Piracy on high sea is continuing unchecked. Cargo vessels and oil tankers are generally targeted for hijacking by pirates because of their slow speed, less number of crew to deal with as compared to cruise liner and valuable load they carry for demanding huge ransom. Although, Pakistan Navy and navies of six other countries who contribute to the Combined Task Force (CTF)-151 which is an international task force to counter the menace of piracy in the Gulf of Aden around the Horn of Africa patrols the trade route that connects Asia to Europe, but pirates still manage to attack their targeted vessels and take control of the vessel without any resistance. The reason is that crews on a merchant vessel are unarmed since shipping companies are reluctant to arm their crew because guns could increase liability from accidents and escalate the violence with pirates. Moreover, carrying weapons are also banned on commercial vessels in some international ports. But many countries have allowed their merchant ships to employ their own private security guards on board to counter pirates. According to a report published in New York Times on March 24 last year, a pirate was shot and killed by private security guards on March 23, 2010 as he and several others tried to hijack a Panamanian-flagged cargo ship in the waters off the coast of Somalia. The incident began when pirates using high-speed skiffs controlled by a mother ship attacked the Panamanian-flagged vessel, the Almezaan, but were repulsed. When the pirates attacked the Almena a second time, they fired their guns at the ship, forcing the private security guards on board to return fire, hitting one of the pirates. A team from a Spanish frigate in the area, the Navarre, boarded the pirate boat and arrested six pirates. The pirate ships were then sunk. Pirates use high-speed skiffs (light rowing-boats) in which 5 to 6 pirates armed with Kalashnikov Assault Rifles and Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) approach close to the moving vessel then board ship from the skiff using grappling hooks and ladders while their mother ship waits at some distance. The moment they are on the ship they take the unarmed crew hostage at gun point and take control of the ship. Pirates can only gain success if they are able to board the vessel. But if their approaching boats are detected by guards on board before they get close to vessel they will not be able to use grappling hooks and ladders to climb on the vessel. I suggest that all Pakistani merchant shipping companies should consider employing private security guards on board their vessels to counter pirates. Private guards hired or recruited by them should be thoroughly trained in maritime security and should be provide with long rage automatic rifles. They should also be equipped with binoculars and night vision devices. It is pertinent to note that recently the UNs International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has endorsed the use of private armed guards to protect ships from piracy. Ministry of Ports and Shipping should make it mandatory for all Pakistani merchant vessels to employ private security guards on board their vessels to counter pirates. SQN LDR (RETD) S.AUSAF HUSAIN, Karachi, June 26.