The United Nations' (UN) International Maritime Organization (IMO) has endorsed the use of private armed guards to protect ships from pirate attacks.
After a meeting in IMO's London headquarters, the maritime body issued guidelines for the use of guards on board ships in areas of high risk, including in the Indian Ocean.
About one in 10 ships off the Somali coast already carry armed guards;
but observers say this number is likely to rise now that the UN has endorsed the practice.
The IMO says there were 489 reports of piracy and armed robbery against ships in 2010 - up to more than 20 percent on 2009.
The areas worst affected were the Indian Ocean, East Africa and the Far East including the South China Sea, South America and the Caribbean.
So far this year, more than 200 cases have been reported;
reports say piracy in the Indian Ocean is getting more lucrative and more violent, despite an anti-piracy European Union naval force patrolling the area.
The IMO insists that the guidelines are not intended to institutionalize the use of armed, privately contracted security staff on ships and that they do not address all the legal issues that could be linked to their use.
The IMO describes the guidance as "interim recommendations" and says it will review them in September.
Date: 02 Aug 2011 Source: PNA