Piracy Law

[LEFT][LEFT]Dear [I]gCaptain[/I]-[/LEFT]
[LEFT][LEFT]As you know I serve on the Piracy Committee of the Maritime Law Association [ MLA http://www.mlaus.org]. The MLA recently posted the United States Coast Guard’s Port Security Advisory (9-09) [PSA 9-09] entitled [I]Expected Courses of Action of Action Following Attacks by Pirates in the Horn of Africa Region[/I] which was issued on October 19, 2009. You may view the entire document at our Jones Act Lawyer site.[/LEFT]
[LEFT][LEFT]PSA 9-09 sets forth a series of “Possible Events” and then articulates the response to them should they occur. The list of possible events are:[/LEFT]
[LEFT]LEFTVessel attacked or boarded by pirates;[/LEFT]
[LEFT]LEFTPirate attack successfully thwarted;[/LEFT]
[LEFT]LEFTPirate(s) capture vessel or crew[/LEFT]
[LEFT]LEFTPirate(s) injured/killed aboard vessel;[/LEFT]
[LEFT]LEFTPirate(s) injured/killed off the vessel;[/LEFT]
[LEFT]LEFTPirate(s) captured or surrenders; and[/LEFT]
[LEFT]LEFTCrewmember(s) killed/injured during pirate attack.[/LEFT]
[LEFT][LEFT]Contemporaneously with the USCG’s issuance of PSA 9-09, the USCG also issued Port Security advisory (PSA 8-09) entitled [I]Port State Response to Request for Information Regarding Carriage and Transport of Self-Defense Weapons Aboard U.S. Commercial Vessels[/I]. This document is set forth it in its entirety below:[/LEFT]
U. S. Coast Guard Maritime Security Directive 104-6 (series) requires U.S. flagged vessels operating in the Horn of Africa (HOA) and Gulf of Aden (GOA) regions to evaluate their vulnerability and provide additional armed or unarmed security as needed. Port Security Advisory (4-09) - International Trafficking in Arms Regulations (ITAR) Guidance to U.S. vessel owners, operators, and security teams -provided additional guidelines on the laws associated with arming security personnel on vessels. In May 2009, The U.S. Department of State sent a demarche on behalf of the U.S. commercial shipping industry to determine port state laws and restrictions on the carriage of self-defense weapons for vessels operating in high risk waters. The U.S. interagency is committed to providing U.S. vessel owners, operators, and security teams with as accurate and up-to-date information as possible, therefore the list of port state responses will be updated as new information is received.

[I][U]At the time of this posting only five nations have responded[/U][/I]. It is anticipated that the responses will either be favorable, favorable with stipulations/restrictions or unfavorable. The U.S. Department of State has committed to continue to work with the rest of interagency interests and industry to identify high priority ports and to ask port states for a response to the demarche. U.S. vessel owners and operators affected by this Port Security Advisory are requested to provide the Coast Guard with specific port call information so that a prioritized list of ports can be compiled.

U.S. vessels considering operating in High Risk Waters with armed security are directed to review the port state responses often. The information will be posted on the U.S. Coast Guard’s Homeport, as well as U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT)/ Maritime Administration (MARAD)’s Maritime Advisories websites:
U.S. Coast Guard
[LEFT][LEFT]U.S. Maritime Administration http://www.marad.dot.gov/news_room_landing_page/maritime_advisories/advisory_summary.htm [/LEFT]

This piracy problem has been ongoing in this region for years and years. The Maersk [I]Alabama [/I]incident brought to the forefront in April 2009, at least as to the United States, the dangerousness of piracy and the lack of proper rules and regulations, both internationally and within the United States, to address acts of piracy or to even address the preparation for acts of piracy. It is now November, 2009, a little over a half of a year after the [I]Alabama[/I] event, and it appears that the United States has acted diligently to propose and adopt rules and regulations that are reasonable. However, it is also abundantly clear that the international response is much slower and may frustrate this process. There are many countries that may, in fact, not permit a US vessel into its port because it has firearms. Though I believe this is ludicrous, it may be reality.

Steve Gordon
Maritime Attorney

Just a comment from my side as a shipmaster regarding not permitting a vessel to some port due to weapons on board.

I never carried defensive weapons on board, but I did carry various materials which are illegal in some states.
For example in many muslim countries pornography and alcohol beveridges are illegal.
The procedure is simple - you report to authorities what you have, those items should be locked in bonded store (or elsewhere), the authorities will come, check on occasion and seal the locker, which is not supposed to be open untill the vsl leaves territorial waters of a state.

The problem that I see, is only a flag state of the vsl prohibitting weapons on board their flagged vessels.

Since here is a talk about US flagged merchant vessel - I see no problem.

In case there are states not allowing weapons on board in their ports, the list of those countries should be posted USCG site.

If having armed security onboard, there is not much problem as they can be air - lifted by helicopter from the vsl after transit from GOA high risk area.