MOBILE, Ala. (AP) - The president of Mobile-based International Shipholding Corp., which manages the M/V Maersk Alabama for owner Maersk USA, said Monday a multinational coalition must respond to Somali piracy.
ISH President Erik L. Johnsen said one country cannot stand alone against pirates like the ones who raided the Maersk and held its American captain hostage. He said piracy calls for a multinational response from seafaring nations. "There's a risk out there and we have to address it," Johnsen told The Associated Press in an interview in his office overlooking Mobile's harbor.
Johnsen said he had not had time to put any recommendations for dealing with piracy in writing to any government or industry group because the hostage-taking had just ended Sunday. "It was a very remarkable outcome," he said. "I can't tell you how pleased we are." Johnsen said his firm was very happy for the safe return of Maersk Alabama Capt. Richard Phillips. Johnsen said he spoke to Phillips' wife on Sunday. "She's a very brave woman who has a very brave husband," Johnsen said.
U.S. Navy snipers killed three Somali pirates with single shots, freeing Phillips. Johnsen declined to comment on pirate threats of retaliation. He said ISH was part of the crisis team led by ship owner Maersk. The vessel is managed by International Shipholding under what is known as a bareboat charter. That means that IHS handles provisioning and crewing the vessel and then leases it back to Maersk.
Johnsen said "vital trade lanes" must be protected, but he declined to say whether the coast of Somalia should be avoided completely. World Shipping Council President and Chief Executive Officer Christopher Koch said a multinational naval force representing 23 countries already is attempting to curtail piracy around the Horn of Africa. The Washington, D.C.-based council represents container vessels. "It's not that nations haven't dedicated resources to it. It's just a big challenge," Koch said. He said any changes in routes and procedures will be up to each operator, noting piracy was not the only factor. "It's a complicated question," he said. As for providing weapons to crew members, Koch cautioned that the use of firearms could further escalate a situation and claim innocent lives.
ISH's Johnsen, speaking Monday, said, "It's more involved than simply arming the crew." Johnsen said a replacement crew will be sent to the U.S.-flagged Maersk where it's docked in Kenya. For security reasons, he declined to comment on the ship's future destination.