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Private maritime security company Aspida Martime Security (courtesy

Remember Captain Philips? Yeah, well, that doesn’t happen anymore. “Last July the International Maritime Bureau reported that in the first half of 2015 no vessels had been attacked in the Gulf of Aden or the Red Sea,” reports. Why’s that? You guessed it: guns. The pirates got tired of return fire. Here’s an interesting fact: the firearms used by ships sailing though formerly pirate-infested waters are stored on floating armories, ships anchored in international waters by private maritime security companies (PMSCs) not subject to local gun laws. The Ferret reveals that the Brits exported a lot of guns to PMSCs. Check this out . . .

A report by Omega Research Foundation (ORF) in December 2014 called Floating Armouries: Implications and Risks, said that between April 2012 and September 2013, the UK Government granted licences for the export of 34,377 assault rifles, 5,100 shotguns, 28 machine guns, 2,976 pistols, 12,816 rifles, 1,401 sniper rifles, and 5,294 sporting guns [to 50 British PMSCs].

And this is a problem because . . .

The dramatic fall in piracy has prompted fears that some PMSCs could go bankrupt and guns could fall into the hands of terrorists or criminal gangs.

The past four years has seen the number of licensed PMSCs more than halve, according to ESC Global Security, resulting in calls for tighter guidelines to be introduced.

David Stone, president of the International Association of Maritime Security Professionals, said the UK Government should set up a database of all weapons, with serial numbers, so that the original owners can be traced if the guns end up in unauthorised hands.

He added: “There is a risk that companies no longer doing as much business will not be using the weapons they have – resulting in those weapons just lying on the floating armouries. The problem is – and I’ll keep to the British maritime security companies, or PMSCs – there is no general or central data registry of firearms, or use, by British PMSCs, not even by BIS (Business, Innovation and Skills), which is the UK government department for export.”

Because a registry will prevent the guns from falling into the hands of terrorists or criminal gangs. Here’s an alternative: why not arm the ships holding the guns? Oh wait . . .

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  1. Well you can’t tell me that the British are the smartest people on the planet freaking retards!They’re probably using offshore drilling rigs that have been abandoned or not being used at the time. Haven’t they read the history books On D-Day That’s what I want sitting a couple miles offshore is 40000 weapons for any terrorist or any other fruit cake group To come into my country and have a free cache of weapons as they enter the beaches Exclamation point And then when you arrive on the beaches there’s only a handful of people in the country that actually are able to own and possess firearms, freaking retarded Exclamation point We better stand up Together arm-in-arm and vote against the Socialist regime that has Come upon us In these last few years with that Kook Hillary Clinton Socialist, and that couch burning Sanders socialist! Please remember to vote in November thank the Lord!

    • A substantial number of the existing PMSCs are either British registered, or registered elsewhere and owned / run by Brits. So it’s often fairly practical for them to buy their weapons from British manufacturers or wholesalers.

      If you look at a map, you’ll see that the common locations of the “floating armouries” tend to be quite a long way (like, thousands of miles…) from the British coastline. So the weapons used by PMSCs are really quite unlikely to find their way into the hands of “a terrorist or any other fruitcake group” that manages to make it ashore.

      Also, while the report suggests it’s possible the weapons held by companies that cease to be profitable may end up in the wrong hands, it seems the risk / reward of this is uncertain at best…

      Let’s assume that an individual company owns 500x weapons of various types. Are we really supposed to think that when they start to lose money, they try selling these weapons to Al Shabaab, ISIS, AQAP or whomever…? None of these groups have had too much trouble, historically, in acquiring ordnance. Is it really worth the risk of corporate blow-back, if it were ever to emerge that Company X’s guns were sold on to a terrorist group…? I suspect a safer course would be to dump the weapons at sea – and simply pack up and go home.

      • Yes not many islamist slavers and hijackers off Dover (yet). Tend to be clustered a bit closer to sandland.

      • Brings a whole new dimension to the “lost my guns in an unfortunate boating accident” quip.

  2. So, let me get this straight: there are barges literally full of guns out in the middle of the Atlantic?

    If you must excuse me, I have to go buy a boat…

    • Boy what a secure environment that must be a barge loaded with container ships boxes Full of firearms and ammunition Floating in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean If that’s not a recipe for Destruction I don’t know what is. The British people as a whole their government Seem to be mildly retarded As if a large piece of metal fell from a high altitude and struck him in the forehead! Very funny joke about buying the boat I’m right there with you I live in Florida I can throw a golf ball and bounce it into the Gulf of Mexico from where I live 20 of boats around here LOL. My only question is what type of security did these bozos have Escorting these Barges I bet not done nothing absolutely no security Just like those garbage barges that sat around in New York for all those years quite a few years back. LOL

    • Yup, definitely time for some trans-Atlantic sailing. I think I can even make my money back on the boat considering the street price of an M16 these days.

      • n Depending on how many Barges they have we could practically buy a used Carnival Cruise Line ship And a bunch of people to go And just unload every barge they have And still make millions If you don’t mind selling Firearms illegally? LOL

        • Why not make it a safari at the same time? Load up your cruise ship and start sailing around Somali coasts, into their ports, etc, loaded for bear, shoot anything that moves, and withdraw only after being paid a ransom equal to the sum total of all ransoms the pirates collected. Make sure we have a good chef, I’ll sign up for a 3-week cruise right away. I’ll take the M2, if ya don’t mind.

          • I got my board shorts and sunscreen readyJust let me know When the boarding startsI’ll be ready at my muster station LOL

      • The armories would not be in the Indian ocean, presumably, because they would need to pick the guns up before getting to the hot zone, and because you wouldn’t want such high value targets withing striking distance of the pirates. Since the Mediterranean is much smaller and more inhabited I assume there’s no real international waters there, which means they are probably somewhere off the coast of Spain.

        • Well after writing this I did some research and it turns out I wasn’t entirely wrong but not right either. The armory ships are located on the edges of the hot zone in places like the red sea or the gulf of Oman.

          So yes, not in the Atlantic, unfortunately.

          Looks like I’m gonna need a bigger boat…..

    • Last time I checked, the pirate problems were off the east coast of Africa – bordered by the Indian Ocean, not the Atlantic. Unless I missed some critical bit of data, I don’t think there’s much reason for floating armories in the Atlantic.

  3. I think Big Jim said it all. Take 400K guns off shore? If no one is alloed to own them over there why did they produce so many?

  4. Look on the bright side: when the government asks where the guns are, the pmsc’s can just say they were all lost in a horrible boating accident….

    • That’s why I commented On them using abandoned oil rigs, I just figured they would have to have about a couple dozen British Petroleum oil rigs Not being used right now Due to the fact that they had blowouts like they did in Florida And completely ruined The environment Offshore and in the Gulf like they did here in Florida I figured British Petroleum would be all over hey we got a bunch of rigs we can’t use anymore because we brushed our processes and had blowouts and leaked oil made a nasty mess so now we can put guns in there. But barges Barges are the most insecure Place to put anything do you know how many barges get pirated And completely lost More than you would imagine I saw a show on one of the channels like Discovery or something to that nature on piracy nowadays and you would not believe how many Boats and ships go missing All over the world from Pirates hijacking boarding and sometimes kidnapping The people running the boat for ransom Endor Steal the cargo. Lords of London the famous Insurance Company Had something like twelve or thirteen hundred Claims on piracy in 2010 To give you an idea and that’s only one insurance company. A lot of these huge Freight Transporters are self-insured. So they never mention that they’ve been hijacked boarded People kidnapped and cargo lost and stolen. What a friggin joke!

  5. The American people should literally just take over the United Kingdom and make it part of the United States And for those people into Freedom Just go over there and take the island from them It wouldn’t be that hard Shit we’re the only people that support their ideas lately. Some very pretty Countryside And some really really really shitty cities Like Manchester Smells like piss when you’re walking through the area Real shit hole. But with all the issues we keep hearing from the UK I think we need to get mr. Trunk just to go and invade them And take it over and get rid of all these Pain in the ass people that have done nothing For our country since the friggin beginning

    • Uh – that’s dumb. Why would we want to integrate even more socialists into our society and governmental structure. Invading Great Britain and annexing it would be like annexing a bigger version of Massachusetts or the like. We fought a Revolutionary War to rid ourselves of their ilk – and you now want to adopt them back?

      Oh the horror…..

    • “take it over and get rid of all these Pain in the ass people that have done nothing For our country since the friggin beginning”

      Ummm… This is not intended to take away from all of the American lives lost fighting alongside Britain (and the other Allied powers) during the First and Second World Wars, but…

      Britain has been one of America’s closest and most constant political allies, and a fair number of Brits have laid down their lives fighting alongside their American brothers, in numerous theatres around the world.

      • Allies indeed. Each nation has shed a great deal of blood for each other through the 20th century. As George C. Scott said in Patton, “we are two people separated by a common language.” (although some Brits, and Americans, don’t so much speak English as chew it up and spit it out)

        HOWEVER, even Old Yeller had to be put down after he got the rabies. Quite sad really.

  6. I don’t think they are worried about either pirates stealing the guns or the companies selling them off during a short-term dip in business. It’s when one goes broke and the owners realize they have millions in assets hanging around in regions that don’t have an overabundance of duly constituted authorities or nosy neighbors. These weapons are indeed likely to find their way to Uncle Abu’s militia emporium once the shipping industry decides the pirate threat is over.

    • If one security company was sitting on 1,000 firearms and those firearms were worth $500 each on the black market, that security company, upon closing its doors, could sell their firearms on the black market for half a million dollars. That isn’t chump change. If I were the owner of said company and facing total loss of income (due to the business closing), I would be quite happy to put $500,000 in my Swiss bank account as a “parting gift”.

  7. The article makes it sound like there are unmanned vessels full of weapons floating around, and that’s not the case. Private security is big business in that part if the world now and those are more like mother ships for the escort vessels. Lots of firepower and lots of skilled operators operating operationally making good bank keeping the pirates away. Not to mention a fairly robust international naval presence working the Horn of Africa. Being taken by Somalis is not likely. When these companies cease doing business they typically are bought out or merge with others and the assets stay in the community so to speak.

  8. Would all ya all say that in this particular scenario and government buy back is warranted?

  9. I read a write-up on one of those ships a few years back.

    And, I found that particular article, and a few others:

    The Wall Street Journal – (Some nice pics)

    “On Board the Arsenals That Ferry Guns and Guards to Passing Vessels on the Edge of the Indian Ocean”

    Business Insider –

    “Private security companies guarding ships against Somali pirates are increasingly storing their weapons on so-called “floating armouries” in international waters, to avoid arms smuggling laws when they dock in ports.”

    The BBC, (some pics of on-board life)

    Floating arsenals: The boats full of guns for hire against pirates

    • Someone that has done some homework. They are not stored on “unmanned barges”
      No only do The Brits provide the majority of PMCs for the Ship protection. They also provide the insurance for the ships. The ransom negotiators are British, and the banks that transfer the money are British.
      I have often wondered if the Pirates were British.

  10. This harkens back to a problem that arose in 2011-13 when regulation first began to be introduced into the industry. First came the ICOC which made it a requirement for all PMSCs–lo, all PMCs/PSCs–to keep very detailed inventories and records on their firearms. Most (not all) of the companies providing high threat security became signatories of the ICOC (Mine included), but shortly thereafter SAAMI was introduced. SAAMI was very anglo-centric (and fundamentally flawed), but as a regulatory body, a large number of ICOC signatories (primarily because almost all of them were registered to/by Brits) never bothered adhering to the ICOC guidelines and instead followed the SAAMI model.

    Again, because of a heaping ton of bullshit with SAAMI, I never bothered and instead put my faith in the IAMSP which was the better organization between the two. David Stone however, was (and to my knowledge, still is) the industry’s foremost expert on procuring firearms in the HRA (When I was still heavily involved in MarSec, it was well known that he could get *almost* anything in to the theater within 48 hours.)

    Now, as far as arming the ships themselves, Maritime Law prevents merchant ships from carrying any weapons (Although an allowance is made for the captain to carry a small handgun to quell a mutiny). But more importantly, in that region, the headaches of dealing with customs agents to bring weapons into country during port calls makes that process ridiculously complicated. I don’t have the numbers on hand anymore, but at one point, Oman was charging 1K USD per day to store *1* weapon (Or almost 10,000 a day for a four man team with 4 FN-ARs and 4 Sidearms). The easiest way to get around this was to simply rent weapons from certain countries in the area (Oman and Djibouti both offered such a service for example) but that wasn’t without it’s drawbacks either (Would you trust an AK that was dredged out of the back of someone’s armory to function accurately when you’re having RPGs thrown at you?)

    MarSec presented myriad of challenges to those of us in the industry, and I’d seen some seriously outlandish proposals getting around them. I remember a 4am conversation with one high-ranking executive about using rigs in the area as both armories, and I spent a good two years of my life in negotiations with another company (Based out of the UK) whereby I’d supply men and materiale while they’d supply helicopters and we’d be using offshore rigs as FOBs to respond to piracy reports from our clients in the same vein as the USCG does HITRON now……

  11. (Although if anyone wants laugh, remember that there was one company that was deploying 9mm Carbines against AK-47s and RPGs).

      • Sure, if you can push a 9mm out to 800 yards–which would be around the maximum range of an RPG-7.

  12. As I recall, when arming the ships was first proposed, deep thinkers argued that arming the ships would embolden the pirates to become more violent.

    As it turns ou, good guys with guns (again) stopped bad guys with guns.

  13. Can anyone tell me if it is true that Somalia had a relatively peaceful exsistance as fisherman before the advent of the industrial revolution when more advanced societies began dumping everything from trash to nuclear waste off their shore, polluting the waters they counted on to provide food and income? Were they always pirates or was it actually a response to shipping which damaged their ecosystem?

    • I’m pretty sure other countries overfished their waters, because no one could stop them. That, combined with a country run by warlords, is why they have piracy.

    • Somalia was an invention of British, Italian, and French colonialism (Djibouti used to be French Somaliland). They never had a national identity. It was imposed upon them by outsiders. Somalia was propped up by both sides during the Cold War. Once the aid stopped coming in it is little wonder their country collapsed because it was never real to begin with. At least the part that was ran by the British in colonial times in the northwestern part has some semblance of government and order that the world stupidly refuses to recognize.

    • No to the first question. Somalians are the worst people are the face of the Earth, rivaling Chechens for love of spilled blood.

    • Eh, Somalis weren’t really fishermen to begin with. But the over fishing thing was more of an excuse in the beginning–make no mistake. Piracy in the HRA was a very profitable criminal enterprise. Nothing more, nothing less. It wasn’t terrorism, it wasn’t a struggling country trying to protect it’s territorial waters. It was men recruiting the poor with promises of easy money to kidnap the crews of the merchant ships (the cargoes usually meant nothing) to collect ransom money from the ship’s owners so they could go on lavish vacations in Kenya, Mozambique, and Djibouti.

      The pirates themselves usually got little to nothing in return. Just like a dope seller on the streets here in the US.

    • Thanks to those who responded. It’s hard to find trustworthy info on stuff like this. I had heard it on the Joe Rogan podcast. I trust the man’s moral center and his knowledge of martial arts but his guest’s credibility varies from one extreme to the other. I’m going to guess that the truth lies somewhere down the middle.

  14. Here’s a suggestion. Let all ships, private and military, be armed. Small arms for the crews and bofors guns for the deck.

  15. The Russian Navy should be given some credit too. They established a policy of taking no prisoners when dealing with pirates off the Horn of Africa. Didn’t take long for word to get out. No telling what sort of other tactics they used too.

  16. I can almost guarantee someone in Hollywood read about this and is frantically working on a script about terrorists taking over an offshore weapons cache. Coming soon to a theatre near you…

    • I’m just imagining the over-the-top shootout sequences where the heroes and the villains are running around a ship with a virtually unlimited supply of guns and ammo all around them, continually one-upping each other as they discover bigger and more destructive weapons to shoot at each other. Obviously, at the end of the movie, the ship sinks from all the holes in the hull, following the armor-piercing chaingun finale, and the heroes escape in a lifeboat and drift off smoking cigars.

      Hopefully it won’t end up being Expendables 4, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

  17. Better change Maritime law to allow a ships armory, or hide those guns on that ship real REAL damn good. Cause the local governments will just chew up these ships looking for a reason to impound and confiscate the cargo for “smuggling” or “illegal gun running”.

    Sadly, without a major change in international law, a change very unlikely to be coming from the wizards of smart, floating islands of guns, is about the best way to do it.

  18. “… 34,377 assault rifles, …, 28 machine guns,”

    One of these words is not being used correctly.


    • Not exactly. Automatic weapons were usually the property of some state in the region, and would have to be returned at some point. And (again, I’ve been away for nearly 2 1/2 years now), you were more likely to see someone running an FN AR or a FAL than you were an AR or M1A (because of ITAR).

      And yes, there was very little breathing room when dealing with the importation of weapons. It was more common to just dump them overboard when crossing into territorial waters and buy new ones later than to pay the custom and armory fees.

    • It’d be funny if that wasn’t a joke. There were quite a few “unwritten” policies floating around, and I know of one company out of the UK in particular that had a secret document outlining thier reporting procedures for not just firearm losses (unintentionally and intentionally), but even for the use of lethal force. Basically, believe the exact opposite of what was reported… “I warned them! When they saw the first guy get shot, they all ran away” basically….

  19. I work as a ships Bosunmate and would be interested in a job like this. Anybody know if there are US companys that do this type of work?

    • There are a ton. Advanfort, Espada, STS (just to name a few). Quick and easy way to find them would be to look at the list of ICOC Signatories. Most of the companies operating in this market are signatories, and their profile will list their country of origin and contact information.

      Keep in mind though, that you’ll run the gambit of companies ranging from a couple of ex-mil buddies taking thier privately owned ARs to companies issuing tens of thousands of dollars worth of gucci gear to every member of a team.

      Keep in mind however, now that the cowboy days are over, daily pay rates have come down significantly–in 2011-12 you could make 3-4 hundred a day with some companies (about 5k per ‘transit’ as an individual. Now there’s a company in Florida that’s running transits at <$10,000 total (which includes their cost of deploying/positioning 4 man teams). This is between 70% and 90% less than what it would've cost just a few years ago (As I said, some states were charging that just to bring weapons ashore). I'm not even sure how the hell they're managing it, honestly.

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