The Japanese government will soon submit a bill of anti-piracy legislation to the Diet that would allow private-security firms to assign contractors to Japanese merchant vessels.
The bill would allow foreign companies to do business with all ships marked with a Japanese flag, in turn allowing these vessels to carry firearms when in areas infested with pirates.
Currently, Japanese-flagged vessels are not allowed to employ private armed security-guards due to restrictions within firearms control laws.
The bill includes provisions that will also clarify the rules of engagement for these newly armed vessels. Warning shots will be allowed, but direct firing at other ships will be strictly prohibited, unless in an urgent act of self-defense.
Ship owners will also have to make reports containing the exact details on what equipment they plan to carry on board. They will also have to provide extensive details about the background and origin of security-guards on board. This will all have to happen before the Japanese government approves their use of arms. A separate report will need to be filed detailing this information before every journey.
This would not allow any Japanese-flagged ship to do this, however– only ships traveling pre-determined areas of risk will be permitted. These areas include the Indian Ocean, Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea, amongst others.
This legislation comes after a disturbing increase in the number of hijackings occurring near Somalia. These acts are committed by desperate and violent Somalis from the coastal areas, who have resorted to piracy because of no other options in their war-torn country.
Although Japan has actively participated in the international naval coalitions patrolling the Indian Ocean, these vessels cannot guard this region forever. Arming private security-guards is far less expensive in the long run, and takes some of the burden away from military budgets.
Other Japanese shipping firms have invested in defensive structures, known as citadels, that crew members can fortify themselves in while they wait for military assistance. This is not a popular or advisable method, though. The presence of armed-guards is far more effective, and Japanese merchants fear they will need to avoid dangerous waters if this legislation is not passed.