The Coast Guard updated anti-piracy guidelines Tuesday for commercial vessels to deter attacks in dangerous waters, including having a mandatory lookout for pirates.
All U.S.-flagged vessels must submit plans for combating terrorism and piracy that incorporate the guidelines by May 25.
Most vessels that move through high-risk areas such as the Gulf of Aden have had some type of plan, but the measures now must be approved by the Coast Guard, said Rear Adm. Brian Salerno, assistant commandant for marine safety, security and stewardship.
The directive requires that ship owners “assess and plan for their vulnerabilities,” he said. “If they haven’t taken adequate measures, then we can suggest they take more stringent ones.”
Coast Guard officials had been working on a revised Maritime Security Directive when pirates boarded the U.S.-flagged Maersk Alabama on April 8 and took the captain hostage for five days. A day after he was rescued, pirates launched an unsuccessful attack on the cargo vessel Liberty Sun.
The incidents sped up the release of the directive and influenced its final wording.
“There is some real value in what they’ve learned that can be shared,” said Salerno, who declined to discuss specifics for security reasons. “I think that the Maersk Alabama and the Liberty Sun were game changers.”
The last update was issued in April 2008. Since then, pirates have changed their tactics, operating farther from shore and launching boats from mother ships, Salerno said.
“This won’t be the final word, either,” he said of the update.
One significant change in the update requires every vessel to have a lookout for pirates, Salerno said.
Some of the more general recommendations to ships include using established transit lanes, erratic ship maneuvering, increased speed and cooperation with military forces patrolling the area.
The onus still is on commercial vessels “to maintain a vigilant anti-piracy watch and ensure all shipboard anti-piracy precautions are in force,” according to a statement from the Coast Guard.
Article courtesy of: http://www.navytimes.com/news/2009/05/coastguard_piracy_051209w/