File photo of an armed guard.

File photo of an armed guard.

By Michelle Wiese Bockmann

(Bloomberg) — Some merchant ships are using illegal armed guards to deter pirates off West Africa, prompting at least one country to suspend use of legitimate guards, said North of England P&I Association Ltd.

Regional laws require ships to use guards provided by the security forces of local nations, the Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, England-based vessel insurer said in a Feb. 5 notice on its website. Some of the local agencies that provide guards hired off-duty security forces to save money, the statement showed.

“This has led to further problems, such as suspension of legitimate armed-guard services by a coast state in the region,” the insurer said. “Operators should seek to ensure that the agency they use is employing local security forces that are on duty.”

Pirates hijacked 10 vessels and attacked 58 ships in the Gulf of Guinea last year, said North of England P&I, citing figures from the London-based International Maritime Bureau. The association provides protection and indemnity insurance to ships with total capacity of 170 million gross tons, according to its website.

North England P&I Statement: Guidance on Employing Armed Guards in West Africa

Copyright 2013 Bloomberg.

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