I would first like to commend and thank Sea Breezes for publishing the article in the August 2011 issue entitled “The Scourge of Modem Day Piracy” (in From the Lookout, p20).
It is good that every Sea Breezes reader has been informed of the vital need for amending the SOLAS regulations to allow merchant vessels to carry armed guards and defend themselves against pirate attacks. And I hope that the vast majority of readers will agree with the magazine’s position on this issue. The attention being paid to this particular question inevitably makes me wonder whether, starting as long as several years ago, shippers whose vessels sail in pirate infested waters could not have taken some other measures to protect their personnel and ships, specifically by reducing their vessels’ susceptibility to pirate attacks in the first place.
I have to say at the outset that I have never been professionally connected with the shipping industry -– three years in the US Navy in 1943-46 is the sum total of “my life at sea” – so I am not as well informed on these matters as I would like to be. But as a layman who reads newspapers and shipping-oriented publications with some care, the extreme paucity of news about shippers’ reactions to pirates makes me suspect that they might have taken certain steps to avert pirate attacks but chose not to do so.
To take maximum advantage of the protection afforded by the presence of naval forces in areas where pirates operate, I ask myself whether shippers with vessels in those areas might not have banded together and, with naval protection, sailed their ships in a manner somewhat similar to convoys in wartime. Additionally, I wonder whether those shippers could have “got tough” with governmental authorities and trade groups, and altered (or threatened to alter) some of the major shipping lanes so as to reduce their vessels’ exposure to the piracy danger.
I don’t know how much such measures might have helped, but the lack of media discussion of the issues leads me to suspect that shippers didn’t try to do much in any case. If so, one wonders why. Is the shipping industry so fractured, with so many firms involved, that cooperative efforts are impossible? Is every firm so loath to incur additional costs, or so afraid to run the risk of losing a bit of revenue, that they prefer to do nothing to mitigate the danger of pirate assaults? I think such questions should be aired.
A lot of light would be thrown on the answers if Sea Breezes could take the initiative and arrange to publish one or more articles by experts on these subjects. Their opinions would be truly objective and would greatly enlighten all readers.
RODNEY H MILLS JR
407 Russell Ave, Apt 214
Gaithersburg, MD 20877, USA