My own country, the Netherlands, happens to be one of the few countries which do not allow private armed security guards on ships faring under Dutch flag. International law states that if a ship is in international waters the laws of its flag nation applies on board, in words such a ship is part of the flag nation’s territory.
A very big problem these days, are Somalian pirates who are threatening global shipping. Since a large portion of all cargo transit between (Western) Europe and Asia, goes through the Suez channel and subsequently come close to Somalia, this is an issue for almost every nation on Earth. It’s therefore not without reason that many nations has sent their navies to Somalia in order to combat the pirates. The Dutch navy is one of those.
Only the problem is that on the oceans there are huge distances between ships, commercial and navy. If a ship is attacked by pirates, it may take a few days before a navy vessel can come close enough to take action. Further there are far more commercial ships, and thus potential targets, than navy ships.
Since most Somalian pirates are operating in small groups and are relatively weakly armed, an effective remedy against pirates is to employ private armed security guards. Because these guard are on board of the ship they are protecting, this solution is much cheaper than relying on navy support. We, and many others, believe in a right of self-defense.
Of course, private armed security guards do not make navies unnecessary, they only help navies in combating piracy in international waters. That the Dutch government still refuses to allow them is something we do not understand. Fortunately a famous Dutch think tank on foreign relation and military policy, Clingendael Institute, has published a report urging the government to allow private security guards on Dutch ships.
You might ask why I address this point on this blog about space colonization. I do this because I strongly believe that when the humanization of space has become a reality, it will only be a matter of time, before space pirates will arise. In all societies there are criminals, Settlements in outer space will prove not be an exception. Some criminals will only operate within some space settlements, other law-breakers will try to exploit the advantages of outer space.
Virtually all space advocates agree on that the distances between space settlements will be large and that there be a lot of trade between space settlements. These two facts provide a perfect opportunity for space pirates. Since it may take weeks, even months, before the armed forces of any space nation may come to help, inter-settlement transport of both people and cargo is extremely vulnerable for criminal actions.