Mar 282009

During a recent dinner with a senior executive of a P&I club MAC happened to mention that a US maritime academy was teaching future officers to shoot pirates. His response was not unexpected: “You’re kidding!”.

His response was followed by a clear and unequivocal description of why insurance folk get a sort of deer-in-the-headlights look in their eyes when the subject of arming ships arises. The subject raises extremely messy issues that the industry could do without.

MAC was, indeed, not joking. Several recent media reports mention firearms training at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy as part of the baccalaureate course. The training is provided by a former Secret Service agent and Vietnam veteran with weapons provided by the local police department.

True, many masters quietly have a sidearm locked up in the ship’s safe. It’s not there for derring-do against today’s version of the Barbary pirates, however, more of a last option if the crew get too uppity.

Being under fire can be a life changing experience. It can even be a life stopping experience. MAC has, in his time, experienced such things. Looking down the business end of an armed bazooka in the midst of conflict certainly makes one think.

It’s difficult to make coherent, let alone correct, decisions under the confusion, noise and percussion of gunfire, especially when it’s aimed at you.

MAC would suggest that before giving someone a gun they might have to use in anger they should experience what it’s like to be under fire. It might just save some would-be Rambo from going home in a bodybag.