US Unions Speak

Responding to a request for comments on the U.S. Coast Guard’s policy regarding rules for the use of force for self-defense of U.S.-flagged vessels, six U.S. seagoing unions – including the American Maritime Officers – responded.

They all joined to reassert that the suppression of piracy is a government responsibility best addressed by embarked U.S. military security detachments aboard U.S.-flagged merchant vessels. The unions also urged the Coast Guard to strengthen liability protections in its policy for merchant mariners defending themselves and their vessels from attacking pirates.

Addressing the terms of Port Security Advisory (3-09), the unions recommended the following:

  • the Coast Guard develop standard rules for the use of force for self-defense of U.S.-flagged vessels at sea permitting the use of deadly force when mariners or security personnel onboard reasonably believe the vessel or a mariner is being subjected to an “act of piracy.”
  • the Coast Guard modify PSA (3-09) to conform to the standards of “common law,” specifically: recognition that one is not required to retreat when he or she is assailed in a place where he or she has a right to be.

Addressing the responsibility of governments, the unions stated: “It has consistently been the position of the maritime unions that the suppression of piracy is primarily a government responsibility using embarked military security detachments under rules of engagement enforced by military command and control procedures. It is our understanding that the German shipping community and German Navy are in discussions to provide such protection to German flagged ships. Such a practice provides protection that is consistent in nature and under the sovereign protection and diplomatic immunity of the flag state. It is still our position that embarked U.S. military security teams are the most efficient use of military assets assigned to suppression of piracy and a legally sound basis for protecting U.S. flag ships from pirates.”

The complete response of the six seagoing unions is available on the AMO Currents website www.amo-union.org

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