The flag officer commanding the Naval Service, Commodore Mark Mellett, has written to the navy’s 1,000 personnel warning them that anybody caught serving in any security capacity outside the force risks being disciplined.
Sources have indicated that some naval personnel have been using their “leave” to work as anti-piracy protection personnel on ships passing off Somalia and the Gulf of Aden, The work, even on a short-term basis, is described as “highly lucrative”.
A spokesman for the Defence Forces confirmed that the naval authorities are investigating a claim “that a small number of serving personnel have been involved in inappropriate off-duty employment”.
It’s understood the investigation is being handled by navy management, but Military Police may be called in to aid them.
“The investigation is at an early stage and consequently it would be inappropriate to comment further on the matter,” the Defence Forces spokesman added.
Defence Forces regulations stipulate: “When a member of the Defence Forces is engaged in off-duty employment which is likely to prove detrimental to the best interests of the service, measures may be taken to terminate or limit the scope of such employment.”
The Combined Maritime Forces, which is responsible for tackling piracy off Arabia and East Africa, is made up of warships from 25 nations including China, Britain and the USA.
However, the forces’ ships find it almost impossible to cover 2.5 million square miles of international waters containing some of the world’s biggest shipping lanes.
As a result many shipping lines are hiring their own onboard protection through private security firms.
In recent years private security companies have recruited a number of retired members of the Defence Forces, especially from the army, to carry out work in Iraq and Afghanistan.
However, this is believed to be the first time an investigation has been launched into serving members being recruited for such tasks.