Friday, May 8, 2009

A Contrasting View on Arming Ships

According to ExportLawBlog "It appears likely that merchant marine ships are going to have to continue to rely on high pressure water hoses for the immediate future to rebuff pirate attacks.", citing legal obstacles to arming these ships.

This contrasts with our post, Shipowner: The Lawyers Won't Let Us Fight Pirates.

At issue is whether State Department regulations (ITAR) prevent ship owners from arming themselves against pirates.

Their view:

Although conceding that ITAR does not prohibit arming merchant vessels, ExportLawBlog cites the following factors as inhibiting them:

  • An export license would be necessary.
  • Countries subject to arms embargoes could not be visited.
  • The exception for non-automatic firearms would be insufficient against AK-47's and RPG's.

Beyond ITAR, ExportLawBlog states that armed ships would have to post a bond and furthermore would be subject to possible restrictions from countries they may visit.

Our response:

Irksome as bonds and export licenses may be, we must note that US flag vessels are very much the rare exception and - as a practical matter - exist only to service special United States projects which mandate US flaged ships, such as the recent aid mission to Kenya which the attacked Liberty Sun was on.

Furthermore, pirates are active in specific locations. Ships venturing elsewhere would not need to be armed.

U.S. flag ships are effectively federally subsidized. They should be able to recoup the costs of securing licenses and bonds as part of their contracts. If, God forbid, their special missions should compel them to visit some embargoed port, they should steer clear of pirate infested waters - and recoup any resulting increased transportation costs. As for any foreign laws, those are beyond Congress' control in any event.

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