Applying for the protection of merchant shipping against piracy


Ship managers can apply for protection of their vessels by Vessel Protection Detachments (VPDs). In addition, ship managers will in future also be able to apply for permission to have armed private security guards on board. This only applies to the dangerous shipping routes through the Gulf of Aden and around the Horn of Africa near Somalia.

When applying for armed private security, the term 'Private Maritime Security Company (PMSC)' is used.

Expected process steps in brief

  1. The ship’s manager completes the application form. In the future, this form will consist of a VPD part and a PMSC part. The form is currently being developed.
  2. The Coastguard and the ministry of Defense assess the application for VPD. The principles and agreements for this part of the entire application procedure will not change with the coming into force of the Merchant Shipping (Protection) Act. Thus, it is checked whether the application is complete and correct and whether, among other things:
    * the ship is registered in the NL ship register ('flying the Dutch flag').
    * the ship will sail through the High Risk Area (HRA) around the Gulf of Aden.
    * a risk analysis has been conducted for the voyage.
    * the BMP5 measures are complied with.
  3. If the application qualifies for military protection from a Vessel Protection Detachment (VPD), the ministry of Defense assesses whether it can provide a VPD on time.
  4. a. If the ministry of Defense can provide a VPD in time, but the shipowner prefers the use of a PMSC then the following questions must be answered:
    * Has a disproportionate detour to be made (> 100 nautical miles) from the VPD pick-up points?
    * Will the costs in case of VPD deployment be disproportionate (>40% higher) compared to the PMSC quote?
    b.  If Defence cannot deliver in time, the PMSC application will be further assessed (step 6).
  5. If the answer to both questions in 4a is 'no', permission for PMSC will not be granted on the grounds mentioned in the Act, and only deployment of a VPD may follow. If the answer to one or more questions is 'yes', the PMSC application will be further assessed.
  6. The PMSC application is assessed against various conditions laid down by law.

Vessel Protection Detachments (VPDs)

In order to be able to assess an application and come to a decision, information is required from the ship's manager. This information must be submitted through the application form.


Name of applicant The application for assistance can only be submitted by the shipowner.
Flag of the ship The Dutch government can only provide assistance if the ship sails under the flag of the Kingdom of the Netherlands AND the ship is registered in the Netherlands register of Ships. Ships registered in the Ship Register of Curaçao must submit the application for assistance to the Maritime Authority Curaçao.
Position, destination, route This information is required to decide to what extent this is a risk area. The shipowner must indicate which alternative routes have been considered and why these are not realistic. If it concerns territorial waters, the Dutch government has no jurisdiction and is dependent on the coastal state.
Type of ship and cargo The shipowner must indicate whether the type of ship or type of cargo poses an ‘additional’ risk in the specific risk area. To do this, it is necessary for the Dutch government to know what type of ship it is and what cargo is being transported.
Measures taken The shipowner bears primary responsibility for protection against piracy and armed robbery. It is therefore assumed that the shipowner carried out a risk analysis prior to accepting the cargo. The Dutch government must be informed about the risk analysis, the information consulted (such as International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and International Maritime Bureau (IMB)) and what (security) measures the shipowner has taken.
Risk analysis A risk analysis for the journey and the ship in question must also be included.

Special circumstances

Special circumstances may occur, in which case the Dutch government may decide to provide assistance even if the above conditions are not met. In order to determine whether special circumstances exist, the Dutch government requests the information mentioned in the table.

Name and place of business of the shipowner  The name of the shipowner, including the place of business, must be entered here.
Nationality of the persons on board The shipowner must indicate what nationalities are on board, both for the passengers (possible via the passenger manifest) and the crew.
Special circumstances If, according to the shipowner, there are special circumstances that necessitate assistance of which the Dutch authorities should be aware when assessing the application, the shipowner may report them here.

Private maritime security guards (PMSC)

Initially, an application form for a VPD must be submitted. As soon as the use of PMSC’s is allowed, the application for a PMSC will be included in the same form. In the process, various criteria have to be met before the use of a PMSC can be authorised. However, the PMSC application will always start with an application for protection by a VPD. For security by a PMSC to be authorised, several conditions must also be met.

Application procedure

The application must be submitted to the Coastguard Centre ( using the form. The Coastguard receives the application, checks its content and conducts an initial check. The designated and trained employee* of the Coastguard checks the application for a VPD and also looks at the conditions for the deployment of a PMSC on board. The decision on the deployment of a VPD is made by the ministry of Defense. Permission to use/deploy a PMSC is given by the Director of the Coastguard on behalf of the Minister of Justice and Security.
* Currently, this position is still vacant.

Submitting an application

Download the application form, fill it out and mail it to For now, this form is only meant to request a VPD. The adjusted application form to also ask for permission to use a PMSC will follow at a later stage.