The bill directs the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) to certify firearms training for merchant mariners on U.S.-flagged merchant vessels. Any trained mariner using force and the owner, operator or master of said vessels would be exempt from liability in U.S. courts as a result of that use of force. It would also authorize the deployment of Coast Guard Maritime Safety and Security Teams (MSST) to ride aboard and defend U.S. flagged vessels transiting pirate-infested waters. MSST are specially trained USCG personnel fully equipped in advanced weapons and other equipment that are capable of rapid deployment to successfully conduct antiterrorism operations, vertical insertions, and tactical ship operations.
The bill would further direct the United States to negotiate international agreements through the International Maritime Organization to provide similar exemptions from liability in other countries for the use of force by mariners and vessel owners, operators and masters as well as to ensure armed U.S. crews can enter foreign ports.
Cosponsoring LoBiondoâ€™s â€œU.S. Mariner and Vessel Protection Actâ€ are Representatives Howard Coble (NC-06), Don Young (Alaska-at-large) and John Mica (FL-07), the Republican Leader of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. â€œI commend Congressman LoBiondo for writing this bill to provide common sense protections for our mariners to freely defend their ships from pirates bent on killing, stealing and crippling worldwide commerce,â€ commented Mica.