"Piracy", as defined by Webster's is "1) [the] robbery of ships on the high seas [and] 2) the unauthorized use of copyrighted or patented work." I listened to numerous Monday-morning-quarterback reports last night on NPR radio regarding the U.S. handling of the recent hijacking and hostage taking incident off the coast of Somalia. The gist of the reporting was how shipping companies and their insurers are aghast at how the U.S. Navy resolved the piracy and saved the ship's captain who was held hostage by four pirates on a life boat. In short, according to The Wall Street Journal,"U.S. Navy Seal sharpshooters bought a five-day hostage standoff to an abrupt end Sunday with a hail of bullets [most likely 3] that killed three pirates holding the captain of an American-flagged cargo ship".
What are the shipping companies and insurers so upset about? Simple -- they fear that the U.S. action will precipitate an increase in regional violence and that the pirates will become more aggressive, making their least cost ransom payment resolutions more difficult and expensive, thereby increasing their overall costs.
According to NPR, the shipping companies have a solution to diversify the risk of a repeat performance by the U.S. or any other country’s navy: Register ships outside the country of ownership (e.g., U.S. owned but registered in another country and sailed under the flag of the country of registry) and sail the vessels with a multi-national crew that would then prevent any one country's navy from claiming jurisdiction over an incident of piracy.
Now despite this blog's rabid commitment to free world trade and LCCS, this solution is beyond absurd. Piracy is not a romantic nuisance. Its tolerance as exhibited by the preference of shipping companies and their insurers to pay ransoms is pure enablement. As all countries struggle with organized crime and terrorism fueled by illegal drug and arms profiteering, otherwise legitimate multi-national corporations -- and the companies they supply -- have a moral responsibility to not circumvent and tacitly condone criminal behavior.
BTW - Plagiarists and intellectual property pirates can consider themselves fortunate to not be subjects of maritime law.
- William Busch, Spend Matters Columnist