Aug 302008

Confusion over the planned arrival times of the Global Patriot at the Suez Canal played a significant role in the shooting of a vendor trying to sell merchandise to those aboard the ship according to a US Navy inquiry into the incident.

Global Patriot, chartered to the US Navy, arrived earlier than expected on March 24, 2008, at the entrance to the canal. As result it had to wait rather than entering the canal immediately as planned. As it waited, the vessel was approached by several small boats with vendors aboard. Warnings were made by the ship’s radio, but few of any such boats carry radio equipment, as well by loudhailer, possibly unheard above the noise of the small boats’ engines and the boats continued to approach.

A security team aboard the vessel fired warning shots in front of the boats, one of which killed vendor Mohammed Afifi.

Agence France Presse quotes US Fifth Fleet spokesman Lieutenant Nathan Christensen: “Basically the ship received conflicting information on when it was supposed to arrive in the Suez Canal…The Global Patriot’s arrival ahead of schedule was a significant contributing factor.”

The US Embassy has apologised for the incident and Mr. Afifi’s family have been offered an undisclosed amount of financial compensation.

Security around US Naval vessels and merchant ships under charter to the US military has been heightened following the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000 by a suidcide team in a small boat.
In this case it is possible that one of the warning shoots bounced off the surface of the water.

MAC’s concern, apart from the obvious one raised elsewhere regarding covertly armed ships, is that the team aboard the Global Patriot were undoubtedly well-trained yet an unnecessary tragedy occurred. If proposals to arm seafarers against pirates gain ground one can only expect less well-trained personnel to result in more such tragedies, almost certainly to seafarers themselves.

The US National Rifle Association is fond of saying “Guns don’t kill, people kill”, but the fact is that people with guns kill.

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