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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 7, 2009

Pirates attack MSC ship

At approximately 10:30 a.m. local time yesterday, the civilian-crewed Military Sealift Command ship (MSC) USNS Lewis and Clark (T-AKE-1) was approached by suspected pirates off the eastern coast of Somalia and took evasive action to prevent a successful attack.

While transiting north to provide logistics support for U.S. Navy and Coalition ships operating in the area, two pirate skiffs pursued Lewis and Clark for more than an hour, closing to a distance of approximately one nautical mile.

Once shipboard lookouts spotted the two suspected pirate skiffs, Lewis and Clark conducted evasive maneuvers and increased speed to elude the pirates. The ship's embarked security team also used a long range acoustical device (LRAD) to issue verbal warnings to the approaching skiffs.

Suspected pirates then fired small arms weapons from approximately two nautical miles toward Lewis and Clark, which fell one nautical mile short of the ship's stern. Lewis and Clark continued to increase speed and the skiffs ceased their pursuit of the U.S. ship.

"The actions taken by Lewis and Clark were exactly what the U.S. Navy has been recommending to prevent piracy attacks-- for both commercial and military vessels," said Capt. Steve Kelley, Commander, Task Force 53, to which Lewis and Clark is operationally assigned. "Merchant mariners can and should use Lewis and Clark's actions as an unequivocal example of how to prevent a successful attack from occurring."

Meantime, a Netherlands Antilles flag vessel, MV Marathon, was seized earlier today when 115 miles (185 kilometers) southeast of the Yemeni port of Mukalla. The vessel is a small coke carrier and reportedly had a crew of eight Ukranian citizens on board.


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