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January 5th, 2010

Cargo Ships Break Maritime Tradition by Taking Up Arms

(Summarized From WSJ) Some maritime shipping companies and fishing vessels are moving away from traditional unarmed sailing due to the increased pirate attacks.  Still, most of the international maritime community refuses to protect its seamen by arming vessels.  This is even with US Congress passing a bill limiting the liability of firms that use force against pirate attacks.  Some maritime insurers have recently even begun to offer special deals for ships that carry armed security guards.

According to the International Maritime Bureau, a London-based trade group, there were 324 attempted boardings by pirates around the world in the first 10 months of 2009, up from 194 in the same period in 2008.  About half the raids are in the Gulf of Aden.  Most recently, on New Year’s day, the U.K.-flagged Asian Glory, which transports cars, was hijacked in the Indian Ocean. Two days earlier, the chemical tanker M/V Pramoni was taken in the Gulf of Aden. That followed two hijackings after Christmas, and brought to 14 the total number of ships being held.

Most fast ships can outrun pirates; but, oil tankers and bulk carriers are too slow.  After being hijacked in April and freed by U.S. Navy SEAL snipers, the Maersk Alabama brought on an armed private-security team, which successfully fought off an attack.

Despite the growing threat, some shipping companies are still worried about lawsuits, threats to crew members and the cost of armed security.  Security firms are developing alternatives to arms such as electrifying the ship rail, flooding the deck with slippery oil, hoses that project scalding-hot water, and using long-range acoustic devices that make deafening noises.

For related prior entries on our web site regarding piracy:

Maersk Alabama Crew Blame Captain for Pirate Attack
SMSH Client John Cronan, Ex-Crewman Speaks Out About Second Pirate Attack on Maersk Alabama

For more information about piracy, please contact our firm Schechter, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P., Accident & Injury Lawyers.

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