The Taiwanese Government may approve a plan to deploy armed guards onboard local ships that sail in waters where there is a threat of piracy, particularly off the coast of Somalia.

An official at the transportation ministry told AFP the government is evaluating the proposal, but details of how it would be implemented have not yet been finalised.

An amendment to the law governing guns and firearms that bars the employment of armed guards onboard local vessels will be required to implement the proposed plan, reports AFP.

Two of the country’s leading shipping firms, Evergreen Marine and Yangming Marine Transport, have already taken steps to protect their vessels, while they await the government’s decision on the proposed plan.

A Yangming official said that late last year the company adopted special security measures on their ships sailing on some routes.

A French company provided armed guards in three of Yangming’s ships, each travelling through risky waters near Somalia, according to a report in the Taipei-based Commercial Times.

Yangming was able to deploy the armed guards because their ships are registered overseas, which makes them immune to Taiwan’s regulations prohibiting onboard firearms.

An attack on a Taiwanese fishing boat off eastern Africa in November 2011 highlighted the dangers posed by pirates.

The pirates were unable to hold ransom the 290t Chin Yi Wen for long, as 28 of the ship’s sailors recaptured their vessel from the pirates several days later.

The fisheries agency revealed that Somali pirates are currently holding one Taiwanese fishing vessel.

Over 500 sailors and about 47 foreign vessels are being held by pirates, according to Ecoterra International, which monitors maritime activity in the region.

Laws were passed by the US and the UK towards the end of 2011 to allow armed guards onboard certain vessels.

The International Maritime Organization has also developed guidelines on the carriage of privately contracted armed guards for all mariners as part of its 2011 anti-piracy measures.