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CURRENT ISSUE

ARM MERCHANT SHIPS?
Should merchant ships transiting high risk areas carry small arms for defense against pirates?

Selected crew should be trained and have guns available
Professional armed security teams should be hired
No guns on merchant ships, ever

May 5, 2009

Tax incentives for anti-piracy defenses?

Two Pentagon officials told Senators today that "it may be useful to develop incentives that will help encourage merchant ships to invest in anti-piracy security measures. These could range from tax credits to reduced insurance rates."

They also revealed that the U.S. military is working with industry to explore how contracted armed security teams can be a useful and viable option for highly vulnerable ships. And they said that it may become necessary to mandate that ships take certain security measures--starting with passive self-defense.

"The single most effective short-term response to piracy will be working with merchant shipping lines to ensure that vessels in the region take appropriate security measures themselves," said Ms. Michèle Flournoy, Under Secretary of Defense (Policy), and VADM James A. Winnefeld, Director for Strategic Plans And Policy, Joint Chiefs of Staff, in a joint prepared testimony for a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee

"In so vast an expanse of ocean, and with so many other critical national security priorities, it is not possible for our military to prevent or intervene in each and every pirate attack. But with appropriate on-board security measures in place, the vast majority of pirate attacks can be thwarted without any need for military intervention.

"Effective merchant ship security includes both passive and active defense measures, and we are committed to working with commercial carriers who operate in the region to undertake vulnerability assessments and disseminate best practices. Effective passive security measures can include developing a comprehensive security plan; including risk assessment; the removal of external ladders; posting lookouts at all times; limiting lighting; rigging barriers (such as barbed wire and fencing) in low freeboard areas; varying routes taken and avoiding high-risk areas when possible; securing hatches to limit access to crew and control spaces; creating 'safe rooms' and maintaining good communications with maritime security authorities.

"Active defense measures can range from rigging fire hoses to repel boarders to maintaining professional civilian armed security teams on board. While there is some concern within the shipping industry about armed security teams, we are working with industry representatives in conjunction with other agencies to explore how contracted security teams can be a useful and viable option for highly vulnerable ships, such as lowfreeboard and slow vessels.

"As part of this effort, it may be useful to develop incentives that will help encourage merchant ships to invest in security measures. These could range from tax credits to reduced insurance rates for ships with enhanced security. Ultimately, it may be appropriate to mandate some of these actions, beginning with passive self-defense.

"Regardless, we will continue to develop partnerships within the shipping industry to make sure that information on best practices is disseminated widely and that vessels have the information they need to adequately assess and mitigate risk.

"We will continue to be prepared to respond as appropriate when U.S.-flagged vessels and U.S. citizens are involved. But this is a context in which our actions will be most effective when private partners take proactive measures themselves. Most pirates are opportunistic criminals: whenever possible, they will focus on the easy targets, and avoid the difficult targets. Our main task is to assist commercial carriers in making their ships hard targets."

Read the complete text of the prepared statement HERE


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