Friday, May 1, 2009

Captain Phillips Calls for Armed Security on Merchant Ships

In testimony Thursday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Captain Richard Phillips, who was held hostage by Somali pirates who tried unsuccessfully to hijack his ship, the Maersk Alabama, last month, said that armed security is essential to protect ships and their crews. Via The Boston Globe:
WASHINGTON - Commercial ships in pirate-infested waters need a small team of well-trained guards - preferably former military - to defend them and deter attacks, the famed captain of the Maersk Alabama told a congressional committee yesterday.

"I don't mean a security guard. I don't mean a mall cop," Richard Phillips told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Instead, the ships need two or three special force members each, backed up by the US government, to take on pirates or scare them off, he said.

Neither the committee members nor Phillips - a 53-year-old Boston native and Vermont resident who became a hero last month after he was held hostage for five days by Somali pirates, then rescued by Navy SEAL snipers who killed three of them - offered a definitive solution to thwarting attacks from increasingly bold pirates.

But Phillips and the chairman of Maersk said that arming ship crews would not solve the problem.

International law makes the idea tricky, said Maersk chairman John P. Clancey, since the vast majority of ports do not allow armed ships to enter. Further, he said, arming merchant sailors "may result in the acquisition of even more lethal weapons and tactics by the pirates," putting crews in greater danger.

And while Phillips said he was open to the idea of a small group of senior, well-trained ship officers having weapons on board, he preferred a government-backed team - as long as the security force answered to the captain.

"I am not comfortable giving up command authority to others," Phillips said. "In the heat of an attack, there can be only one final decision-maker."

In the video above, Capt. Phillips also that increased naval patrols and escorts would help, although the area is so vast that it is impossible to cover every possible venue of attack.

Please pray that our lawmakers will choose a wise course in picking a strategy that will protect our shipping from attack without exposing our merchant seamen to even greater danger.

Piracy Archive
Captain Phillips Free!
Captain Attempts Escape But is Recaptured
USS Bainbridge Arrives at Scene of Hijacking
Pirates Seize Ship With American Crew

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