ALLEN: Well, it definitely poses a threat to shipping locally there. We'd had problems in the past with piracy, that was in the Straits of Malacca, but we've done a very good job internationally of reducing that threat through regional cooperation, which is the key, working with the private sector and the shipping companies to improve the amount of information that's being passed and actually improve what we would call situational awareness or maritime domain awareness.
A lot of these threats could just be avoided.
STEPHANOPOULOS: When you say that, situational awareness, how would these threats be avoided? What kind of tools do the shippers have at their disposal?
ALLEN: Well, for the past several years, the United Kingdom has led a regional consortium where they pass the information on sightings, best routing and so forth. We're in the process of helping create a code of conduct for merchant ships so they can minimize the threats.
Slow ships with low freeboard present a much greater target than faster ships and higher freeboard, things like that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And this has opened up the whole debate over whether or not these kinds of ships should be armed, whether the crew should have weapons, very similar to the debate we saw about whether the pilots in cockpits should have -- should be armed after 9/11.
ALLEN: I think that's pretty problematic for reasons that you -- training certification, how you apply standards, the discussions I've had with the private sector and the shipping companies really don't favor that right now.
Those types of actions should be in the hands of professionals.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Why don't they want it?
ALLEN: Well, again, it's an issue of putting more responsibilities on the crew. There's a training and certification issue. And again, that's not what these mariners are trained to do.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But I guess you could argue that if this -- if piracy is a real threat, then we should have trained people onboard who can take them out. Or is the other problem simply that the pirates will always be able to outgun them, that they can launch a shoulder-fired missile from several hundred yards?
ALLEN: Well, one can't speculate on what kind of threats or capabilities may operate in the future. But I do know that trying to put that type of responsibility on a crew is a very significant responsibility and should be carefully thought through.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So there's no real effort to make that happen right now?
ALLEN: Well, there is no international requirement under law, or international treaty to do that, no.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And what else is the United States government now doing to get at the broader threat? We know that most of these pirates are coming from Somalia. And we know that in the past, at least, the approach towards piracy was to go after pirates where they live, not on sea by on land, does that make sense now?
ALLEN: I think the real issue is to create an international legal framework where there are consequences for these actions. For the past six to 12 months, we in the United States Coast Guard, with our other partners in government, have been working through entities like the International Maritime Organization to gain the U.N. Security Council resolutions that authorize entry into Somalian territorial waters and land to protect world food shipments.