Swiss shipping operators confirm they employ armed security guards to protect their ships off Somalia & Gulf of Aden.
Landlocked Switzerland plays a surprisingly prominent role in the commercial shipping scene. The Geneva-based Mediterranean Shipping Company operates 422 vessels, accounting for 10.8 per cent of global shipping container capacity.
Three years ago Swiss parliament voted not to take part in a European Union-sponsored security operation, called the Atalanta mission, designed to protect shipping, crews and cargo from increasing attacks by pirates in crucial commercial sea lanes, reports 'SwissInfo'.
This decision did not affect the rights of ship owners and operators from hiring their own private security guards, but the subject remains sensitive with some observers believing the strategy could lead to an escalation of violence.
“The long-term custom of commercial ships being unarmed has to be thrown overboard,” Lukas Roth, head of the commercial shipping department at the foreign ministry, told the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper.
“No Swiss operator wants armed soldiers on board their boats. [But] ships from the Swiss commercial fleet also have armed guards from private security companies.”
Only some ships that negotiate particularly difficult stretches resort to these methods, Roth added. Another restriction is the high cost of such security, with a four person team costing SFr 40,000 per week.