Merchant Shipping (Protection) Act

Dutch merchant ships will be able to protect themselves more effectively against piracy in the Gulf of Aden in the future. Under the Merchant Shipping (Protection) Act that enters into force on 1 February 2022, ship managers will be allowed under certain conditions to deploy armed private security guards. 

Protecting Dutch merchant shipping from piracy

The authorities of the Netherlands seek to protect Dutch merchant ships more effectively against piracy in the Gulf of Aden. 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.

Dutch merchant ships allowed to use private guards

As of 1 February 2022, maritime security companies can apply for a permit to provide security services. Once the first permit has been issued, ship managers may apply to the Coastguard for permission 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 has granted a permit to a maritime security company, ship managers may apply to the Coastguard for permission to deploy armed private security guards on board. Only merchant vessels sailing under the Dutch flag that meet the conditions will be granted permission. Ship managers must request permission from the Coastguard for each shipping route on which they seek to deploy security guards. 

More information

The Dutch government website includes an overview of frequently asked questions about the amendment of the Merchant Shipping (Protection) Act.