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Old 11-24-2008, 12:00 PM   #21
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If looked at from tactical view: The Somalis are conducting "unconventional warfare". That is the most effective, least cost method.

Anything done to protect ships, shipping lanes, or trying to nab them beforehand gets to be really expensive. Especially high tech. methods.

In addition most ships broadcast their position, ship name etc. for global traffic monitoring, so it only takes a little effort on the part of the tech savvy pirates to find a good prospect.

Seems the Somalis are getting pretty good at their new money making venture.
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Old 11-24-2008, 12:11 PM   #22
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This would work, with a little bit of legal cover. Private security. Either in stand-alone boats of their own or (more practically) aboard the protected vessel. Four .50 cal positions on these vessels would keep the prospective boarders at arms length, and several proficient gunners with AT-14-type laser-guided antitank missiles could engage speedboats/vessels at up 5km, and keep them beyond RPG range.

Plus, those 10-20 Blackwater contractors, knowing what will happen to them if the ship is seized, would create a whole-nuther situation aboard the boat once the pirates board.

When beyond the pirate threat, these guys pack up and go back to Kuwait to board their next customer.

The boats don't need to be 100% unboardable--just less apealling targets than other vessels. The bar will go up.
I think you are overly optimistic about how international shipping is run. All that stuff costs money and most ships are operated on an extremely tight budget, especially as shipping rates have fallen. I don't kow the wet side that well, but most owners don't spend more than $5k/day operating pretty dang big dry bulk ships, and that includes crew, lubricants, parts, stores, filters, maintenance, etc. Adding all the expensive security stuf would add very materially to that cost. That might be feasible with the nice, shiny new ships that are worth a lot. But the 20 year old freighters that make up a large fraction of the world fleet? I don't think so.
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Old 11-24-2008, 12:40 PM   #23
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Ummm,this is a made-for-TV movie asking to be cranked out fast. Since there won't be an actual shoot-em-up in real life, I'm gonna wait for Hollywood to show me how the "good guys" win. Preferably with a young, nubile actress in fear of those rapacious pirates.
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Old 11-24-2008, 12:45 PM   #24
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fyi

IMB Piracy Reporting Centre

Noonsite: The global site for cruising sailors
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Old 11-24-2008, 12:50 PM   #25
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Old 11-24-2008, 12:50 PM   #26
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I think you are overly optimistic about how international shipping is run. All that stuff costs money and most ships are operated on an extremely tight budget, especially as shipping rates have fallen. I don't kow the wet side that well, but most owners don't spend more than $5k/day operating pretty dang big dry bulk ships, and that includes crew, lubricants, parts, stores, filters, maintenance, etc. Adding all the expensive security stuf would add very materially to that cost. That might be feasible with the nice, shiny new ships that are worth a lot. But the 20 year old freighters that make up a large fraction of the world fleet? I don't think so.
I'm sure you are right--this would cost a lot. It would likely only be worth it for high$$ trips and for those where alternate (longer-but-safer) transits were impractical.

Alternatives?:
Convoys. "Blackwater Maritime Protective Services" 10 PT Boats guarding 10-15 closely-spaced merchant vessels. Hmm--probably not much cost savings.
Go on the offensive: A bounty for pirates. Lots of guns for hire in Somalia. Making sure you were buying actual pirate carcases would be tough.


The social issues driving all this are huge. It's impossible to overstate the disfunctional hell on earth Somalia has become. I heard an interview with a young Somali male the other day, "A girl won't even look at me unless I am a pirate." It's the only way they have of making it. Lots to gain, not much to loose.

- 50,000 volt metal nets over the rails?
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Old 11-24-2008, 01:03 PM   #27
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National Geographic magazine had a great article on Malaysian pirates in October of 2007. Absolutely fascinating. Here's the link:

Malacca Strait Pirates - National Geographic Magazine

I suspect many of the same issues are at play in Somalia.
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Old 11-24-2008, 02:04 PM   #28
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Arrrrgh, mateys, thought you might appreciate this quote I stumbled across:

"Piracy: A quote from Commodore Stephen Decatur on how to negotiate with pirates, “We shall offer
them liberal and enlightened terms, dictated at the mouths of our cannons.”"
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Old 11-24-2008, 02:24 PM   #29
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Your average merchant seaman is no doubt completely untrained and unprepared in the ways of warfare. Besides, the MO of these pirates is to bring along some type of ship-to-ship weaponry and stand off outside of small arms range posing a threat to sink the ship if they don't comply. You need an actual combatant platform to cope with that tactic, not just a container ship with a few deckhands armed with AK-47s.

Not to mention what the pirates would do to the crew of a boat that fired upon them and lost the battle. Your average deckhand no doubt believes it better to be a hostage of pirates while waiting for the ransom to be paid as opposed to being an erstwhile repeller of boarders who got shot protecting a shipload of Chinese bathrobes enroute to Wal-Mart.

My first thought was that the seagoing powers would come to defend the rights of their merchant ships to conduct commerce, but apparently modern international law doesn't allow naval forces to swing a few pirates from the yardarm. Arresting and prosecuting them is not a viable option either as the laws are not very clear on some issues of jurisdiction. In fact, I heard something the other day that said that the British Navy had been counseled by her majesty's govt against arresting pirates because they might have a valid claim to asylum in the UK once they were in custody.

The Indian Navy sank a pirate boat the other day, but only after the pirates threatened to sink the naval vessel and then actually opened fire on it. Their armament included RPG missiles.

The hiring of private armed security is not an option in parts of the world due to international prohibitions against introducing weapons into some countries and regions. In those places, even if you are acting in self-defense, you can apparently open yourself up to criminal charges in your own country if you kill someone.

Some shipping companies are hiring private security who are armed with acoustic weapons like the LRAD. Long range acoustic device - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

I admit I am a bit disappointed. I thought the various navies would steam over, sink a few pirate boats, and remove all of the attraction that a career as a pirate currently holds.
NPR did an article on private security for these ships using these long range acoustic devices. The company spokesman said for $30k they would put a 3 man team on board to handle security with non-lethal methods. $30k sounds like a reasonable fee for the higher end shippers (like this oil tanker) but would basically be a non starter for the poorer operations.
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Old 11-24-2008, 06:35 PM   #30
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It seems like we've come a long way from the origins of the US Navy

"Millions for defense not one penny for tribute"

What's wrong with stringing them up and leaving their maggot infested corpse rotting at various harbors in Somalia?

Or alternatively the 21st Century approach flood the internet and distribute DVDs of the "Pirates Life"

Featuring cool action scenes of Harpoon missile taken out pirate mother ship, Phalanx guns chewing up Zodiac boats, and a stack of mangled bodies after Navy SEALs liberate hijacked ships.
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Old 11-25-2008, 10:51 AM   #31
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Where is ERD when we need him? What is the root cause? The failure of Somalia as a country. Someone needs to run that country.
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Old 11-25-2008, 12:09 PM   #32
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Seems to me ANY military group would be better trained than these pirates ..... so any attempt to retake the ship would have a high success rate.

Also, if I paid a 25M ransom, I'ld spend another couple mill to hunt these guys down in thier lawless society.

Do this a few times, and the problem disappears.
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Old 11-25-2008, 02:19 PM   #33
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This seems like an ideal time for the US Navy to conduct some 'tests' of the latest UAV / Hellfires or SSMs. The Army, Air Force, Marine, and Naval air had all had many chances to test their systems since 1990, but the rest of the Navy probably feels left out.
This is exactly why civilzed countries hate us.

Not a US ship then it is not a US problem.
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Old 11-25-2008, 02:39 PM   #34
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Hmm - however, the shipping companies are changing their routes to avoid dealing with this -issue is the route is around the Cape...adds a bit more time/money on the trip - Egypt is losing money on the 'transit fees' on the Gulf of Aden...so the economics of this could get a bit more dicey in the long term without some type of enforcement (although the comment about the UN laws regarding repatriation might be re-visited in light of this).
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Old 11-25-2008, 05:01 PM   #35
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Seems to me ANY military group would be better trained than these pirates ..... so any attempt to retake the ship would have a high success rate.
This is one case where the defense has a big advantage. There's not much cover when approaching the vessel, the defenders have clear fields of fire, and even getting aboard is a task when there might be 20+ feet of freeboard. Retaking one of these boats is not a picnic, even if the defenders are a bunch of ragtag, malnourished punks.

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Also, if I paid a 25M ransom, I'd spend another couple mill to hunt these guys down in their lawless society.

Do this a few times, and the problem disappears.
Agreed.
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Old 11-25-2008, 05:43 PM   #36
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This is exactly why civilzed countries hate us.

Not a US ship then it is not a US problem.
Please tell me you are kidding.

Free trade benefits everybody it is about the only thing that all economist agree on. The US as the world's largest trading nation benefits the most when trade barriers are lowed. Piracy causes the cost of trade to rise hurting everybody.

Imagine if Florida ships oranges to Michigan and Michigan ships cars to Florida using a Canadian trucking firm. Hijackers in say Georgia have bribed the cops to let them operate out of there state. If the FBI goes in a busted up the ring do you really think that anybody other than the corrupt cops in Georgia or the hijackers would be pissed off?

We have spent several trillion over the last generation to build a navy. What the heck do we need it for to keep the Russians from invading Alaska? The primary reason we have one is to keep open the sea lanes.
The British Navy spent several hundred years primarily focused on two problems wiping out the slave trade and piracy. The world is a better place because of their efforts, even if at times it pissed off some corrupt, amoral people.

It is the Saudi's ships and ultimately their decision what to do, but it silly to think that that "civilized nations" would be upset with the US stopping piracy off the Horn of Africa.

A great article in yesterdays WSJ on the problem.
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Old 11-25-2008, 05:47 PM   #37
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Where is ERD when we need him? What is the root cause? The failure of Somalia as a country. Someone needs to run that country.
Agreed. How about a smart lawyer with a whip, can't be much tougher than a moderator on this forum. Martha I'll forward your name to the state dept.
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Old 11-25-2008, 06:21 PM   #38
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Please tell me you are kidding.

Free trade benefits everybody it is about the only thing that all economist agree on. The US as the world's largest trading nation benefits the most when trade barriers are lowed. Piracy causes the cost of trade to rise hurting everybody.

Imagine if Florida ships oranges to Michigan and Michigan ships cars to Florida using a Canadian trucking firm. Hijackers in say Georgia have bribed the cops to let them operate out of there state. If the FBI goes in a busted up the ring do you really think that anybody other than the corrupt cops in Georgia or the hijackers would be pissed off?

We have spent several trillion over the last generation to build a navy. What the heck do we need it for to keep the Russians from invading Alaska? The primary reason we have one is to keep open the sea lanes.
The British Navy spent several hundred years primarily focused on two problems wiping out the slave trade and piracy. The world is a better place because of their efforts, even if at times it pissed off some corrupt, amoral people.

It is the Saudi's ships and ultimately their decision what to do, but it silly to think that that "civilized nations" would be upset with the US stopping piracy off the Horn of Africa.

A great article in yesterdays WSJ on the problem.
Not kidding.

Thinking like yours led to the rise of the taliban and al quada.

Free market suggests the people doing the shipping will find a way to protect themselves.

If it is a US ship by all means protect it with the US Navy.

If it is a small nation, and they expect US Navy escorts, what happens when a similar situation occurs in another part of world like South America, then some rogue south american country launches a terrorist attack on a US ship? WWIII might be just around the corner.

Let the little countries fight the pirates, and pass that cost onto whoever was buying the goods and services. Free market would work that way too.

We should stop looking at the US military as a way to bully small pirates around and wait around for bigger battles vs bigger enemies. We don't want to overuse or overextend our military.
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Old 11-25-2008, 08:15 PM   #39
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We should stop looking at the US military as a way to bully small pirates around and wait around for bigger battles vs bigger enemies. We don't want to overuse or overextend our military.
Before we impose Pax Americana again, I suggest that people read up on the USS STARK and maybe refresh our Somalia memories through the video "Blackhawk Down". I'm too chicken to watch it because my nephew the Army Ranger says it made him cry.

There are more than enough putative allies in that part of the world who have a far better understanding of the situation and its remedies. They know that they can sit on their assets waiting for Americans to get suckered into the politics. If they really want to go kick pirate butt protect their sovereign assets then they can form a task force and send us an invitation. The "1000-ship Navy" does not mean "America goes first"...
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Old 11-25-2008, 08:23 PM   #40
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Here's a nice little accessory for the merchant ships

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