In our view, U.S. flag vessels will be on the whole more secure if it becomes generally known that U.S. flag vessels are armed, particularly if armed by the U.S. military. We believe that the pirates would choose easier targets than attempt to take on armed U.S. merchant ships.
Sixth, I would note the significant liability concerns we have regarding the present state of affairs. I previously alluded to these concerns. Providing express authority for arming vessels, and providing standards for employment of security teams and rules of engagement, would be helpful. In addition, we remain concerned about insurability. We understand that the International Group of P&I Clubs has expressed reservations about coverage of armed vessels, and any limitations in cover would be a serious problem for operators. To the extent that the U.S. Government can be useful in assuring continued insurance cover, it should do so. Moreover, we need to have our government, in particular the State Department and the Coast Guard, committed to supporting U.S. flag operators, seamen, and our security teams in the event of an incident involving use of force. Ideally, statutory immunity from liability arising out the use of force in self-defense should be provided, with any claims relating to use of force by U.S. flag vessels on the high seas to defend against pirate attack should be committed to the exclusive jurisdiction of the U.S. federal courts in admiralty.
Finally, the U.S. government needs to address the issue of cost. When operating in these waters, we are primarily carrying U.S. government cargoes, both military and food aid. If the government is going to leave it to us to provide security for these cargoes, we believe that it is unreasonable for the government to direct us to ports where we are exposed to threats of piracy, expect enhanced security to protect those cargoes, and not bear the costs of providing that security.
I hope that these views are helpful to the Committee’s consideration of these important issues, and I thank you for the opportunity to address them before you. I would be happy to answer any questions you might have.