow Japanese ships to carry armed guards for protection is set to be passed to the Diet for approval. Recent numbers have shown that ever since vessels who pass by the Gulf of Aden started having protection aboard their ships, there has been a rapid decrease in piracy.
Out of the 18,000 ships that pass through the area off the waters of Somalia, 1,700 of those are either registered in Japan or operated by Japanese shipping companies. Since 2007, 13 Japanese ships have been attacked by pirates, with the latest one in March 2011 when the Bahamian-registered oil tanker Guanabara, operated by Mitsui O.S.K. Lines Ltd., was attacked in the Arabian Sea. Three of the four pirates who were captured by US military and turned over to Japanese authorities have been tried and convicted, while the last one is still awaiting a ruling. While piracy numbers steadily increased between 2007-2011, the numbers sharply dropped in 2012 when countries like Britain and Italy started allowing their ships to have armed protection. More than 35% of the ships now carry armed guards, and together with other measures like frequently changing the course of their ships, just 18.7% of ships have been boarded, compared to the 37.8% in 2008.
Under the Sword and Firearm Control Law, registered vessels cannot carry private armed guards. The bill submitted by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism will allow foreign security contractors aboard any vessel that carries the Japanese flag. Ship owners will have to get approval from the ministry and will have to submit details on what equipment will be onboard, their security plans and the capabilities of the hired security personnel. A ministry official said that they are working hard to have this bill approved, for the safety of the ships and the personnel aboard.
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