German shippers have expressed doubts about a proposal by their British counterparts and cargo insurers to set up a private force of speed boats to combat piracy off the coast of Somalia.
A spokesman for the German Shipowners Association (VDR), Max Johns, said such a move was not legislated by international law.
“We don’t believe it would be a clever move to send out private armies on the open sea,” said Johns. “In any case, we don’t believe any such action would be covered by international sea law.”
The British plan calls for 20 armed and privately financed speedboats to patrol the waters off the Horn of Africa at a cost of 12 million euros ($16.5 million) a year. Shipowners are currently losing about 115 million euros annually due to piracy.
But Johns said a privately financed fleet consisting of combat-ready ships could set a dangerous precedent.
“Who knows who might also go out and buy themselves such a fleet,” he said.
The British proposal comes after a German cargo ship was seized off the coast of eastern Africa earlier this week. The vessel was later released safely after the pirates were unable to move the captured ship.
The European Union says pirates are currently holding about 20 ships for ransom off the coast of Africa.