The rules for ships are much like the rules formerly in place for planes: if captured don't resist.
According to a set of best practices for ships off Somalia as laid out by 11 international agencies including the International Maritime Bureau issued in February, when attacked by pirates a vessel should speed up, take evasive action and even turn fire hoses on their attackers. But once boarded, crews should “offer no resistance; this could lead to unnecessary violence and harm to crew.” …
The crew of the Maersk Alabama was criticized by one risk management firm:
John Wick, managing director of corporate risk management firm International Security Solutions Ltd, said the crew was very lucky. “It’s all very gung ho and it’s like watching a good movie,” he said. “But what the crew did was potentially very dangerous and could have gone very wrong.” … Wick said in general Somali pirates have treated captives well and a system is in place for ransoming captured crews.
You can only imagine the horror with which he greeted the killing of the remaining pirates and rescue of the captain.
Richard Fernandez (Wretchard) makes this observation which I believe to be very true:
My guess, and it’s only a guess, is that the fear of liability prevents the arming of merchant ships. That can be incurred in several ways. One is where a jumpy merchant crew opens fire on an innocent small boat, or what is later alleged to be an innocent small boat, for which they may be sued. Alternatively, one of the crew may be hurt in repelling boarders and he may later allege that whatever he may have contractually agreed to, he is entitled to more damages.
If your crew is largely Bangladeshi, Filipino, or such, then it is probably cheaper to let them be kidnapped and ransom them. If any should die in captivity, a few tens of thousands of dollars are typically enough to buy the silence of their destitute families. Human rights lawyers are expensive to pay off. Filipino widows are comparatively cheaper to mollify.
But if ships crews are instructed to fight, how can the "civil rights for pirates" crowd be cowed?
That’s why Fred Ikle’s suggestion that the UN forbid the payment of ransom may be a good way to go. This would put a crimp in the liability argument of the human rights people because if something is mandated by the UN, then that’s the final word in their world. Things don’t have to make sense to the politically correct ambulance chasers, but the right bit of paper can make all the difference.