4.14.2010

"Piracy; White House Issues Executive Ordering Making Payment Of Ransom Illegal"

That's the subject line from an email sent out today by the head of the Maritime Law Association of the United States.

I'll need to take a closer look at Obama's executive order text to get a better sense of precisely what it does.  At first glance, I don't think any of the news agencies out there are viewing the document as having the preclusive effect on ransoms.

Instead, they're viewing this, understandably, as a measure designed to freeze assets linked to al-Qaeda in Somalia.

But I think, after my cursory glance at the text, that the measure could quite easily be construed as barring ransoms paid to pirates.  Ransoms would essentially be deemed financial support to those whose assets are blocked by the measure. 

If ransoms are now in fact off the table when it comes to U.S. companies, vessels, and persons, it may change the dynamic relative to the Somali pirate situation.  While other nations may not follow suit, when it comes to U.S. involvement in the Horn of Africa region, if ransoms are not an option - or they are at least legally questionable - companies will pretty much have to resort to defending their vessels forcibly in some manner. 

And I'm fine with that result.

UPDATE:

Bloomberg caught the possible implication on ransoms later in the evening yesterday.