NEWS

Coast Guard Releases Antipiracy Rules

By Matthew Harwood

The United States Coast Guard has released newly revised guidelines for U.S.-flagged ships traveling through pirate-infested waters, reports The Navy Times.

U.S.-flagged vessels must submit plans for combating terrorism and piracy that incorporate the guidelines by May 25.

Most vessels that move through high-risk areas such as the Gulf of Aden have had some type of plan, but the measures now must be approved by the Coast Guard, said Rear Adm. Brian Salerno, assistant commandant for marine safety, security and stewardship.

The directive requires that ship owners “assess and plan for their vulnerabilities,” he said. “If they haven’t taken adequate measures, then we can suggest they take more stringent ones.”

The new guidelines were heavily inspired by the recent capture of the U.S.-flagged ship, the Maersk Alabama, in early April off the coast of Somalia in the Indian Ocean. During the boarding, the vessel's captain, Richard Phillips, was taken hostage on the vessel's lifeboat. After more than five days held captive, U.S. snipers killed his three captors. The fourth pirate had surrendered earlier.

The new guidelines take into account the pirates' increasing sophistication, including their ability to attack farther and farther from shore as well as their tendency to launch smaller, faster boats from a mother ship, according to The Navy Times.

Rear Adm. Brian Salerno, assistant commandant for marine safety, told the paper that a big change from the guidelines last year was mandated pirate lookouts. Other recommendations include traveling in well-established shipping lanes, using evasive maneuvers, going faster, and strengthening their communication and cooperation with naval patrols in dangerous areas.

Cmdr. Jennifer Williams, chief of Foreign & Offshore Vessel Compliance,  says violations of the guidelines can cost a vessel a $25,000 fine for each violation. But Lt. Com. Chris O'Neil, a Coast Guard spokesman, adds he doesn't see the Coast Guard levying fines as likely because both his agency and industry have the same goals.

"The Coast Guard expects vessels to immediately start planning, retrofitting, and implementing, but some of the requirements will take longer than 15 days to be fully implemented," he told Security Management. "The Coast Guard and Company Security Officers will be in constant communication to determine compliance with the directive, so it is unlikely that we would pursue enforcement actions unless we see a blatant disregard for the directive."

The new guidelines will not be publicly released, said Department of Homeland Security spokeswoman Amy Kudwa, because the document has been stamped "Sensitive Security Information."

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