Foreign ministry broaches idea of arming Taiwan's fishing boats
ROC Central News Agency
By Elaine Hou
Taipei, Feb. 14 (CNA) The government should consider whether to allow Taiwanese fishing vessels to carry arms to defend themselves against private attacks, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs official said Tuesday.
Taiwan's existing laws forbid fishing boats from carrying weapons on board, but the ministry feels that the Fisheries Agency and other related agencies should discuss the possibility of amending the law, said James Lee, director-general of the ministry's Department of European Affairs.
The ministry made the suggestion in response to repeated hijackings of Taiwanese vessels by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean.
At a regular news briefing, Lee also suggested that local authorities permit fishing vessels to hire private armed guards on board, a practice adopted by some European countries such as the United Kingdom to deter pirates.
The Fisheries Agency responded by saying that the issue was one requiring discussion among different agencies.
"We cannot comment on that at present," Tsay Tzu-yaw, the agency's deputy director-general, told CNA.
Meanwhile, Lee also touched on the improved cooperation between Taiwan and Europe in combating pirates, citing the example of issuing a Chinese-language handbook translated from the English-version of Best Management Practices for Protection against Somalia Based Piracy version 4 (BMP4).
The BMP4, aimed at assisting ships to avoid, deter or delay piracy attacks in high risk areas, has been distributed to Taiwanese fishing and merchant boats since late 2011.
Measures suggested in the book have proved to be a success in fighting against pirates, Lee asserted.
Since the second half of last year, Taiwan has also been added to the network of the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO), which provides a unified contact point for merchant vessels that come under attack from pirates or are hijacked.
Through this system, the Fisheries Agency can pass on the latest information about pirate attacks to Taiwanese fishing boats 24 hours a day and help them steer clear of risky areas, Lee said.
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