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Danish Minister and ship owners agree to fight weapons transport

The Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Danish Shipowners’ Association are both advocating increased cooperation on controlling weapons transport through a voluntary code of conduct, or a certification. They are just doing it in different ways.

Photo: gORM oLESEN

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Villy Søvndahl, suggests a voluntary code of conduct for the shipping companies to prevent the shipping of weapons to rogue nations. In the same vein, the Danish Shipowners’ Association expresses a desire for a certification of Danish shipping companies allowing them to transport weapons. Both welcome the proposal of the other party.

This summer’s UN negotiations about an international weapons treaty were delayed and failed to result in a signed treaty. Parallel to the Danish political effort to establish an international treaty, a national code of conduct needs to be introduced for weapons transport to prevent the shipping of weapons to countries where they could cause extreme harm, proposes Villy Søvndahl.

“The process is not dead. We have not reached the target yet. Denmark will work with renewed energy towards a new breakthrough. We will continue the close cooperation with our partners in the EU and the other Nordic countries,” said Villy Søvndahl Tuesday at a public hearing about weapons transport at sea, arranged by Amnesty International.

As a result, the minister proposes to develop – preferably in a joint effort with Amnesty International and the Danish Shipowners’ Association – a voluntary code of conduct that dictates principles and criteria, and which areas and regimes the shipping companies will sail to.

Certification on the shipping companies’ list of ideas

Vice president of the Danish Shipowners’ Association Jan Fritz Hansen is generally pleased with the proposal, but he still brought his own proposal to the hearing.

“One possibility would be to introduce an ISO certification of the shipping companies, specialized for this purpose (weapons transport, ed.),” said Jan Frits Hansen at the hearing, referring to the existing certification of security companies and the training of their staff in relation to the fighting of piracy.

He was not ready to support the voluntary code of conduct yet.

“We would like to look into it. The concern is that we might not catch the sinners that way, and would thus end up spending a lot of time regulating a very small percentage of those who are in fact doing a good job. It would be a pity to sign something like that right now. It would be like asking someone, “Have you stopped beating your wife?” said Jan Fritz Hansen.

He stressed that the important thing is not to catch the few Danish sinners; the important thing is to build a stronger, international cooperation on rules for weapons transport.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Villy Søvndahl said at the hearing that the process of establishing a voluntary code of conduct had begun, and that he was interested in the association’s suggestion of a certification. The minister has not yet made any deadlines regarding work with the code of conduct.

Danish foreign minister wants a voluntary code for weapons transportation 

UN postpones agreement on international arms trade treaty

Amnesty: Shipowners empower weapons transportation control 

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