Legalities of vessel arming

Capt Nemo wrote-

“I carry at least one large caliber firearm pretty much everywhere I go”

Sounds like another 1911 fan:D

1 Like

The Model of 1911…a fighting man’s weapon.

Two hundred and thirty grains at .45 caliber, seventy-five grains at .223 or one hundred and sixty-five grains at .308. (I didn’t even want to mention 750 grains at a half inch…my favorite).

They all serve their purpose very well if we’re allowed to use them.

The rules must apply to everyone. Otherwise there are no rules.

Just my thoughts,


[QUOTE=Ordinaryseaman;11256]Capt Nemo wrote-

“I carry at least one large caliber firearm pretty much everywhere I go”

Sounds like another 1911 fan:D[/QUOTE]

Add me to the 1911 list. Can’t carry in WI, but I keep it safely handy at home.

[B]I have done a bit of research (as a company owner that is my obligation) regarding the armed vessel escort and have to say it is a very dangerous option. should a vessel carry automatic firearms on board, it first has to have a permit and clearance from the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (“DDTC”) Semi automatic exempted. As these weapons would fall under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (“ITAR”).

The U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (“UNCLOS”) Articles 100 - 107 cover piracy. Article 107 would specifically prevent a private security vessel from seizing any suspected pirate craft as this right is reserved for military vessels and aircraft.

Also, should the private security escort vessel fire upon or attempt to board a suspect vessel, that act can be considered an act of piracy in itself. If so, the private security vessel can be seized and the crew prosecuted.

However, the security vessel has the right to defend itself if attacked or fired upon. However, as a private security vessel and not a military vessel, it is a far stretch to be able to defend another vessel against attack, unless you were considered an extension of the merchant vessel and defending the merchant vessel. you can not be an extension of the merchant vessel unless you are flagged and owned by the same company as the merchant vessel.

Therefore, in order to legally defend the clients vessel, you must be on board and comply with the DDTC and ITAR. [/B]


Thank you for that. Have I read this correctly that semi-auto firearams are not covered?

If that is the case, a well trained security crew can do just find with a few semi-auto M4s and handguns. When I was in the Navy and for the last ten years as a PCS/PMC operation, I only went full auto a hand full of times - I prefer semi-auto but I digress…

So – Let me hypothesize this. An onboard private security crew lightly armed with side arms and semi-auto long guns (or deer rifles eg sniper rifles) transiting through the GOA. What will prevent this from happing – legally, realizing the shipping companies my have a problem but that another discussion….

Thanks again

I hope that that does help a bit, but there are more laws and regulations that would also apply. For example, the flag state of the vessel will have their own rules and each foreign port will have theirs as well. A lot of planning and research must be done before firearms are placed on a ship.

Sea Marshall is right - to a point!
The regulations set out by DDTC and the adherence requirements to ITAR are only relevant to registered US Companies and applicable to the use of and inclusion of US Citizens, so if you are not a US company and your Security personnel are not US citizens, these rules [U][B]do not[/B][/U] apply! However UNCLOS will and this, as we know is a big enough minefield to navigate - but it is possible and Escort vessels do work! If a vessel requests help for an emergency in international waters, ANY vessel who responds to such a request has the legitimate right to assist the distressed vessel and should the helping vessel (at any stage) feel that it and the personnel aboard are in danger or their lives threatened, can take the necessary action (whilst using the appropriate minimal force - compatable to the force posed as the threat) to safeguard the lives of their Crew and their vessel - this also applies to the vessel and crew it is assisting. (which is nice!!!)

[quote=Capt. Nemo;11250]I carry at least one large caliber firearm pretty much everywhere I go. My insurance didn’t go up. If I have to defend myself, my family or my property with it I may end up with liability issue. But if I do, it means I’m still alive and free.

Firearms training isn’t like training to be an astronaut…we train hundreds of thousands to carry and use all kinds of firearms. Being charged with the possession and use of a firearm doesn’t carry near the responsibility or liability of standing a bridge watch on a multi-billion dollar ship, much less commanding that same ship.

The ability to defend yourself and/or your property is a basic right, in my opinion. If the maritime community allows itself to be bullied, intimidated and held hostage by a bunch of low-life vermin in outboard motor boats then we deserve what we get.

We have technology that allows us to read the date on a dime laying on the street from a satellite in low Earth orbit. Can’t we track and destroy these criminals? I’ll bet if they owed the IRS a couple of grand they’d be behind bars and out of business!

End of rant,


I stand with Capt Nemo…

Before people get upset, I should say (1) I`m not a lawyer and (2) I have no personal issues with weapons on board.

  1. flag state laws will dictate restrictions on board the vessels
  2. certain nations have laws that bind their citizens to certain kinds of behaviour, regardless of what territory they are in
  3. the laws pertinent to the nation where you have put in will also come into play
  4. certain international agreements (such as non-proliferation) where the nation state has agreed to abide by the requirements of those treaties, conventions, resolutions, etc.

General risks

  1. personal detention, etc for the purposes of prosecution
  2. delay of the vessel for purposes of inspection (detention under port state control activities) if there are reasonable grounds that you are deliberately trying to bypass something
  3. seizure of the vessel as part of criminal proceedings in certain nations where it is determined that there was a conviction.

On the other side of the coin, Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights indicates that all persons have the right to life, liberty and security of person. The argument of self-defence in the maintenance of those rights has been pretty much clarified down into a simple rule–that force necessary to stop the progress of the attack.

that gets into two streams. First, were there other options that a person could have taken that would have stopped the attack other than the use of a certain tool? If yes, expect some legal questions. If not, then how do you show this? If you had a proper escalation of force (presence, warning, etc) that eventually ended up with you having to use the application of deadly force (which is what guns are, after all) to stop the attack, then it would likely be a matter of self defence. On the other hand, if the use of that tool was the only option available to the individual and there was a reasonable expectation that not using the tool would result in a loss of life, etc, then escalation may be relatively quick…

don’t know if this helps or hurts the argument, but just a couple of thoughts from left field. because i’m not a lawyer (and don’t take this as legal advice), one thing that people should get used to is being able to identify the restrictions applicable to their various transits.

IMHO…the UN needs to give the IMO some “teeth” in order for the maritime industry to effectively deal with issues of vessel security both in world ports and on the highseas…then just maybe they might be viewed differently than the impotent “confederacy of dunces” they appear to be!!

We have the IMO to thank for STCW. Are you sure you want them handling weapons?


*based on their past and current performance neither the UN or IMO should be allowed to handle sharp pointy objects…but if not them then who??

*always thought that a vessel had sovereignty based on it’s flag nation wherever it was.

Maybe it should be left to private, verified maritime security companies to do this job then?


*based on their past and current performance neither the UN or IMO should be allowed to handle sharp pointy objects…but if not them then who??

*always thought that a vessel had sovereignty based on it’s flag nation wherever it was.[/quote]

As an aside, we have found that there is a market for our less-lethal launchers in the Pirate protection business.

When we founded our company, we thought that two clear segments for us were civilians who like fireworks shot from a lethal looking launcher and police/military that have need for launchers for CS gas, less lethal munitions and so on. As it turns out, folks who provide security like our products since, being 37mm, they are ships stores. Nasty looking but ships stores none the less.

The thinking is that if the primary objective is to deter, these products, in combination with other tools, contribute significantly.


I spoke to a chinese deepsea tugmaster who said they routinely pickup a few chinese RPGs before sailing. A cheap Insurance policy for the Malacca strait and gulf of Aden. They dump them in the Red Sea prior to arrival at Suez.

They retail for about $150 a pop (maybe available in the plumbing section of the Shanghai Home Depot.)

Can you actually carry for self defense onboard a cargo ship, legally speaking?

I hold a CCW fyi.

I would very much prefer to carry than not, considering all that’s out there.


Its tradition for the captain to have a revolver in the ship’s safe. However for the reasons above I dont think this practice has survived in to the current day.

I had a safe onboard in my not so large but comfy quarters. Had the combination, but never had to use it, I left it unlocked. The mariners I sailed with were rather honest guys and gals… Funny, when things (Money from wallets) turned up missing, it was a wayward ABS guy that was stung/setup by the different authorities in Tampa. POS dude. Did my guys have weapons? Probably. He was lucky the Feds got to him before my guys who were excellent shots and hunters of numerous game, but honest fellows.