Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Firearms Debate Rages On

The debate whether to arm merchant vessels rages on. There are advantages and disadvantages to having firearms. Certainly anyone possessing a firearms should be well trained, not only in the use of the firearm itself, but in appropriate Rules of Engagement. When speaking of rules of engagement, I am not referring to just reading the rules of engagement, I am speaking of understanding them, and the liability that goes along with the firearm. I am not against firearms but care needs to be exercised here due to the inherent risks involved. Some say that the use of firearms would escalate the violence of an attack. This could be very true if the methodology of it's use was incorrect. Firearms are always to be a last resort. You can follow the legalities of the rules of engagement and definitely escalate the fight, or you can have a proper methodology with the use of firearms and not escalate the fight. Keep in mind this is my own opinion, and I certainly welcome other opinions. I will give a small scenario and explain my view. A merchant vessel is very large, averaging about 200 meters in length, while a pirate skiff is very small comparatively, about 10 meters in length. On the ocean it is a much different picture than land warfare would paint. The merchant vessel has no cover or concealment and is usually limited in it's maneuverability. The pirate skiff of course is in the same situation regarding cover and concealment, but is highly maneuverable. Now imagine looking at a merchant vessel that is 200 meters away from you, and how large it appears, and imagine a 10 meter skiff 200 meters away, and how small it looks. The pirate obviously has a much larger target to shoot at, and his accuracy does not need to be near as good to hit the target. The pirates have displayed a consistent method of firing a few rounds with the AK-47 and maybe a round from the RPG-7. this has stayed consistent as it is a means of intimidation to get the vessel to stop. However, with the normal resistance a ship can offer, speed, maneuverability and standard anti piracy methods such as fire fighting equipment used to repel or hinder the boarder, the violence usually does not tend to escalate beyond the intimidation. Now imagine the 200 meter distance between the two vessels, and now the first few rounds fired from the skiff (along with an RPG round), and imagine someone on the vessel firing back. This may be justified by the rules of engagement, but now you are at a severe disadvantage, as the pirate can start firing much more than he would have. With the maneuverability of the skiff, you are not likely to hit the skiff, however, they have a much better chance of hitting your vessel. This is the type of conduct with a firearm that could place the vessel and it's crew in much greater danger, but is the common practice with firearms. On land, with cover and concealment, this use of the firearm would be acceptable and reasonable, but at sea, it just does not work. Most that want the firearm on boar, are of the mentality that if I shoot back, the pirate will just run away. What if he doesn't? My whole point is that proper preparations of the vessel and crew, with the correct defensive posture and layers of defense, firearms just are not necessary. No one is out there to kill pirates, they are supposed to be out there preventing the vessel from being boarded.

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