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Belgian commandos on board the ships = 115 euros

(B2) The Belgian government, meeting on Thursday, decided to propose to ships flying the Belgian flag to provide them with a team of soldiers on board to protect them from pirate attacks. Attacks which have increased sharply in recent days in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden (a Belgian ship was kidnapped on April 18). This request may be executed under two conditions 1° the shipowner must have requested the protection of the European force, EUNAVFOR Atalanta, and it is not available (a Belgian frigate
will participate in Atalanta in September); 2° the shipowner must accept the legal and financial conditions set by the Belgian Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defense (see below). This offer will be subject to a test period, between May and June, before possibly being extended.

This provision will not be free.. The shipowner will have to cover the costs of the team of eight soldiers who will be on board (115 euros according to estimates for a mission of approximately one week). Furthermore, he will have to sign a commitment “renouncing any action against the Belgian State in the event of damage caused to the boat, the cargo or the crew”.

A solution to generalize? We know, in fact, that the question of liability and the cost of the military are the two main problems that arise and which has, until now, delayed the generalization of the embarkation of military personnel on board merchant ships. The triple solution put in place by Belgium – precondition of non-availability of forces on site, assumption of costs, and release of liability – is, all in all, logical and could be generalized to all ships and boats Europeans. Making shipowners pay – even if it is a solution that could appear shocking – may appear justified in view of the means that the public authorities use to protect them.

The question of the pavilion to consider. It would be difficult to choose to protect only vessels under national flags. But we could add a nuance, in my opinion, a sort of differentiated “rate” for the contribution, depending on whether the ship is under the national (European) flag or not. It is, in fact, not logical that a shipowner who has chosen a national flag (and therefore assumes certain additional costs already) does not pay the same “contribution” as one who has chosen an exotic, national or foreign flag. complacency, precisely to escape certain costs and certain obligations.


Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).