Post-Alabama Maersk Maintains 'No Guns' Policy

 piracy, Somalia  Comments Off on Post-Alabama Maersk Maintains 'No Guns' Policy
May 012009

A rescued, and relieved, Captain Richard Phillips

Maersk is reviewing its anti-piracy policies in the wake of the hijacking and rescue of the Maersk Alabama and its captain but, unless government mandated, will not use armed security personnel aboard its ships.

USS Bainbridge tows the Maersk Alabama lifeboat while Captain Phillips is held hostage insideSays the company “(A.P. Moller – Maersk) maintains its policy of not arming crews or allowing armed guards onboard its vessels. Weapons onboard could lead to a dangerous escalation and raise a number of multi-jurisdictional legal issues. However, in certain instances when force protection is government mandated, the Group will work with and comply with government instructions.”

“We have expanded the area off the coast of Somalia where only vessels with a certain freeboard or capable of sailing certain speeds are allowed to enter,” says A.P. Moller – Maersk Group Partner and Maersk Tankers CEO Søren Skou.

“Vessels should spend as little time in the area as possible, and while in the area sail at maximum speed,” says Søren Skou.

Fishing for a lifeboat. USN: 3 Pirates: Null PointOther measures are being taken to further boost security onboard the group’s vessels such as making access to the vessel more difficult. For security reasons and the safety of its crews, the Group does not want to provide any specific details on these measures but they are likely to include unconventional technologies short of firearms, although not audio defense systems, and additional personnel along particularly hazardous passages.

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.