Minister of Defence Hillen is making it cheaper for shipping companies to deploy marines on board merchant ships passing through waters off the coast of Somalia. These military personnel protect vulnerable vessels from pirates in Vessel Protection Detachments (VPDs).
The Dutch shippers’ organisation EVO responded enthusiastically to the price reduction. According to the shippers, trade stands to benefit the most if the government provides affordable security: “Dutch marines on board Dutch merchant ships is the best guarantee for safe transport of cargo through areas plagued by pirates”.
In his quarterly report to Parliament, Minister of Defence Hans Hillen wrote that, in the last three months, the Defence organisation had received 17 requests for deployments of Vessel Protection Detachments on board vulnerable sea transports. Of this number, five led to actual deployments of VPDs.
The requests for teams of marines were assessed by following the ‘Roadmap for Request for Assistance against Piracy and Armed Robbery at Sea’, drawn up by the Netherlands and Curaçao. One request did not meet the set criteria. The other 16 were then further assessed against the criteria set out in the VPD Policy Framework. Seven of these requests were later revoked by shipping companies, five on account of the costs being too high. Four other requests were submitted too late for deployment of the protection detachments. The Defence organisation eventually deployed five detachments, which carried out their tasks without incident.
Minister Hillen has decided to lower the shipping companies’ financial contribution to VPDs from € 8,300 per day to € 5,000 per day. This represents a further reduction, as it follows a previous decision to reduce the costs. By doing so, Minister Hillen is alleviating the concerns of shipping companies, who were afraid that Dutch merchant shipping would lose its competitive edge against foreign competitors. As a consequence of the reduction, costs for the Defence organisation will rise to a maximum of € 8.1 million; this figure is based on the Defence organisation deploying 175 VPDs in 2013, which should prove to be more than enough support for merchant shipping.