Lawlessness at sea

April 14, 2009 

Over the past two months, we have seen a commercial vessel of the U.S. Merchant Marine seized by pirates off the coast of Somalia (MV Maersk Alabama) and another ship, crewed by civilian merchant mariners but in the employ of the U.S. Navy, harassed by the Chinese Navy (USNS Impeccable). Both incidents showcase the volatility of the world's oceans.

Efforts have been made to standardize rules and regulations, through such agencies as the International Maritime Organization and the Convention of the Law of the Sea. The difficulty has proven to be enforcement and the breakdown of nation states. Ever since World War II, the proliferation of "flags of conveniences" have reduced the ability to regulate ships on the ocean.

The United States, along with its allies, must establish an international code upon the seas, and the first step would be to ratify the Law of the Sea convention and assist in the restoration of order on the African continent. Since the end of the Cold War, Africa has been a continent of violence, and while our attention is on the global economic meltdown and wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, failure to address this will only breed new problems for the nation and the world.

Salvatore Mercogliano


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