MANILA Various manning industry based in the country have expressed their support on the use of armed private security guards on board their flagged vessels as part of a drive against Somali piracy.
Although controversial, the deployment of onboard armed teams is believed to have been successful in reducing the number of Somali pirate hijacks in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean.
Philippine shipping companies which choose to use private guards will have to adhere to the strict guidelines set by the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) and the International Maritime Organization.
MARINA chief Emerson Lorenzo earlier said that the agency allowed armed guards to be posted on all Philippine-flagged ships to protect the crewmen and cargoes from the piracy threat.
He also said that the country had 140 ships in its international registry, about 90 percent of which passed through the pirate hotspots of the Indian Ocean, Gulf of Somalia and Aden.
Filipino seafarers, who make up a quarter of the world's seagoing workforce, have been particularly hard hit by Somali pirate attacks, with 769 captured between 2006 and 2011.
A group of suspected pirates caught during a British Royal Navy operation in the Indian Ocean on Jan. 13 have now been handed over to the authorities in Seychelles where they would face prosecution.
Thirteen men surrendered after Royal Marines boarded a hijacked Yemeni fishing dhow, found to be carrying a variety of weapons.
A Danish naval ship has also handed over four suspected pirates to the Seychelles authorities, captured after Danish naval forces seized a suspected pirate ship off Somalia on Jan.5 and freed 14 hostages from Iran and Pakistan.
According to figures for Jan. 31 from the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), worldwide piracy reporting centre, Somali pirates currently hold captive 10 vessels and 159 hostages.
Hostages continue to include seven Indian seafarers from the Asphalt Venture and four South Koreans from the Gemini, still held captive despite the payment of ransoms. (PNA)