recent article featured in The New York Times, titled “Murder at Sea: Captured on Video, But Killers Go Free,” showcases the total lawlessness of international waters.

The parts of the video that are public show the murder of four men in 2012 or 2013. The New York Times argues that those men could have been stowaways, or perhaps victims of violence stemming from the highly competitive fishing industry. (It is common for fishermen to have weapons in order to protect themselves from pirates, and although there have been cases when they have fired at other ships to scare them away from their nets, I doubt that is the case here.)

The most probable explanation is that this was a case of vigilantism against pirates; the presence of a capsized boat reinforces that. After a failed attempt to capture the fishing trawler, the pirates’ boat likely capsizing under large waves or from hitting the bigger boat, the pirates were summarily executed.

Bear in mind that many crews hold quite the grudge against pirates because they, or people they know, have been endangered by the pirate presence. They might even have had friends among the hostages in Somalia. All that was in 2012, of course.

On my first transit in 2013, I met a chief officer who, in 2012, had been on a ship captured by pirates. The crew barricaded themselves in the citadel and the pirates were unable to capture them. But being unable to capture them, they instead decided to kill them—setting the ship on fire. Needless to say, the chief told my team to shoot any pirates on sight. The captain told us the same, jokingly, but it was obvious he wouldn’t have minded if we’d followed through with that order.

What we see in the video is that attitude combined with a crew clearly not concerned about taking out a few pirates. Most maritime security companies don’t subscribe to that approach; generally, when the pirates cease being a threat, you do anything you can to help keep them alive and deliver them to the appropriate authorities. Or at the very least, you give them food and water after they dispose of their weapons in the sea, and then you send them on their way.

(Featured image courtesy of