As you can see from looking at the other postings on my blog, my last post was in 2008. I recently watched the movie
Captain Phillips which has sparked extensive discussions and research into the actual story of Captain Phillips and his ship the Alabama. This discussion and interest has brought back the idea to express myself over the internet for other interested readers such as yourself, to see the opinions and insights that I've drawn about certain topics (ie. The movie/story of Captain Phillips).
The movie Captain Phillips depicts the story of Richard Phillips, the captain of a merchant ship called the Alabama, which was hijacked by Somalian pirates off the coast of Somalia in April 2009. Pirates armed with assault rifles boarded the ship, kidnapped the captain and took off in the lifeboat of the ship.
After reflecting on the story and doing research, one of the most interesting things that I noticed is that the only defense the ship has is high pressure hoses that are spread out along the side rails of the ship. They shoot high pressure water to potentially sink the pirate's skiff (boats). Why wouldn't all merchant ships travelling in waters with high risk of pirates be armed with weapons (ie assault rifles, hand guns).
It turns out that since the ships is main purpose is to transport goods (merchant ship), it would be illegal to have weapons on board because they could be smuggled into the country. To eliminate this risk of smuggling, even though the weapons are used for defense, the merchant ships are not allowed to carry weapons by law. This leaves the ships almost defenseless against pirates.
Another reason why they can't have weapons is the liability the shipping companies would bear. The shipping companies would have to confirm gun licenses and proper use which would increase their operating costs for each ship. The crew members who wish to have guns on the ship would need to have a license, have their weapons checked and be able to confirm that the weapons will be safely used only during an emergency. The shipping companies can completely avoid these extra costs and hassles, by not allowing weapons on the ships in the first place.
The reason why the crew cannot have weapons on the ship for defense can be fully solidified by the results of the hijackings that have occurred in the past. The pirates that commandeer the ships are not there to hurt anyone, nor steal the ship. They are there for the potential resources the ship is transporting which may be helpful to them, but most importantly. they are there for the ransom money.
In the eyes of the shipping company, carrying the liability for allowing the crew to have weapons on top of the costs far outweigh the costs of paying out ransom money to the pirates. The reason why the companies can go through this logic of weighing costs between the two outcomes, is because in the majority of piracy events, none of the crew get hurt.
If the lives of the crew and captain were more threatened, there would be greater precautionary measures taken for each individual ship, instead of having a navy fleet patrol the dangerous, pirate infested waters.
Labels: Captain Phillips, Hijacking, Richard Phillips, Somalian Pirates
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