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Captain, boss at odds over whether to arm ship crews

WASHINGTON - The planet's shipping fleet should be protected from deadly pirates by arming senior crew members, or not - depending on who was speaking Thursday to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: Maersk Alabama Capt. Richard Phillips or his boss, Maersk Inc. Chairman John P. Clancey.

'It would be my personal preference that a limited number of crew aboard the vessel have access to effective weaponry,' Phillips told the panel, his wife and a crew member seated behind him.

But doing that could expose sailors to a tactical escalation in violence - and, Clancey said later, the corporation to liability.

The captain and corporate chief - shoulder-to-shoulder yet somewhat at odds - illustrated the knotty problem Congress, the shipping industry and foreign governments face as they consider how to crack down on a worrying spike in piracy and its threat to billions of dollars in cargo, military equipment and humanitarian aid.