China shipping giant to hire armed guards: report

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Chinese shipping giant Cosco Shipping will spend $12 million on armed guards and other measures to protect its ships, a report said Thursday, after the UN warned of a growing threat from pirates.

The firm, China's largest shipping company, said it would spend the money this year on bullet-proof vests and on-board equipment to deter attacks and protect its ships and crews in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean.

"We don't want to injure people... but we have to protect ourselves," Cosco Shipping's chief operating officer Guo Jin told the South China Morning Post, describing the use of armed guards as a "difficult issue".

He said the measure was necessary for its ships when they were unable to avoid high-risk areas off Somalia, adding that the firm was keen on hiring British security companies which use former Special Air Service troops or Royal Marines.

Cosco Shipping owns 20 Hong Kong-registered ships and 60 others in mainland China and elsewhere, according to the report.

Cosco Shipping officials in Hong Kong declined comment when contacted by AFP.

The UN Security Council last month warned that Somali pirates were attacking growing numbers of ships in the Indian Ocean, and the attacks were becoming more violent and extreme.

Attacks on shipping have become increasingly common off the coast of India as pirates seek to evade the clutches of an international maritime force patrolling the waters off lawless Somalia.

More than 100 pirates have been caught and are awaiting trial following a series of violent skirmishes near India's Lakshadweep islands since the start of this year.

© 2011 AFP

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