Tuesday, November 25, 2008

How Not to Defend Against Piracy

You have to love articles like this one in the Wall Street Journal. Arthur Bowring, from the Hong Kong Shipowners' Association tells the world how ships should defend themselves. Of course he doesn't want the ships to actually defend themselves.
But in the meantime, shipowners and their seafarers in the Gulf of Aden will protect themselves as best they can. We do not believe that they should do this by arming themselves, or by carrying armed guards, because this could contribute to escalating violence and put the safety of seafarers in jeopardy.

A better solution is to coordinate ships' transits more closely with the naval presence in those waters, and to monitor International Maritime Bureau reports, and other reports, to avoid areas where attacks are taking place. The naval forces working to protect our ships could also improve their effectiveness through better coordination, more defined "rules of engagement" and the organization of regular convoys. Countries should also adopt and enforce legislation that criminalizes piracy at sea, in line with the relevant articles of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, so that pirates may be caught by navy ships and prosecuted, not returned to the beach to pirate again.

That's right. Don't arm yourself, because being taken hostage and having your life threatened is much safer for seafarers, just like not fighting back is the safest response from a rape victim. Not that there aren't any international security firms out there that do these things professionally either.

Convoying works as we all know, but apparently there are reasons that they don't do it. Mainly because no one is willing to provide convoy protections. Bowring should have provided a list of Navies that are standing up and taking on the fiscal responsibility for convoys. Even more entertaining is his contention that they should be checking reports of where piracy is happening. Maybe he missed the point that the latest acts of piracy were far far away from where they normally hunt.

I really like the "rules of engagement" statement. It's quite simple actually. If someone starts shooting at you and trying to take your ship, you shoot at them. It is more difficult for Navies because they have an expected humanitarian behavior toward the pirates. Though India didn't seem to play that game recently. The British have stated they don't want to play because they have no way of prosecuting. As for the UN's Law of the Sea convention, it would have some use, except that it has so many hugely detrimental regulations against countries and their Navies, not to mention their sovereign rights, that it isn't worth being a party to. Of course, this wouldn't stop the piracy, it would just make it clear as to how to prosecute it.

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