Belmont Club

Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum

A US vessel seized by pirates has been recaptured by its crew, according to reports cited by the LA Times. The Maersk Alabama’s crew, though unarmed, were somehow able to recover control of their vessel, although they are not armed by the owners.

The 20-member crew – which was unarmed, according to the ship’s owner — managed to overpower the pirates and regain control, according to U.S. officials.

But the ship’s captain was reportedly being held captive by some of the pirates, who have been driven into the ship’s lifeboat, according to an American defense official. … Maersk Chief Executive John Reinhart said the company’s seafarers were well-trained to deal with the risks of piracy. “We have ways to push back, but we don’t carry arms,” he said.

Readers will recall that the British Navy has been advised not to engage pirates on the grounds that if captured, the buccaneers can claim asylum in Europe. The Times Online reported that “the Royal Navy, once the scourge of brigands on the high seas, has been told by the Foreign Office not to detain pirates because doing so may breach their human rights. Warships patrolling pirate-infested waters, such as those off Somalia, have been warned that there is also a risk that captured pirates could claim asylum in Britain. The Foreign Office has advised that pirates sent back to Somalia could have their human rights breached because, under Islamic law, they face beheading for murder or having a hand chopped off for theft.”

More details have emerged suggesting that the pirates were lured by the ship’s captain into a situation where they lost control of the ship to the crew. ”

Second mate Quinn said the four pirates sank their own boat when they boarded the container ship. However, the captain talked them into getting off the freighter and into the ship’s lifeboat with him.

The crew then overpowered one of the pirates and sought to exchange him for the captain, Quinn told CNN. “We kept him for 12 hours. We tied him up,” Quinn said. The crew released their captive to the other pirates, but the exchange did not work and the captain was still being held by the pirates on the lifeboat, he told CNN.

“They are not aboard. We are controlling” the ship, he said. Maersk Line president and chief executive John Reinhart told reporters he had received a cell phone call from the crew at about 11 a.m. EDT (1500 GMT) saying they were all safe. He said company protocol advised the U.S. sailors not to attempt to retake the ship once hijackers were on board. “Once boarded, the crew has safe rooms and they are not to take on active engagement because they have no weapons. It would be a risk to their lives,” Reinhart said.

Arming crews has been discouraged. The Huffington Post quotes sources saying that weapons aboard ship is “not the answer” and that “a culture of awareness” is the best defense.

It is illegal for crews to carry weapons in the territorial waters of many nations, and ship captains are wary of arming crew members for fear of mutinies, Nincic said. Also, some worry that arming crew members would only cause the violence to escalate.

Instead, the best defense is vigilance, [Professor Donna] Nincic [of California Maritime Academy in Vallejo] tells students.

“If you demonstrate a culture of awareness, that you look like you know you’re in pirate waters and are clearly standing watch, patrolling, etc., the pirates know you’re going to be more difficult to board and are possibly going to wait for the next ship and board the one that’s easier,” she said.

It is unclear what the tactical situation aboard the Alabama Maersk is. The Guardian reports that

A US warship, the USS destroyer Bainbridge, was on its way to the area this evening. “We are trying to hold them off until the US ship arrives,” said Ken Quinn, second mate on the ship. … Obama and the White House team had only arrived back in Washington at about 3am (EST) after a week-long tour of Europe and Iraq, but they monitored the crisis, facing the prospect of paying millions in ransom money, as other countries have done, or ordering military action.

Captain Joe Murphy, father of the ship’s second-in-command, Shane, and a lecturer at the Massacusetts Maritime Academy, said today that his son and other crew members had turned the tables on the captors. His son had recently talked to a class at the academy about the dangers of piracy. …

Until now, only France has taken firm action against pirates that kidnapped its citizens. In April last year French commandos arrested six gunmen on Somali soil after they had released 30 French hostages aboard a luxury yacht following a ransom payment.

Personally, I am somewhat skeptical of the power of “international law” and “culture of awareness” and “safe rooms” to keep out pirates. Sometimes I think these are nothing but games international lawyers play so that they can impose fines and sue the people who fail to abide by their chickenshit rules. It’s a racket aimed at the potential victims which does nothing whatsoever to stop the actual perpetrators, who will actually be represented for asylum by other international lawyers in the unlikely event they are taken into custody. In the meantime, millions of dollars are paid to these cut-throats, who not only run roughshod over the law abiding members of their own communities, but terrorize international shipping.The problem is that civilization is fighting the wrong pirates. The real ones wear suits.

Here’s the obligatory link to a video, but in this case it should be played when the crew of the Maersk make port. They are the true successors to the spirit of the tune.