WASHINGTON — Commercial ships working pirate-infested waters should be protected by an armed corps of senior officers backed by the government, Maersk Alabama Capt. Richard Phillips told Congress on Thursday.
Phillips, who was held by pirates for five days this month and rescued by Navy SEALs, was the star witness during a series of hearings as Congress considers ways to combat a spike in piracy against ships carrying billions of dollars in cargo and humanitarian aid.
The International Maritime Bureau recorded 111 attacks in the waters off the Horn of Africa in 2008, almost double the number of the year before. The bureau has recorded at least 84 attacks in the first quarter of 2009.
The problem requires a complex regional response between the United States and other powers such as China, India and Russia, Ambassador Stephen Mull told the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Mull said U.S. officials are working with other countries to deny pirates whatever they might gain from taking ships and crews.