Why send in conventional military units when you can deploy mercenaries into Africa to carry out special operations, commit atrocities and confiscate natural resources all off the books.
Established in 2007 with four staff, Dryad now employs 21 people in the UK alone – another example of a sector which has steadily expanded since piracy in Somalia took hold in 2008.
“The business has grown and grown. As ship owners look at the way they treat their risk, effectively the maritime security industry has grown to meet the demand,” he says.
The Security Association of the Maritime Industry (Sami) estimates there are more than 200 private security firms operating in the north-west Indian ocean.
It says British firms account for almost half of the 139 companies which are Sami members.
And the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers (Icoc) says British firms dominate those which have become signatories to its principles.
Of the 307 companies from 51 different countries, 117 are British, followed by the US on 39 then South Africa with 16, it says.
Another rapid growth area is the business of armed contractors hired to protect ships in Somalia from on board – a practice officially sanctioned for British ships by Prime Minister David Cameron in October.
Prof Chris Kinsey, a security expert at King’s College London, says Britain’s private security firms were “following the cash cow” much like they did in Iraq in 2003.
“Putting armed contractors on ships is something the British are particularly good at, and they seem to be the ones dominating this particular type of security activity,” he says.
He predicts the recent discovery of oil in the region will generate even more work as “huge capital assets” like tankers and drilling ships need protection.
He says most British security firms now have a maritime division and estimates 95% of those at a recent industry conference held in London were sea-based operations.
Security adviser Christopher Ledger, who runs Idarat Maritime, says the rush to “jump in for a quick buck” has led to an unregulated industry which has at time been a “disgrace”.
Read More: BBC