Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Isle of Wight firm training piracy security officers

Maritime security personnel
Image caption Maritime security teams protect a large number of vessels from the threat of piracy

Ex-military personnel are being trained to be maritime security officers by an Isle of Wight company.

Flying Fish, in Cowes, has shifted its focus from sailing and watersports courses to private security training in response to increased demand.

Their courses use the waters of the Solent to train recruits in maritime security techniques.

Many trainees are at the end of their armed forces careers. The MoD helps part-fund their course places.

Piracy has been a growing problem in recent years in busy shipping lanes of the Indian Ocean and around the Horn of Africa.

In the Indian Ocean this year, 71 boats have been attacked, 26 taken and £120m paid in ransom demands.

Money can be a major draw to a move into maritime security, with salaries starting at £50,000.

'Confrontational situation'

Course instructor Jim Murray explained why the career change was ideal for ex-military personnel.

He said: "The role of an armed security officer on board a ship is to be controlled in a confrontational situation, for example with weapons.

"It's very easy for someone who has been trained in how to use weapons previously to have that as a defensive role on board a ship.

"Pirates are an organised criminal element looking for an easy unarmed target to take. Having armed security personnel in place reduces their potential to achieve that.

"To date, there has not been one armed security team in the Indian Ocean that has lost a ship."

James Cole, 40, currently serves with 29 Commando Regiment, Royal Artillery in Plymouth, and plans to leave the forces next July to look for maritime security jobs.

He said: "Money is a big draw for me, but also it's about changing a routine.

"Rather than just winding down completely from the military and moving into a desk job, it's a gradual thing and you're getting paid better money for it than you would do in the forces.

"I've seen it, done it with the military and now is the time to move on."

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