Finally, as the last country in the EU, ship-owners can hire private guards to protect their Dutch flagged vessels as from 1 February 2022. All other EU countries, and many countries worldwide, allow private guards on board of merchant vessels for some time already. The Netherlands now also adopted an act to this effect. However, the Act (i) only applies to the Gulf of Aden and neighbouring waters, and (ii) private guards can only be hired when the Dutch Army cannot provide a Vessel Protection Detachment (VPD).
As for the second point: that is the lesser of the problems, as the availability of VPD’s is limited. And perhaps not such a bad thing, as VPD’s are quite expensive (about EUR 5,000 a day, whereas private guards cost about half of that). Also, VPD’s usually are made available for a fixed period of time, which may well be longer than necessary.
The first point, that the Act only applies in the Gulf of Aden, however makes that the Act is of only limited use for owners of Dutch flagged ships. The situation in the Gulf of Aden has considerably improved over recent years, not in the least because of joint security operations such as Atalanta (EU) and Ocean Shield (NAVO). Whereas the situation in other areas, particularly along the West coast of Africa (Gulf of Guinea) and the Strait of Malacca, has deteriorated substantially. Although the Act in Article 2 states that the Minister may designate other areas where private guards could be employed, this is not being considered at this moment at all.
The fact that the Dutch legislator now also accepts that the violence monopoly, under circumstances, can be given to private parties is of course an important step. But the limited application makes it in practice a very small step indeed.