News

    US Ship Captain Testifies on Piracy

    Multimedia

    Audio

    U.S. congressional committees have examined the problem of maritime piracy and steps the U.S. and other countries are taking to deal with it. Captain Richard Phillips, who was held for five days by pirates off the coast of Somalia, testified before a Senate panel, while U.S. officials appeared before a House committee.

    In response to the sharp increase in pirate attacks in major shipping lanes in the Gulf of Aden, the United States, European Union, and other governments have stepped up counter-piracy operations in the area.

    An international contact group was formed earlier this year. The U.S. Central Command set up a special anti-piracy task force, assisted by the U.S. Coast Guard.

    So far this year, Ambassador Stephen Mull, Senior Adviser to the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, said there have been 15 interdictions of pirate vessels, nearly double the total from 2008, with 52 pirates apprehended.

    Mull says the international contact group, which will hold an emergency session in coming weeks, is working to build a permanent security approach:

    "We want to protect America's right, and the world's right, to freedom of the seas through enhanced international cooperation in stopping these pirate attacks and building a lasting maritime security regime that we think will serve all of our interests in the end," said Stephen Mull.

    Arming merchant vessels, either through private security firms or providing crews with weapons, was a key topic in House and Senate hearings.

    Republican Representative Dana Rohrabacher asked this question:

    "Couldn't these people be deterred by just having private security guards on the ships or having someone hired by the shipping companies to keep a protective cover in that part of the world?," asked Dana Rohrabacher.

    While some shipping companies are using this approach, Coast Guard Rear Admiral William D. Baumgartner said the issue is not simple, involving questions of proper training, effective techniques, cargo safety and insurance issues:

    "There are many nations and many interests that think this raises the danger to the crews and to the vessel and will take this whole thing to a different level," said Admiral Baumgartner.

    Captain Richard Phillips, held by four pirates who assaulted his ship the Maersk Alabama, and later freed after U.S. Navy sharpshooters killed three, testified to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

    Phillips favors further hardening of merchant vessels, enhanced training for crews, and U.S. military protection, to the extent possible, for U.S. flag vessels.

    He says putting weapons aboard vessels would fundamentally change the model of commercial shipping and urges that this be seen as only one part of a broader strategy:

    "At most, arming the crew should be only one component of a comprehensive plan and approach to combat piracy," said Captain Phillips. "To the extend that we go forward in this direction it would be my personal preference that only a limited number of individuals aboard the vessel have access to effective weaponry, that these individuals receive special training on a regular basis."

    John Clancey, chairman of Maersk, Inc. told lawmakers that arming the crews of merchant ships could inject even more danger:

    "Our belief is that arming merchant sailors may result in the acquisition of even more lethal weapons and tactics by the pirates, and a race that merchant sailors cannot win," said John Clancey. "In addition, most ports of call will not permit the introduction of firearms into their national waters."

    Ambassador Mull told lawmakers no links have been identified so far between Somali pirates and Islamic or known terrorist groups, but said officials are closely watching to see if any emerge.

    Democratic Senator John Kerry,Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Comittee and Republican Richard Lugar both stressed that lawlessness in Somalia is at the core of the problem:

    KERRY:  "Thriving on chaos and ungoverned spaces, perpetrated by small groups of non-state actors, international piracy combines several of the great security challenges of our age."

    LUGAR: 
    "The existence of failed states directly threatens the national security interest of the United States. Failed states exist as potential safe havens for terrorism, drugs and arms trafficking, and piracy."

    Donald Payne, chairman of the House Africa Subcommittee, said profit and criminal cartels, not ideology, drive piracy in Somalia.

    Payne, who recently met with leaders of Somalia's Transitional Government in Mogadishu, believes none of the groups in Somalia's fractured political picture formally support piracy:

    "The leadership of Puntland, Somaliland, [and the transitional federal government in] Somalia really want to see this end, because it does absolutely nothing for the country which is in terrible straits in the first place," said Donald Payne. "Somalia has been abandoned for 15 years and they are certainly not going to get anybody investing in Somalia with these gangsters doing what they are doing."

    The bodies of the three pirates killed by U.S. Navy SEAL special forces were returned to authorities in Somalia on Thursday. The surviving pirate is in the U.S. facing prosecution.

    Under special agreements, the United States, European nations and other governments have turned over captured pirates to Kenya for trial.

    Somalia's foreign ministry on Thursday said pirates captured off the Somali coast should be returned there to face trial.

     

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora