Francesca Sterzi

Politics, Human Rights and Sustainability, Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna, Pisa, Italy

Francesca Sterzi

Pirates and Contractors in the Indian Ocean: Addressing the Privatization of the Use of Force in the Fight against Piracy at Sea among Business Imperatives, Maritime Global Governance and Human Rights

The rise of modern maritime piracy off the coasts of Somalia has seriously troubled maritime traffics in the Gulf of Aden over the past decade. More than 90% of global goods are still carried through sea hence highlighting the key role played by seaborne trade. The international community therefore has provided a strong concerted response, which has led to the deployment of multinational naval missions by different international actors, such as the EU and the NATO to tackle the issue. Although this naval endeavour has significantly contributed to fend off pirate attacks off the Somali coasts, the vastness of the so-called High Risk Area, stretching itself further onto the Indian Ocean, and the improvement of the pirates’ tactics and logistics, have pushed flag states to allow the employment of privately contracted armed security personnel (PCASP) and/or military teams (vessel protection detachments – VPDs) on private vessels.

The growing employment of PCASP on commercial ships actually collocate itself in a legal and political grey zone whose pillars are the efficiency of this solution for counter-piracy purposes on one side, and the concerns due to a lack of transparency and international regulation on the other. Indeed, the key role in regulating the matter is played by flag States and self-regulatory instruments, although the International Maritime Organization has underlined the risk of an escalation of violence in the maritime domain, whose peculiarity poses questions regarding jurisdiction, legitimate use of force and accountability in case of violations. Moreover, despite the dramatic reduction of the attacks by Somali-based piracy, private maritime security is a business that is clearly not temporary: piracy off the Gulf of Guinea is showing that the pirate threat is still very vital.

By starting from mapping out the field providing a complete factual and legal picture of the employment of VPDs and PCASP through the assessment of the results gained and the comparison of national legislations, the research aims at addressing various legal issues while evaluating the possibility of elaborating an internationally binding legal framework, which could guarantee accountability and the respect for human rights standards.