Bill to protect merchant shipping

The proposed bill will allow Dutch merchant shipping to better protect itself in the future against piracy in the Gulf of Aden. Under the Merchant Shipping (Protection) Act, ship managers will be allowed, under certain conditions, to deploy armed private security guards on merchant ships. The bill must first be adopted by Parliament. 

Status of the bill

For information on the status of the Merchant Shipping (Protection) Act, please consult the legislative calendar. If Parliament adopts the bill, the Act will enter into force on 1 January 2022.

Aim: protecting Dutch merchant shipping from piracy

Dutch merchant shipping vessels require better protection against piracy in the Gulf of Aden. Pirates in the waters off the coast of Somalia have been making the shipping routes there unsafe for years now. If necessary and on request, security for merchant shipping vessels is currently provided by military personnel posted to a Vessel Protection Detachment (VPD) of the Ministry of Defence.

The Act would allow merchant shipping vessels, under certain conditions, to deploy armed private security guards on board. This would enable them to better protect themselves against piracy. 

Proposal: Dutch merchant shipping vessels will be allowed to employ private security guards

When the government is unable to provide military protection, ships will be allowed to deploy armed private security guards on board, under the following conditions:

  • the ship qualifies for military protection by a Vessel Protection Detachment (VPD); 
  • the Ministry of Defence is unable to supply a VPD, or to supply one in good time; 
  • the ship would have to travel too far to obtain a VPD; 
  • a VPD team would cost disproportionately far more than a team of armed private security guards; 
  • the private security guards will be deployed only in the Gulf of Aden off Somalia.

Ship managers will only be allowed to employ security guards from companies granted a permit for this purpose by the Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate (ILT). 

If the ILT has issued a permit to a maritime security company, ship managers may apply to the Coastguard to allow armed private security guards on board. Such permission will only be granted to ships flying the Dutch flag that satisfy the conditions. Ship managers must request permission from the Coastguard for each shipping route on which they seek to deploy security guards. 

More information

There is also an overview with frequently asked questions about the amendment of the Merchant Shipping (Protection) Act.