Monday, May 18, 2009

Seafarer chaplaincy confronts piracy fears

From the Cristian Century a report which includes the Seaman's Church Institute- (I wonder if the Somalians wear the nifty hats?)

The recent dramatic high seas rescue of a merchant ship captain held hostage by Somali pirates stirred a public debate on whether cargo vessels should be armed. It also drew attention to the more than 1 million mariners who are essential in transporting 90 percent of the world's traded goods, including humanitarian aid to needy countries. And it gave voice to the little-noticed chaplains who provide hospitality to mariners at ports in 126 countries.

The U.S.-flagged Maersk Alabama was headed April 8 to Kenya with relief shipments from USAID, the World Food Program and other relief agencies when the ship was boarded by four pirates some 300 miles off Somalia. The crisis ended days later when U.S. Navy sharpshooters killed three of the pirates.

At a U.S. Senate committee hearing April 30, the skipper, Captain Richard Phillips, said it is the U.S. government's responsibility to protect any ship flying an American flag. Phillips said an armed brigade of specially trained crew members might deter pirate attacks. But John Clancy, chair of the private shipping line, differed in his testimony, saying that arming and training crew officers would be too expensive and could escalate a deadly arms race with already well-armed pirates.

At the New York-based Seamen's Church Institute, the largest and most comprehensive of U.S. maritime ministries, the "consensus is that arming merchant ships is probably not the best solution," said Douglas Stevenson, director of the Center for Seafarers' Rights.

"There are no simple answers," he said, adding that both the Episcopal Church-related Seamen's Church Institute and the International Christian Maritime Association have studied the growing peril for years. Since 2003, more than 1,660 merchant mariners have been kidnapped or taken hostage, according to industry figures.

The rest-

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