Ships Take Up Arms Against Pirates
Maritime tradition fades amid rise in attacks
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 5, 2010 6:16 AM CST
Pirates aim weapons on the deck of a hijacked Chinese ship. The number of pirate attacks worldwide rose last year despite a slowdown in shipping.   (AP Photo/Xinhua, File)
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(Newser) – The maritime tradition of commercial shipping going unarmed is being abandoned in the face of the threat from Somali pirates. Shipping firms are hiring teams of guards—from $25,000 up—for the passage through the Gulf of Aden. Insurers are offering steep discounts to ships packing heat and security firms are doing a brisk trade, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Shipping firms say that armed guards have successfully repelled pirates and note that the attackers are now upgrading from small arms to heavy weaponry like grenade launchers. But most firms are still shunning the use of armed guards, according to one shipping firm chief, because of the potential legal implications, fears it could endanger the live of captive sailors, and the prospect of turning "the Gulf of Aden into a shooting gallery."