Trawlers can use military weapons against pirates

31st October 2009, Comments 0 comments

The Spanish government Friday authorised private security firms which protect Spanish trawlers from Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean to use large-calibre weapons.

Madrid - The Spanish government Friday authorised private security firms which protect Spanish trawlers from Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean to use large-calibre weapons.

On-board security "for Spanish vessels in waters outside territorial waters and in particular danger, can be provided by agents from security companies using suitable weapons," Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega said following a cabinet meeting.

She said the exact type of "military weapons" would be determined by the ministries of defence and the interior.

The move responds to concerns by trawler owners over risks posed to the vessels by the pirates in the Indian Ocean, who since 2 October have been holding a Spanish tuna trawler, the Alakrana, and its 36-member crew.

The captors are demanding USD 4 million (EUR 2.6 million) ransom as well as the freeing of two suspected pirates being held in Spain.

Spain in April allowed Spanish-flagged vessels to employ private security guards to protect them against pirates off the coast of Somalia, who often use rocket launchers and grenades in their attacks.

Some Spanish trawlers have already already employed private security guards but who are equipped with small-calibre weapons.

But the Spanish government has refused requests by trawler owners to allow soldiers to be placed on the vessels, as France does, because Spanish law does not permit the military to be used for protecting private property.

Jose Angel Angulo, of the tuna trawler owners association ANABAC, hailed the government's latest measure as "an important step" which would allow Spanish fishing boats to operate in the region "with relative calm".

"We can never have absolute, 100-percent security, but our ships will go out under the same conditions as other vessels there," he said following a meeting with de la Vega and Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Elena Espinosa.

He said that among the weapons that may be used are "light machine guns, assault rifles and pistols," but not grenade launchers.

AFP/Expatica

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