The recent audacious pirate attacks in the Gulf of Aden and off the horn of Africa have fuelled the debate about the privatisation of maritime security. Ship owners and maritime security experts, as well as representatives of industry organisations, have stated that private security companies may be able to ensure safe passage for vessels through these pirate infested waters, a task at which government agencies have failed, despite international efforts. In fact, with more than 35 hijacked vessels this year, the first hijacking of a super tanker, attacks on UN aid ships and the unprecedented payment of millions of US dollars ransom for kidnapped crew and hijacked vessels, the arguments for hiring PSCs are strong. However, the employment of PSCs in Iraq and other places around the world has clearly shown that there are problems associated with the services provided by PSCs and the regulation of such companies in conflict zones. This paper explores the risks and benefits of employing PSCs to secure shipping in the Gulf of Aden and the horn of Africa.