Petraeus tells shipping companies to ‘get more serious’ about piracy

Gen. David Petraeus addresses the piracy issue during an appearance before a congressional subcommittee Friday.
Gen. David Petraeus, chief of U.S. Central Command, said Friday the maritime shipping industry must do more on its own to stop pirates.

In a Capitol Hill appearance before a congressional subcommittee, Petraeus said companies must consider investing in a variety of options to defend their ships from well-armed attackers, from simply increasing ships’ speeds, to removing ladders, to hiring armed guards. “There are a number of actions that need to be taken,” Petraeus said. “Among them it is important the maritime shipping industries get more serious about this problem.” “We need the maritime shipping companies to do more than they have. We started off by saying if you would just speed up when the pirates approach, that will help; if you take evasive action, that’s even better; and if you un-bolt the ladder that allows the pirates to climb onto your ship before you set sail, you get extra credit for that. These were not being taken before,” Petraeus said. “This was strictly viewed as a business proposition up until recently.” Petraeus’ comments came after a string of attempted and successful hijackings by Somali pirates, including eight attacks in less than two weeks.

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Petraeus said shipping companies must realize there is no way a limited number of warships from the United States and other countries can protect thousands of vessels across an enormous ocean area off the coast of Somalia. “They are going to have to take a very hard look at not just taking additional defensive preparations in terms of simple things, like concertina wire to make it harder to climb over the side, or again over a railing, but also looking at the employment of armed guards or security forces,” Petraeus said. “We put them on many of the ships that have our equipment on them. And again, I think that is something they are going to have to look hard at,” he said.

The piracy problem, Petraeus said, “stems from the fact that you have an ungoverned space … that has severe poverty and economic problems and lack of rule of law.” Petraeus appeared before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies.