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Jack Simpson - 04/24/09
A Challenge

I don't know how you may feel about this, but I am proud of a lot of our citizens involved in the rescue of Captain Richard Phillips and the crew of the good ship Maersk Alabama.

Captain Phillips stands out in my mind as the kind of fellow who should be in charge of a ship. He stood up when it counted and allowed himself to be held as a hostage so his crew could go about their business of hauling a relief cargo to needy people. He reassured everyone that there are among us some who stand as shining examples of national character. His unselfish gesture stood out around the globe as what a leader should be. It is a pleasure now to see him safely home with his family.

Many believe that in light of the large numbers of ships being targeted by pirates that arming the crews makes sense. Others fear for cargo safety if weapons are fired into volatile containers. Still some wonder about laws that forbid ship workers carrying weapons. Ships stopping at several ports of call in different nations might encounter delays if particular nations have different laws about weapons on merchant vessels.

Ships traveling off the Somali coast might one day have to travel in convoys with warship escorts if piracy is to be curtailed. Armed guards might be mandatory.

It would be nice to think about Navy SEAL snipers armed and ready to send some of these pirate criminals to meet their maker. More drones in the area might serve to alert ships of pending attacks from pirates in approaching small boats. Warnings to commercial vessels would be appreciated, don't you agree?

A suggestion has been made to attack the pirates on land where they congregate. This might cause many unforeseen consequences.

President Obama has said he wishes a "halt in the rise of piracy." He is no doubt considering his options as we prepare this column. The economy and lack of stable government in Somalia has made it a haven for thugs and pirates. The president may have to call for help from friends and encourage the nonpayment of large ransoms for captured vessels and crews.

All nations sending ships to that region face a major challenge - the fact that several pirates have been killed may bring adverse reaction. These thugs may now seek revenge against any ships flying under foreign colors. They may also spread their piracy over greater distances, making policing of their activities more difficult. In fact, four more ships have already been seized for ransom in the vast expanse of ocean.

The poor of Somalia need a way to earn an honest living. Lacking this opportunity because of a disunified government, they take up piracy which has proved lucrative thus far. The Somali government needs to be stabilized and the pirate havens need cleaning out. They need to be arrested and brought to justice.

It is a big job. Who wants it? The pirates along the African coast have been operating there for over 200 years!

Jack Simpson is a former educator, veteran, author, and law enforcement officer. His column appears each Friday.