As an example of the problems arising from these regulatory issues, we can point to a recent incident where we were loading a military cargo aboard one of our ships at a U.S. military base here in the United States. Base security prohibited us from bringing our weapons aboard the base, even under guard, to deploy aboard our ship to protect the military’s cargo. We attempted to get someone in Washington to reverse the decision, to no avail. Ultimately, we had to move our ship to a commercial pier to get the weapons aboard. And this was to protect a military cargo.
It seems to us that this problem can be addressed through a regulatory change, and should be done immediately. U.S. regulations should provide that U.S. flag merchant vessels can carry arms as part of ship’s equipment. To the extent that this change cannot be effected by regulatory change, we ask that Congress provide whatever statutory authority would be required to do so.
Third, the government should provide suitable vetting for private security firms and standards for those firms. Ideally, the Coast Guard should provide vetting and licensing or approval of security firms. This would help us address the liability issues attendant upon carrying armed security. As an interim measure, the Coast Guard could provide guidelines or checklists for security firms.
Fourth, the government should provide general rules of engagement, to provide some legal protection for the use of force to protect our ships; these rules, however, must be sufficiently flexible so that appropriate force may be used to repel pirates, and must provide that the discretion to use force rests with the Captain.
Fifth, the government needs to engage other governments in the region to create a regulatory regime where armed vessels may enter the various ports. We can insure weapons are secured upon entering port. If necessary, we can permit port authorities to remove the weapons while the vessel is in port, and return them when we are getting to depart. But we should be able to bring our armed vessels into foreign ports. As an interim measure, it would be extremely helpful to the U.S. shipping community if the U.S. can provide a centralized information bank which lists the various port state requirements/limitations on entry with arms.