On 10 January 2019, the Portuguese Council of Ministers approved a law to allow armed guards to sail on Portuguese flagged vessels.
This measure is long-awaited by the International Shipping Registry of Madeira (MAR) and by ship owners registered within it. The increase in financial loss due to hijackings and ransom demands, and the risk to human lives, as a result of hostage taking has led shipowners to demand such a of measure. Ship owners prefer to pay for additional protection rather than being potential victims of piracy.
Measures to Address the Increasingly Frequent Problem of Piracy
Unfortunately, piracy now constitutes a major threat to the shipping industry and it is recognised that the use of armed guards on board vessels is crucial to the decrease the number of piracy incidents.
The regime to be established by this law enables shipowners of Portuguese flagged vessels to hire private security companies, employing armed personnel to be on board ships, in order to protect these vessels when operating in areas of high piracy risk. The law also provides for the option to hire security contractors headquartered within the EU or EEA to protect Portuguese vessels.
Portugal will be joining the increasing number of 'Flag States' that allow the use of armed guards on board. This step is therefore logical and consistent with the actions being taken by a number of other countries.
Portugal and Shipping
As recently as November 2018 the Portuguese tonnage tax and seafarer scheme was enacted. The objective is to encourage new shipping companies by offering tax advantages, not only to shipowners, but also to seafarers. For more information regarding the advantages of the new Portuguese tonnage tax, please refer to the Dixcart Article: IN538 The Portuguese Tonnage Tax Scheme For Ships – What Benefits Will It Offer?.
The Madeira Shipping Registry (MAR): Other Advantages
This new law is designed to enhance Portugal's shipping registry and Portugal's second shipping register, the Madeira Registry (MAR). It is part of a comprehensive plan to develop the country's entire maritime industry. This includes companies and individuals owning ships, shipping related infrastructure, maritime suppliers and those working in the maritime industry.
The Madeira Registry is already the fourth largest international shipping register within the EU. Its registered gross tonnage is over 15.5 million and its fleet comprises vessels from the largest shipowners such as APM-Maersk, MSC (Mediterranean Shipping Company), CMA, CGM Group and Cosco Shipping. Please see: IN518 Why the International Shipping Register of Madeira (MAR) is so Attractive.
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