Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Pirates: The Maersk Alabama

Shipping Company Responses

It can be cheaper for shipping lines to pay ransom when necessary, rather than provide extensive security to every ship. Paying ransoms, in turn, makes the problem worse by giving pirates a reason to keep up their dirty work.

Most companies have a number of deterrents already in place: barbed wire along the ship's gunwales, defensive maneuvers, and panic buttons. Among its other defenses, the Maersk Alabama, like many ships, had hoses rigged at its stern. The water in the wake at the rear of the ship is calmer, so it's the favored spot for pirates to boarda forceful spray, especially of hot water, makes that harder.

Indian Ocean
Indian Ocean

Whether to arm merchant ships is now widely debated. While some experts think captains may someday be authorized to keeps arms on board for emergency use, others say weapons would be dangerous at sea (especially on oil tankers), and might even attract pirates. Currently, most ports restrict unsecured weapons aboard ships entering harbor, restrictions which have been tightened in recent years in keeping with increasing concerns about terrorism.

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