Key Quotes from Piracy on the High Seas Hearing

May 5, 2009

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation held a subcommittee hearing today discussing Piracy on the High Seas.  The Commerce Committee hearing examined issues within its jurisdiction spanning the operations of the commercial maritime industry, the Coast Guard, and the safety and security of our merchant fleet and their crews.

Witness List

Mr. Philip J. Shapiro, Esq., President and Chief Executive Officer, Liberty Maritime Corporation

Captain Richard Phillips, MV Maersk Alabama on bareboat charter contract with Central Gulf Waterman

Mr. Michael A. Perry, Chief Engineer, MV Maersk Alabama on bareboat charter contract with Central Gulf Waterman

The Honorable Roy Kienitz, Under Secretary of Transportation for Policy, U.S. Department of Transportation

Rear Admiral Brian Salerno, Assistant Commandant for Marine Safety, Security, and Stewardship, U.S. Coast Guard

Ms. Theresa Whelan, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for African Affairs, Office of the Secretary of Defense

Key quotes from today’s hearing:

“It is unacceptable for our ships, crews, and passengers to be threatened and put at risk in international waters by various groups of unsophisticated pirates from unstable nations.  I will not sit by as men in speed boats attempt to thwart international commerce.  We have the ability and responsibility to end piracy.”
Chairman John D. (Jay) Rockefeller, IV

“We have a duty to protect the ships that proudly fly America’s flag—and our nation’s military is our partner in fulfilling that duty. A timid approach will not do.  We need to take bold action to keep our seas and ship crews safe.”
Senator Lautenberg, Chairman of Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security Subcommittee

“We have heard some suggestions since the incident that U.S.-flag ship owners have not done enough to protect their vessels. That view- with all due respect, Sir,- is flat wrong. Our company adopted every measure recommended by international organizations and required by the U.S. Coast Guard’s approved security plan for making the vessel a difficult piracy target and more.”
Mr. Philip J. Shapiro

“Unlike most nations of the world, the United States has the capability to protect its vessels and their crews from piracy. And the government should do so. But at the same time, we should use every resource at our disposal to encourage the international maritime community to come together in support of a strong international response to piracy. In this way, all mariners, American and foreign, will have the same protection and a better chance of being able to do their jobs in peace.”
Captain Richard Phillips

“As demonstrated by the attack on the LIBERTY SUN, the pirates are no longer solely interested in a financial transaction. They are willing to use deadly weapons and that put the crews, cargo, and vessels in immediate danger. On Friday, May 1st, a Portuguese warship reported stopping a pirate attack against an oil tanker involving explosives. This type of attack would be disastrous. The pirates have clearly raised the stakes.”
Mr. Michael A. Perry

“Given limited military resources available to fully protect commercial shipping in the waters off Somalia, there is an increasing focus on the issue of shipping companies hiring private armed security personnel to protect their vessel while transiting the waters off Somalia. There are many complicated factors which must be addressed before the industry, as a whole, can adopt this recommendation.”
The Honorable Roy Kienitz

“Small vessels are the vehicle of choice for pirates to conduct their attacks. These vessels are fast, readily available, relatively inexpensive, and blend in well with other small vessels commonly operating in the area. The Coast Guard recognizes the vulnerabilities these vessels present and therefore requires vessel operators to address tactical methods for avoiding small vessel attack in their Vessel Security Plan.”
Rear Admiral Brian Salerno

“Conflict, instability and drought have caused a humanitarian crisis of long duration in Somalia, where an estimated 3.2 million people now rely on international food assistance to survive. In an environment where legitimate economic opportunities are scarce, piracy and other forms of crime can flourish. In the long run, effectively combating piracy off the Somali coast will be linked to our ability to help the Somalis themselves increase government capacity and find appropriate ways to meet the population’s basic needs.”
Ms. Theresa Whelan