Senate Hearing – Piracy on the High Seas: Protecting our Ships, Crews, and Passengers

Yesterday, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation held a subcommittee hearing on Piracy on the High Seas: Protecting our Ships, Crews, and Passengers.  The goal of the hearing was to examine ongoing efforts to combat piracy on the high seas.  The subcommittee, chaired by Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., heard testimonies from, amongst others, Philip J. Shapiro, President and Chief Executive Officer of Liberty Maritime Corporation,  Rear Admiral Brian Salerno, Assistant Commandant for Marine Safety, Security, and Stewardship for the U.S. Coast Guard, and Captain Phillips and Michael Perry, master and chief engineer of the MV Maersk Alabama.

Philip Shapiro, who’s company was recently victimized by pirates off the Somali coast in the April 14th attack on the M/V Liberty Sun, said that U.S. cargo crews should be allowed to arm themselves in response to the rising hijacking threat stating that although an 1819 statute gave ships the right to defend themselves, they still were subject to laws and inconsistent port rules governing whether armed vessels could dock.  

“In light of the recent threats to U.S. merchant mariners, we respectfully request that Congress consider clearing the obstacles that currently block ship owners from arming our vessels,” Shapiro said.

In Capt. Phillips’ statement, he repeated an assertion he made before a separate Senate committee last week that arming vessels’ crews could provide an effective deterrent — but only under certain limited circumstances.  He also the most desirable response would be the establishment of U.S. military escorts and/or military detachments aboard U.S. vessels in order to meet the immediate need to protect vessels and their crews from piracy.  At the same time, he recognized the limitations of governments resources due to the vastness of the area that pirates are currently operating in.

“These bandits have to be stopped,” Sen. Frank Lautenberg said at the opening of the hearing.  “A timid approach will not do.  We need to take bold action to keep our seas and ship crews safe.”

“The International Maritime Organization has one hundred sixty-eight 168 member nations—they must all band together to prosecute and stop piracy in this region.”

More info…

US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation

Piracy on the High Seas: Protecting our Ships, Crews, and Passengers WEBCAST

Morjority Statements

John D. Rockefeller, IV

Frank R. Lautenberg

Download Full Statements

Philip J. Shapiro
President and Chief Executive Officer
Liberty Maritime Corporation
Captain Richard Phillips
Captain
MV Maersk Alabama on bareboat charter contract with Central Gulf Waterman
Michael A. Perry
Chief Engineer
MV Maersk Alabama on bareboat charter contract with Central Gulf Waterman
The Honorable Roy Kienitz
Under Secretary of Transportation for Policy
U.S. Department of Transportation
Rear Admiral Brian Salerno
Assistant Commandant for Marine Safety, Security, and Stewardship
U.S. Coast Guard
Theresa Whelan
Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for African Affairs
Office of the Secretary of Defense