From: me, an american merchant mariner.
To: you, other mariners, and Joe Public,
Re: my two cents
With piracy in the news, everyone at hoe has been asking me about what kind of weapons we carry on board. Most of 'em are shocked to know that we are minimally armed. Truth is, I wouldn't have it any other way.
We're out of room for much more additional training. We don't get paid enough to be away from home. The IT guy who fixes the captain's computer makes more money than the captain does. We need broad backs for the most part, not more brains on board.
There's talk of making career-track specialization at our maritime academies, which sounds great, until you look at the real world. Oil tankers pay the worst in the US, and require the most work for officers and unlicensed alike. Also, they pay the worst. Now why would any college freshman want to limit themselves to that, unless its' to avoid competition?
Look at my own conundrum- I have a steady job on a tanker, but I don't make enough money to support my family in the time available to work- I moonlight on other jobs, losing time at home, Now, I am working fairly steady on a tug and barge, and, even as a green trainee, I was being paid exactly TWICE what I made as an experienced AB on a tanker. What the hell can I do? I have to go back to my ship at some point, and when I do finish school to advance my licensing up to 3rd mate status, I'll make less than I do right now, today. Worse, even as a 2nd mate, the guy in charge of navigation planning, there's only a handful of shipping companies who pay more than I make now, as an AB on a barge, and none of those jobs are on tankers. What's fair to my wife and boy? Cut my time at home in half, as well as the income, with the hope that in 7 years I'll be back to where I am today?
So, what does this have to do with piracy? LOTS! The fact is, I don't want any extra training on hand-to-hand fighting. I don't get to see my family enough as it is. I would have joined the army if I wanted that. I don't get paid enough to put my life on the line. What would I be fighting for? Continued access to frozen foods from Europe, or plastic crap from China? No, I'm not going to fight for that. That's a mercenary's task. The ideological imperative that gives moral permission to fight is to fight for some ONE, not some THING. I'm no mercenary. You can't pay me enough to protect your cheap imported crap. Well, you can, but it would take a LOT of money. Otherwise, no. Fuck off, as the Irish say. I'm not taking up arms in the cause of delivering Durable Goods.
So, there's my two cents. Check off one more box on the 'no' side of arming merchant ships.