First, let me express my pride in the Navy SEALs who rescued Captain Richard Phillips from pirates off Somalia. I’ll even salute Barack Obama for ensuring that the rules of engagement allowed for taking out the pirates as needed – though I believe a better course of action would have been to order the use of force sooner. And as Somali pirates threaten to use deadly force against Americans in response, I think it would be proper for Obama to state that it is US policy to kill any pirate involved in attacks on American vessels or crewmen – and to act now to cripple or destroy the various pirate bands in the region.
Captain Phillips of the Maersk Alabama recklessly put himself, the crew, and the Navy Seals at unnecessary risk.
The pirates' modus operandi is that they hold the crew, ship, and cargo harmlessly until a lot of money is paid to them. Phillips "heroic" actions put his crew and himself at risk. If he'd done nothing except acquiesce to the pirates' demands, there would have been no risk, just possible discomfort until the extortion money was paid. Instead he put himself and the Seals at grave risk.
I applaud the crew, the Seals, and the military chain of command for their actions. I think Phillips was in error--if not a grandstander, then greatly misguided. Does anyone know what Maersk's orders to Phillips and the other Maersk masters are in a piracy matter? Probably to do nothing to incite trouble and to notify the shipowner and the U.S. Navy. The captain works for the shipowner and must follow those orders. The master who fails to follow the shipowner's orders is guilty of the crime of barratry if a financial injury to the shipowner results.
The actual result is that Maersk, the shipowner, saved a lot of money that would have been lost with the ship inactive and off charter while it sat idle in a pirate port. Is this worth the deadly risk to the crew and the Seals? Not to me.
Posted by: Greg at
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