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“The Dutch government must allow private armed security on Dutch-flagged ships sailing in the Somalian High Risk Area. To ensure the safety of crews, this must happen as soon as possible.”

Priority KVNR: adequate protection against piracy

Protection measures against piracy:

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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 protection against piracy. This is currently only possible with deployment of a military unit – the Vessel Protection Detachment (VPD) – that is 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 some 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 his crew and ship against piracy 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 to 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 the VPD.

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. Furthermore, VPD personnel must (dis)embark at locations determined by the Ministry of Defence. Due to detours in sailing routes and additional fuel costs, this can lead to extra costs for the shipowner, who then cannot afford the costs of the VPD unit.

Watch a Dutch Vessel Protection Detachment from frigate Hr.Ms.Tromp liberate a German merchant ship on Easter Monday 2010.

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. Deployment of private armed security services is necessary to ensure safety in a High Risk Area if the deployment of a VPD unit is not possible.

In 2015, the Dutch government formulated a framework policy position in which private armed security could be deployed. This resulted in the submission of the Bill for the Protection of the Merchant Navy in September 2016.

Under this proposed law, private armed security services are permitted if the deployment of a VPD unit is not possible. This is exactly the type of arrangement that would allow Dutch ship owners to operate safely at all times. The KVNR is therefore of the opinion that this law is the best workable and most favourable solution for all parties involved.

The video below shows the 200th deployment of a VPD from the Ministry of Defence. A total of 250 VPDs have now been deployed. If the deployment of a VPD is not possible, a private security company could take on this task.

State of play - 31 October 2019

The Dutch House of Representatives has passed the Proposed Bill for the Protection of the Merchant Navy on 13 March 2018 with a majority of 89 votes. 

The Dutch Senate has passed the Proposed Bill for the Protection of the Merchant Navy on 19 March 2019 with a majority of 52 votes. 

The next step is a soon and sound formulation of the subordinate legislation in order for the bill to enter into force. It is not yet clean when this legislation will enter into force.