While browsing the internet this weekend, I stumbled across this rather interesting document (18KB PDF!) which concerns the Maersk Alabama and it’s run-in with pirates earlier this year. If I’m interpreting it correctly, it suggests that the standard operating procedure for cargo vessels hijacked off the coast of Somalia is to declare the inevitable ransom payment as a general average, thereby recouping the loss from the cargo’s owners – or, more likely, insurers.
Perhaps not the most interesting insight ever into the world of commercial shipping, but I find it a bit surprising, on the surface, that the precedent seems to be to hold the cargo’s owners partially responsible for ransom demands, rather than placing the blame on the vessel’s owners. To be honest, it seems a bit like robbery, not really any different from people boarding a crowded train, plane, or bus, and demanding everyone’s wallets and jewelery… only in this case it’s the crew doing the taking.
Still, I think it does explain why shipping companies are so slow to take (effective) precautions against piracy – aside from the risk being (purely statistically) low, it’s “somebody else’s problem”.