Thursday, April 15, 2010

Obama's Pirate Executive Order Sparks Concerns With Shipping Lines

Possibility of Ransom Payments Violating US Law
Shipping News Feature

USA / SOMALIA – Late last night President Barak Obama signed an executive order that forbids American corporations and their overseas subsidiaries from having financial dealings with groups that “…directly or indirectly threaten the peace, security, or stability of Somalia.”

President Obama’s order specifically highlights the problems of piracy in the Indian Ocean, stating that: “I hereby determine…acts of piracy or armed robbery at sea off the coast of Somalia threaten the peace, security, or stability of Somalia. I…determine that…the making of donations…would seriously impair my ability to deal with the national emergency declared in this order, and I hereby prohibit such donations…”

Though specifically aimed at certain individuals and groups, principally the Islamists and warlords fighting against the Somali government and African Union peacekeeping forces, the order has sparked concern amongst shipping lines that it could be construed as applicable to companies that pay ransoms' to pirates who hijack their vessels, making them culpable.

Though there is some confusion, companies with US interests who are the victims of Somali piracy are now advised to consult with the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the US Treasury Department before making any payments to hijackers.

You can see the full Presidential Order here.

(pic: the MV Faina under the control of heavily armed pirates. Courtesy US Navy)