Captain who had been held by pirates urges that crew members be armed

The LA Times has this story:

Reporting from Washington -- The freed captain of a merchant ship attacked by pirates near Somalia last month called Thursday for military protection and armed crew members to thwart attacks in dangerous waters.

Capt. Richard Phillips, skipper of the Maersk Alabama, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that it was the "responsibility of the U.S. government" to protect any ship flying an American flag, through military escorts or onboard squads of highly trained security forces.

He added that an armed brigade of specially trained senior crew members also could deter pirate attacks in certain situations.

"And I don't mean a security guard. I don't mean a mall cop. I mean someone who's sufficiently trained," Phillips said

Phillips and the private shipping line's chairman, John Clancey, differed in their prescriptions for addressing piracy in testimony Thursday. Clancey said arming and training crew officers would be prohibitively expensive and would result in a potentially deadly arms race with pirates.

But the recommendations from Phillips, widely regarded as a hero for selflessly trading his freedom in exchange for that of his 20-person crew, are likely to pressure the U.S. military to consider steps he outlined in the hearing. At the same time, military officials have said that world navies could not protect every ship, and they have recommended that vessel operators adopt more aggressive defenses.

Since the Maersk Alabama attack, the military has held several meetings with shipping companies, looking for better ways to deter pirates. Clancey said those talks were continuing.

He said Maersk Inc. had more than 500 merchant ships at sea, making the cost of training and arming crews a "very tall order," and not one with guaranteed results.

"Our belief is that arming merchant sailors may result in the acquisition of ever more lethal weapons and tactics by the pirates, a race that merchant sailors cannot win," Clancey said.

He also pointed out that most nations did not permit armed ships to enter ports or dock. Besides talks with military officials, Clancey said ships were being "hardened," including the addition of electrified rails and pressure hoses. . . . . .

This point about "most nations did not permit armed ships to enter ports or dock" may explain why we don't see more armed ships. Another gun free zone has its problems. We ran into this problem with arming pilots and that seems to have been worked out with some countries.

Thanks very much to Gus Cotey for sending me this link.



Blogger boltville said...

Good commentary..........I cannot wait to hear you on Coast to Coast AM to-night. I am sure you will have more intelligent things to say.

5/03/2009 1:54 PM  
Blogger Cato said...

This point about "most nations did not permit armed ships to enter ports or dock" may explain why we don't see more armed ships.I strongly suspect that causality could be reversed fairly easily here. If shipping firms wanted to prevent piracy, they could decide either to refuse to service ports in countries that prohibited their taking action to protect their ships and crews or to charge a hefty risk premium to such nations. Politics would bow to economics in rather short order.

5/03/2009 7:42 PM  
Blogger Angie said...

I think that the free market would accept ships with armed sailors. Maybe not all countries, but once the freight is on land somebody else can profit moving the freight.

I am tempted to say that this sounds like a good job for Blackwater, but I am not sure if the world would have tolerated the death of the three pirates by mercenaries.

5/03/2009 8:28 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

John Clancey is a coward who does not trust his people who are on the front lines of his operations. He should pay for training and arming of the ships crews. So he is wealthy but stingy at the same time when it comes to his crew safety.

5/03/2009 8:44 PM  
Blogger The Right Guy said...

I'll be listening tonight and I look forward to it. As far as Capt Philips goes, wouldn't Blackwater be the perfect contractor for this? On the other hand, what are the ramifications of having armed personnel in foreign ports and jurisdiction where they might not be lawful? I think his CEO is way off base. A sniper with a Barrett could have prevented this particular case.

5/03/2009 8:45 PM  
Blogger JJR said...

I was thinking not only Blackwater, but you'd think they could also make navalized Predator drones that could be launched off ships (maybe retrieved with a net system) and that could act as a comparatively cheap, quick & dirty "Combat Air Patrol" for a merchant convoy, with Blackwater pilots (or other ex-military Predator operators) manning the controls. Or maybe a contracted Cobra gunship or two for good measure.

The level of stinginess in these shipping company executives is simply unmanly. 18th and 19th century ship owners weren't nearly so squeamish as this. The British & Dutch East India Companies didn't make headway only with the power of good ideas and marketing savvy...they had their own private muscle in a dangerous world.

An "arms race" the shippers "cannot win?"...please! Who has the deeper pockets here?! A bunch of Somali gangs living in coastal villages, or major international corporations?

5/04/2009 9:32 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

The shipping company doesn't want to arm ordinary sailors because they fear sailors will kill each other or engage in gunfights with pirates that damage the ships. If you read closely you will see that that Phillips doesn't want his crew armed either. What he asks for is training for a couple of crew members so they can be trusted with weapons. He is very adamant that ordinary crew should not get weapons. Without that training, he obviously thinks guns will cause more problems than they solve, just like the prevailing view in civilian life.

5/04/2009 2:43 PM  
Blogger Cormac said...

Clancy has failed to understand the biggest motivator for these pirates...it's easy money!

Arming the crew would increase the risk these "volunteer coast guard" (according to Rev Sharpton) members would likely dissuade them rather than cause them to get into an arms race.

If U.S. flagged ships start going out armed the pirates will leave them alone. This would make our own shipping companies more desirable to people looking to move freight by reducing the risk to the cargo. expansion of shipping companies will lead to increased employment (in addition to hiring new security personnel) which will be good for our economy(let's face it...we need all the help we can get) and help military veterans like myself move into promising jobs in the private sector rather than simply swelling the unemployment rate.

5/04/2009 6:39 PM  
Blogger The Right Guy said...

May be a Phalanx system on the ship would be enough.

5/04/2009 10:50 PM  
Blogger The Right Guy said...

Matthew? Prevailing where? England? New York? Washington DC?

5/04/2009 11:03 PM  

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