Piracy: Crew Safety Lawsuit

Perhaps not surprisingly the piracy storm has taken a legal turn with the news that the chief cook on board the U.S. flagged cargo ship Maersk Alabama hijacked earlier this month by pirates off the coast of Somalia has filed a lawsuit against the owners of the vessel. The suit alleges that owner Maersk Line Limited and Waterman Steamship Corp., which provided the crew, ignored requests to improve safety measures for vessels sailing along the Somali coast. It seeks at least $75,000 in damages and improved safety. Piracy has long been an issue for the shipping industry and marine insurers, but this development  sounds a warning to shipowners everywhere. Latest figures from the ICC International Maritime Bureau (IMB) indicate that both pirate activity and violence against crewmembers continue to increase. In the first quarter of 2009 there were a total of 102 piracy attacks, almost double the 53 incidents in the first quarter of 2008. Worldwide, a total of 34 vessels were boarded, 29 vessels fired upon and nine vessels hijacked. Some 178 crew were taken hostage, nine injured, five kidnapped and two killed. In the majority of incidents the attackers were heavily armed with guns or knives. Check out an April 12 article by Keith Bradsher in the New York Times on the reviving debate over arming crews.

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