Should Ship Crews be Armed?

Piracy danger raises old questions
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 13, 2009 7:52 AM CDT
Should Ship Crews be Armed?
This image provided by the U.S. Navy taken from video shows a 28-foot lifeboat from the U.S.-flagged container ship Maersk Alabama on Thursday, April 9, 2009 in the Indian Ocean.    (AP Photo/U.S. Navy)

Amid the latest wave of piracy off Somalia, experts are once again questioning whether commercial ships’ crews should be armed, the New York Times reports. Ship owners had been against the idea, fearing liability and worrying that armed crews might be killed by pirates, rather than taken hostage. But increased danger—including threats of vengeance after snipers rescued a US captain—are fueling another look at the issue.

One shipping consultant predicts an international agreement to allow weapons, which could be provided to crews in moments of threat. “The captain declares there’s some elevated level and they open up the gun locker,” he says. But others argue that onboard weapons could draw attacks from those aiming to steal them; and weapons purchases could trigger a mini-arms race as pirates seek to one-up their intended victims.
(More Somalia stories.)

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