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CURRENT ISSUE

ARM MERCHANT SHIPS?
Should merchant ships transiting high risk areas carry small arms for defense against pirates?

Selected crew should be trained and have guns available
Professional armed security teams should be hired
No guns on merchant ships, ever

June 22, 2009

Bill seeks immunity for mariners who wound or kill pirates

Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ) has introduced legislation in the House to provide immunity to U.S. merchant mariners who wound or kill pirates while responding to a pirate attack.

Rep. LoBiondo is the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee Ranking Republican.

"Our merchant marine fleet is increasingly under attack from unlawful individuals and rogue groups that seek to disrupt commerce, seize U.S. and foreign crews, and instill fear on international waters," LoBiondo said. "It is only appropriate that our fleets be legally allowed to defend themselves from these violent encounters. This common-sense legislation is a necessary step in empowering U.S.-flagged vessels to fully protect their crews and cargo."

The United States Mariner and Vessel Protection Act (H.R. 2984) directs the Coast Guard to establish standards for when a merchant mariner on a U.S.-flag merchant vessel can use force against an attacker. Any mariner using force within those standards, and the owner, operator or master of any vessels would be exempt from liability in U.S. courts as a result of that use of force.

The bill also directs the United States to negotiate international agreements through the International Maritime Organization to provide similar exemptions from liability in other countries for the use of force by mariners and vessel owners, operators and masters.

The recent hijacking of the U.S.-flag Maersk Alabama by Somali pirates, during which the pirates kidnapped the ship's captain, highlighted the need for mariners to be able to defend themselves from attack.

The bill is cosponsored by U.S. Rep. John L. Mica (R-FL), U.S. Rep. Don Young (R-AK) and U.S. Rep. Howard Coble (R-NC).

"I commend Congressman LoBiondo for writing this bill to provide the necessary protections for mariners to freely defend their ships from pirates bent on killing, stealing and crippling worldwide commerce," said Mica, who is the Republican Leader of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.


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