Mariner self-defense bill advances in House
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee unanimously approved a bill Thursday to provide liability protection for U.S. mariners who use force, or individuals who authorize the use of force, to protect a commercial vessel from attack by pirates.
The measure is in response to attacks on the Maersk Alabama and Liberty Sun earlier this year. Pirate attacks and seajackings off the coast of Somalia have increased significantly in the past 18 months, but those were the first two incidents involving U.S.-flag vessels. The Maersk Alabama incident became international news when its captain was taken hostage and successfully rescued in a deadly raid by the U.S. Navy.
Vessel operators say they would prefer embarked U.S. military security teams, but would consider hiring armed guards if liability concerns, export regulations and other barriers to such a practice were eased.
The U.S. Mariner and Vessel Protection Act (H.R. 3376), introduced by Rep. Frank Lobiondo, R-N.J., attempts to shield U.S. mariners from liability for damages or injuries inflicted while defending their vessels. The bill also directs the United States to negotiate international agreements through the International Maritime Organization to provide similar exemptions from liability in other countries for the use of force by mariners and vessel owners, operators and masters.
(To read more background about the legislation, see “Anti-piracy inaction,' July American Shipper, page 56.)