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How to stop piracy

April 13, 2009

Glad to see Capt. Phillips, of the Maersk Alabama, freed. I’m thinking that the job done by the SEAL team (3 kills, then one of them went down the tow line to check on Phillips), might be just the thing to deter piracy.  To me, nothing stops piracy better than room-temperature pirates. Check out the NYT headline – “In Rescue of Captain, Navy Kills 3 pirates“.   This MAY not be the reaction that the Times expected, but.. YES! WOOO-HOOO! That’ll show the pirates!

The 4th remaining pirate, who was “only 16”, had earlier been taken aboard the USS Bainbridge for medial treatment.  He’ll now probably go on trial, get full US rights, and spend his life in a prison with more amenities than he had in Somalia.

So, will the show of force deter future attempts on US ships?  Interesting quote from the Times article:

“Every country will be treated the way it treats us,” Abdullahi Lami, one of the pirates holding a Greek ship anchored in the pirate den of Gaan, a central Somali town, was quoted by The Associated Press as saying in a telephone interview. “In the future, America will be the one mourning and crying.”

Does that mean the pirates are sending millions of dollars to the countries that pay ransoms?  I don’t think so. Abdullahi (it’s a Muslim name, but it’s a religion of peace) talks a big game over the phone. But how does he like the odds of 4 pirates vs. a 30-round clip in an M16 on the deck of a frieghter? Firefights are more dangerous for the pirates, in their smaller, crowded vessels. Small arms fire won’t hurt a supertanker, but can do a lot to a rubber boat or even a skiff. And the next time pirates see a ship under American flag, they’ll be thinking… “3 dead pirates, no ransom, is it worth it?” Much better for them to move onto that Liberian ship that’ll pony up the cash.

One major problem with arming merchant ships is the work required to check weapons in each country you visit. Shippers don’t want the delays and expense of having to register their weapons at each port on their route.  Another issue (to some) is the access of weapons to sailors. You don’t want a fistfight turning into a gunfight.

Both problems are easily solved. Put a solid metal gun cabinet on the ship, with a list of registered weapons. At the port where the guns are brought aboard, the cabinet can be sealed. At each subsequent stop, the harbormaster makes a quick check of the seal. As long as it’s unbroken, there’s no problem.

It’d be worth a shot. Clearly, paying pirates hasn’t stopped them.

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