Piracy on the High Seas

The USS Bainbridge, a, Navy destroyer, came to the aid of the Maersk Alabama this April, when Capt. Richard Phillips was taken hostage and held by pirates until Navy sharpshooters killed his captors. That attack was quickly followed by another on the Liberty Sun, another private ship. No one was hurt in this attack. pirates

The piracy problem in the waters off Somalia has been building for years. But the attacks this past April drew new American attention to the problem.

Maritime companies have been lobbying lawmakers for help for months, warning that the United States can’t afford to let its commercial ships be seen as easy targets by seafaring criminals. In June, the House passed language in a defense authorization bill ordering the military to provide protection. But Navy officials are pushing back, arguing that the ships should be responsible for their own safety — and, so far, the Senate seems to be listening.

Shipowners believe they shouldn’t be expected to navigate the international web of laws that govern their ability to carry weapons into some ports. If that’s what the government wants them to do, they say, the United States will have to negotiate with those countries receiving food aid carried by the ships.

“We find ourselves between a rock and a hard place. We believe it’s been the U.S. government’s job to ensure the safety and security of U.S.-flagged ships. But if the government is going to not do it for whatever reasons, then they need to empower us and relieve us of the restrictions that prevent us from putting arms on our ships.”

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