Priority: adequate protection against piracy

Dutch shipowners:

“We are pleased that the Dutch government approved the bill allowing private armed security on Dutch-flagged ships on 19 March 2019. This means that the safety of crews can be guaranteed in dangerous areas. The underlying regulations must now be laid down as soon as possible so that the law can come into effect.”

Protection measures against piracy:

Cathelijne Bouwkamp 150.JPG


Cathelijne Bouwkamp
Maritime law and Security

+31 10 2176 279
+31 6 4168 5465

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Press inquiries


Nathan Habers
Public Relations

+31 10 2176 264


Ships sailing through the Somalian High Risk Area may receive onboard protection against piracy. This is currently only possible with deployment of a military unit – the Vessel Protection Detachment (VPD) – commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of Defence. While their work is greatly appreciated by Dutch shipowners, it does sometimes present challenges.

Enlisting the protection from the VPD is not an option for many shipowners from the point of view of flexibility, scope and costs. It is in these situations that a shipowner must have the opportunity to employ private security guards. In this way, a shipowner can protect crew and ship against possible piracy attacks in all circumstances. The Ministry of Defence has identified three factors on which the deployment of the VPD depends. These factors are not flexible.

Flexibility: A VPD unit can sometimes not be deployed on board a ship on time due to the length of time required for processing an application. In the spot market especially – in which numerous Dutch ships operate, and in which cargoes must be transported within a few days – the deployment of a VPD unit is difficult to guarantee.

Scope of the VPD: In order to guarantee the safety of its own personnel, the Dutch Ministry of Defence has determined that a VPD unit must consist of at least eleven soldiers. However, Dutch ships are often quite small, with a limited number of cabins on board. As a result, there are sometimes simply not enough sleeping places on board for a VPD unit.

Costs: The Dutch Ministry of Defence has set the costs for deployment of a VPD unit at €5,000 per day; to be paid by the shipowner. This is considerably higher than the costs for the private security teams that all other European flagged-ships are allowed to sail with. This creates a major competitive disadvantage when entering into contracts.

The challenge

Every maritime country in Europe – apart from the Netherlands – has been given the opportunity to deploy private security services. The KVNR believes that the Netherlands must follow the example of these countries.

Private armed security is essential to guarantee safety in High Risk Areaa if the deployment of a VPD is not possible. In 2015, the Dutch government formulated a framework policy position in which private armed security could be possible. This ultimately led to the submission of the Private Member's Bill for the Merchant Shipping Protection Act by the (Dutch political parties) VVD and the CDA in September 2016.

Under this law, private armed security is permitted if the deployment of a military team (the VPD) is not possible. It is precisely this construction that will enable Dutch shipowners to continue to operate safely at all times. The KVNR is therefore of the opinion that this act is the most workable and favourable solution for all parties involved.

State of play - 18 February 2021

The House of Representatives passed the bill, the Merchant Shipping Protection Act, on 13 March 2018. Political parties VVD, CDA, SGP, FvD, CU, PVV, 50PLUS and Denk accounted for a majority of 89 seats. The Senate passed the bill, the Merchant Shipping Protection Act, on 19 March 2019. VVD, CDA, SGP, CU, PVV, OSF, 50PLUS and D66 provided a majority of 52 seats.

The Ministry of Justice and Security is currently working on the General Administrative Order relating to the Merchant Shipping Protection Act and an amended bill. In January 2021, the Council of State issued its advice and, after adjustment, the proposals will be presented to the Council of Ministers before they go to Parliament. This is in connection with the caretaker status of the current government.

The KVNR has always insisted that these secondary regulations should be drawn up quickly and properly, so that the law can come into effect with the desired effect. However, until now, this process has progressed very slowly. On 14 July 2020, the Minister of Justice and Security even indicated (in answering written parliamentary questions) that the law would not come into effect on the previously intended date of 1 January 2021, but no later than 1 January 2022. This further delay is mainly due to the difficulties of the Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate (ILT) to carry out specific tasks (enforcement, certification and monitoring), and through political discussions about the financing of these tasks that are new to ILT.

Read the press release of 17 July 2020 about the situation (in Dutch).