New Delhi: The government has issued guidelines for deployment of armed guards on board merchant ships by the ship owners to combat piracy, Parliament was informed on Tuesday.
"The guidelines have been issued for deployment of armed guards on board merchant ships by the ship owners concerned," G K Vasan Minister of Shipping said in a written reply to Rajya Sabha.
The guidelines, among other things, pertain to criteria for engaging private maritime security companies, armed security guards, team size equipment, command and control of onboard security teams, reporting and record keeping.
An Indian naval escort is being provided in the Gulf of Aden since 2008.
"The government has constituted an inter-ministerial group of officers to deal with any hostage situation arising out of the hijacking, at sea, of merchant vessels with Indian crew on board," Vasan said.
The government has already tabled a Piracy Bill in the Lok Sabha in April 2012 which envisages prosecution of pirates.
The Bill has also been examined by the Parliamentary Standing Committee attached to the Ministry of External Affairs, he added.
The government, last month, assured protesting family members of 17 sailors, who are being held hostage by Somali pirates for the past nine months, that it would continue its efforts to ensure their release. The protest took place outside the Shipping Ministry.
External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said he hopes for the best for the sailors.
The families demanded immediate release of the sailors, who have been held captive by Somali pirates off the Gulf of Aden, between Yemen and Somalia, on UAE-owned MT Royal Grace.