Spain passes armed rider law as piracy heats up
Spain passed a law Oct. 29 allowing armed security guards on board Spanish-flagged commercial vessels to protect against pirate attacks in the Indian Ocean and other dangerous waters, Reuters reported.
The new authority follows the Oct. 2 capture by Somali pirates of a Spanish fishing trawler with 36 crewmembers. Two pirates were captured by a Spanish naval vessel and sent to Spain for trial, but the pirates have warned they won't negotiate a crew release until their comrades are freed.
U.S. maritime industry officials and some lawmakers are trying to reduce the red tape associated with obtaining authority to carry firearms onboard vessels. Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J., sponsored a bill to legally indemnify merchant mariners who use force to defend a vessel against a pirate attack in the event their actions result in damages or injuries.
Meanwhile, a U.S.-flagged cargo vessel, the Harriette, came under small arms fire Monday from pirates about 360 nautical miles east of Mombasa, Kenya but was able to evade the attackers, according to an EU naval command. The European naval force conducting anti-piracy operations in the area also said a German warship on Tuesday detained a pirate mother ship suspected in the attack, but released the ship for lack of evidence after the crew claimed they were fishermen. A Dutch-flagged tanker also reported coming under attack by three fast skiffs. The pirates fired automatic weapons, damaging the bridge wing. The captain was able to use evasive maneuvers and increase speed to escape, according to an EU NAVFOR statement.
Last week, the EU command said an embarked French military detachment on a French fishing vessel repelled a pirate attack. EU naval forces responded and captured seven suspected pirates.
The leaders of four international shipping organizations meeting in London this week issued a statement reiterating their desire for governments to take tougher measures to safeguard international shipping, including greater efforts to prosecute and convict pirates.
To read more about commercial vessels employing armed security guards see 'Pirate Busters,' October American Shipper, pages 30-35.