Issue 02 2016

“Pirates, but not of the Caribbean”: The French Private Ship Protection Act

by Philippe GRIMAUD

After comparing the legal frameworks related to piracy with those of Europe’s main countries, the French legislator recently released a comprehensive set of rules in order to allow ship-owners to embark protection teams aboard merchant ships in an effort to prevent pirate attacks. As this kind of economic activity implies specific skills and liability linked to the possible use of force, the legis- lator has carefully crafted the material and geographical boundaries. The ship protection business can only take place on board cargo vessels and only in two specific areas: one off the coast of West Africa and the other in the Indian Ocean and Red Sea region. In order to ensure safety on board such vessels and compliance with all rules applying to maritime transport, the legislator has given state authorities broad power to regulate the firms and employees taking up such activity. Firms and employees must receive special approval from the state authorities monitoring their professional skills prior to undertaking the activity. On board the ship, the protection squad remains under the shipmaster’s direction and is subject to unannounced control checks from French warships or pa- trolling ships and aircrafts.

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