Why not arm the crews?
In June, the U.S. House of Representatives passed an amendment that would require the Department of Defense to put armed teams on U.S.-flagged ships passing through high-risk waters, specifically around the Horn of Africa where Somali pirates have become a scourge of world shipping.
The amendment now goes to the Senate. A separate bill introduced last month would grant immunity from prosecution in American courts to any "owner, operator, time charterer, master, or mariner who uses force, or authorizes the use of force, to defend a vessel of the United States against an act of piracy."
Both measures face tough debate — U.S. military resources are spread thin and onboard weapons, especially in the hands of civilian crew, are seen as an extreme option.
"Work and watch-keeping take up most of a seafarer's day," Sam Dawson of the International Transport Workers' Federation, which represents hundreds of unions, told The Associated Press by e-mail. "The practice, handling and use of weapons would be a duty too far."
But there is a strong push for action following the April seizure of the MV Maersk Alabama.
That standoff, which transfixed the American public, ended with the killing of three pirates by Navy SEAL snipers and the release of the vessel's captain, Richard Phillips. . . .