Punchinello’s Chronicles

October 6, 2008

Piracy and a False Moral Dilemma

Filed under: View from the Bottom — Punchinello @ 10:46 am
Tags: , ,

Piracy is on the rise, particularly off the coast of Somalia. Why? Because there isn’t any government in the country. People are starving, so risking violence and death for a possible reward is better than dying with no food. At issue is the fact that the reward of millions of dollars in ransom money continues to be paid.

Anyone can understand that if insurance carriers stop paying ransom, the incentive to be a pirate rapidly declines. Facing off against a group of navy warships doesn’t seem all the great if you know ahead of time you’re not going to get your money.

Alright, so how come the ransom continues? It’s just that: ransom. The pirate hijackers routinely capture a ship and the crew. They then typically kill at least one sailor, or maybe the captain, just to “show they mean business.” Who in the world would turn their back on innocent sailors and crew members, just to save money?

The apparent moral dilemma comes down to choosing between paying the ransom or letting innocent sailors be wiped out. Maybe it would take forty or fifty dead sailor, maybe a couple of hundred, but that’s a pretty steep price to pay to reduce or end piracy. But is that the only option? Is this really an insoluble problem?

What if no sailors or executive officers were allowed to sign on to a ship traveling near Somalia without first signing a clear and explict contract. That contract would state that in the event of a pirate boarding, the owners and their insurance carriers would absolutely not pay any ransom. This could lead to the contractor’s death. What then?

Better yet, suppose the ship owners actively advertise for half the crew to be mercenaries — hired soldiers, trained in battle and working only for the money. These mercenaries would be given regular crew wages, but in the event of a pirate attack would receive a commission if they successfully repelled the attack.

In fact, the ship owners could provide a bonus of something like triple their wages in the event a ship was attacked and still made it to port with the cargo and crew intact. Forget all this nonsense of nonlethal weapons! Let the mercenaries bring aboard whatever their favorite weapons and explosives.

How long do you think it would take before pirates off the Somalia coast decided it wasn’t worth the risk? How come this pretty basic idea hasn’t been proposed? Is there some benefit to the insurance companies in losing the ransom money? Where’s the money trail?

Let’s not get caught up in some supposed moral argument that rests only on what seems to be a total necessity to only hire crew members unskilled at battle combat.

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