“Lawyers, guns and money – will get me out of this!” sang Warren Zevon in 1978, and “port security advisories” just doesn’t quite have the same ring to it. But I digress…..
The U.S. Coast Guard has recently published these three Port Security Advisories aimed towards those sailing in what they term “High Risk Waters.” The waters in the general vicinity of the Horn of Africa have gotten all the attention lately, and Somalia is the poster child for illustrating the chaos and dangers of a collapsed society. But if you are sailing on international voyages which might possibly put you in waters where violence as a result of piracy (Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore & Malaysia), armed robbery (Mexico and Brazil), or political unrest (Nigeria) could be a threat, you might want to read them anyway. You might also want to read them if consideration is being given to carrying weapons on board, regardless of where you sail. The lawyers may argue about the legal hair-splitting used to distinguish between piracy, organized crime, kidnapping, armed robbery, revolt, civil unrest, etc. but for practical purposes at our level they are more or less all the same and to be avoided if at all possible. So read on…..
I found out about them via my favorite source of maritime regulatory news, Bryant’s Maritime Blog. In his post he wrote “Note: These documents provide important and valuable information regarding protection of the crew and vessel from piratical attacks and from armed robbery against ships. The documents also provide a good explanation of the US common law of self-defense and defense of others. An area not covered by the documents is the law of self-defense and defense of others in foreign jurisdictions. Under international law, piracy can only occur on the high seas (e.g., more than 12 nautical miles offshore). Unlawful attacks against a ship occurring within the territorial sea or internal waters of a country are generally defined as armed robbery, and local law applies. It should be remembered that the Coast Guard definition of high risk waters is not limited to the high seas. What self-defense standards would be applied in a court in Somalia, Yemen, Indonesia, Nigeria, or elsewhere if a US master or crewmember is arrested there for shooting a local citizen? In addition, what local laws apply to having weapons on board a ship calling in a port of that country or even transiting the territorial sea? Finally, there are numerous contractual issues involving owners, operators, charterers, unions, insurers, and cargo interests that will need to be considered. This is a complex issue for which there are no easy answers. The US Coast Guard has provided useful information on some important issues, but a variety of others must be resolved as the industry works through this difficult problem.“
Click here for the July 6th daily newsletter it was published in, and if you want to know what’s going on in the world you should visit Mr. Bryant’s blog often.
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