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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Maersk says 'No' to arming crews

Janet Porter - Wednesday 29 April 2009


Maersk will not allow armed guards on board its vessels.

DANISH shipping giant AP Moller-Maersk is opposed to weapons on board its ships that could be used to fend off piracy attacks.
Days after the crew of a Mediterranean Shipping Co cruiseship used firearms to successfully repel pirates, AP Moller-Maersk said it was maintaining its policy of not arming crews or allowing armed guards on board its vessels.
“Weapons onboard could lead to a dangerous escalation and raise a number of multi-jurisdictional legal issues,” the company said in a statement as it continued with its inquiry into the Maersk Alabama hijack, when US Navy personnel shot and killed three of the pirates who were holding the ship’s captain hostage.
The chief steward is now suing Maersk Line Ltd. and seeking at least $75,000 as compensation.
Company procedures have been changed as a result of that attack earlier this month, with only ships of a certain size allowed to enter the area in which pirates are known to be active.
The 1,092 teu Maersk Alabama is small for a containership, with a service speed of 18 knots, whereas bigger, modern vessels would be able to go at 24 knots or more, and with higher freeboard, be more difficult for pirates to clamber aboard.
In a statement today, AP Moller–Maersk said it remained “vigilant and constantly monitors the situation in the Gulf of Aden and the area off the Somali coast” and regularly updated its policy and procedures for operating in the Gulf of Aden and off the coast of Somalia.
While proceeding with its investigation of the Maersk Alabama attack, it has taken action to further boost the safety and security of crews and vessels against piracy.
“We have expanded the area off the coast of Somalia where only vessels with a certain freeboard or capable of sailing certain speeds are allowed to enter,” said group partner and Maersk Tankers chief executive Søren Skou.
“Vessels should spend as little time in the area as possible, and while in the area sail at maximum speed,” he added.
The group is also examining defensive measures to further boost security onboard its vessels such as making access to the vessel more difficult, but for security reasons have not released specific details.
The group said it gives detailed instructions and procedures to its crews prior to sailing in the area, which includes reviewing safety plans onboard before entering into the area.
AP Moller-Maersk has also reiterated its call on the international community to find a solution to the problem of piracy.
While the naval presence in the Gulf of Aden has achieved some success in deterring attacks there, the pirates still remain a threat to crews and vessels in the area and elsewhere, the company said.
“We back proposals such as establishing a regional maritime sea patrol to protect vessels in the area from piracy attacks. The nations in the region with the support of the international community must address this problem,” Mr Skou said.
“We also call on the international community to establish a transit corridor, so vessels can safely call ports in Kenya and Tanzania.”
The group also said it insists that it is possible for seafarers to do their jobs in a safe and peaceful environment; ensuring the transportation of traded goods around the world.
“This is why the group maintains its policy of not arming crews or allowing armed guards onboard its vessels. Weapons onboard could lead to a dangerous escalation and raise a number of multi-jurisdictional legal issues,” the statement said.
“However, in certain instances when force protection is government mandated, the group will work with and comply with government instructions.”