A Congressman has tabled a Bill requiring the US Navy to demand full payment from the flag states of all non-US registered vessels it protects or defends from pirate attack, in a move that has been met with dismay by industry anti-piracy specialists, writes David Osler.
The Piracy Suppression Act of 2011, introduced in the House of Representatives by New Jersey Republican Frank LoBiondo, mandates the Secretary of Defence to determine the full cost to each anti-piracy action and to seek reimbursement from the country of registration.
Such payments may be waived if the flag state agrees to contribute military forces to Combined Task Force 151 , or participates in other military anti-piracy deployments in the Indian Ocean or Gulf of Aden, or assists in the prosecution or detention of pirates.
The legislation is designed to tackle the perception that many flag states are, in economic terms, free riders on the efforts of the US and others to tackle piracy, and would appear to chime in with the current popular mood in the US.
However, it stands little chance of making it onto the statute books and at this stage would appear to be largely a symbolic gesture from the well-regarded Mr LoBiondo, who is chairman of the Congressional subcommittee on maritime transportation and seen as being on the moderate wing of his party.
One anti-piracy expert, who asked not to be named, pointed to many potential flaws in the implementation of such a proposal. These include drawing up levels of payment and difficulties in the collection of fees. He also made argued that failure to answer a May Day call on the high seas is in contravention of the Safety of Life at Sea convention.
“It is obvious that he is pointing the finger at the open registries,” he said. “Much as one understands Mr LoBiondo’s concerns and the expense to the US taxpayer, the issue of piracy is still not been resolved by the international community, as requested by the shipping community and the International Maritime Organization.”
Meanwhile, a German politician has called on his country to more than quadruple the number of military personnel it makes available for the fight against piracy, rather than trust the safety of German flag vessels to private military companies.