Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Piracy and the Law

In the last 24 hours, two more vessels were hijacked off East Africa and a pirate ship was blown out of the waters. Interesting developments as we watch the ongoing situation off Somalia in the wake of the seizures of the supertanker MV Sirius Star this past weekend and the freighter transporting T-72 battle tanks, the MV Faina, two months ago.

The hijacking of a Greek bulk carrier yesterday shows there is no respite in the current pirate campaign against mariners. A Thai fishing was also reported to have been attacked, and is now in the hands of Somali pirates. No doubt the anger is growing in commercial, governmental and security establishments to do something about the crisis (for that it what has become), and we are already hearing of upcoming deployments of warships from participants eager to augment the naval vessels already in the area.

Some wonder if these naval forces may take a more pro-active role - such as sending Special Forces teams to board hijacked vessels and free them - however this is an unlikely scenario. The question is: If naval forces were to board the Sirius Star and rescue her crew, would these same forces be used to free every other ship held by pirates? Or would it only be the largest and most valuable merchant ships that are considered worthy of rescue? When France sent commandos to Somalia to deal with pirates - twice, I might add - their activities were limited to dealing with French vessels, not those of any other nation. It's an important question to address, for the Sirius Star and her crew should not be considered more important than that Thai fishing boat and its crew.

Meanwhile, I'd like to point readers to an excellent piece written at the EagleSpeak blog that talks about the legal aspects of modern day piracy. It's well worth a look.

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