Arming Captain Phillips

In a couple of weeks, a new book coauthored by John-Clark Levin ’12 and Jack Pitney, CMC’s Roy P. Crocker Professor of American Politics, will drift into retail outlets, broadening discussions about piracy and the maritime security industry. It’s a topic sexy enough for Hollywood, which certainly has made a boatload off pirate films. In this case, Sony Pictures turned to the true story of the 2009 hijacking of U.S. container ship Maersk Alabama by Somali pirates. The result is Tom Hanks playing Captain Richard Phillips in a thriller that Levin uses to open an Oct. 16 op-ed he wrote for the Wall Street Journal.

“While Hollywood takes liberties with the story, ” Levin writes, “in the film Captain Phillips is eventually saved, as he was in real life, when Navy SEAL sharpshooters take out his captors.” The headline of his piece however, Arming Captain Phillips, drives home his next thought: if there had been guns or armed guards aboard the vessel in the first place, perhaps Phillips and his crew wouldn’t have needed rescuing.

Since 2011, notes Levin, the year that several major maritime nations began allowing merchant ships to carry armed private-security personnel for self-defense, overall attacks have dropped to 75 from 237.

His op-ed offers a peek at the kinds of information his book with Pitney, Private Anti-Piracy Navies: How Warships for Hire are Changing Maritime Security, is swimming in–– starting with background on the piracy epidemic, then rolling into such topics as the maritime security industry and its various challenges.

Levin’s op-ed is available online to WSJ subscribers. (Those who don't have a subscription may also access the text via a Google search.)