Piracy Now!

October 29, 2008

Shipping in and out of the Red Sea is undergoing some old-time, real-violent incidents with pirates, so much so there seems to be a crisis in an ability to handle it.


Information Dissemination, the best site for all things Naval, made note today on another freighter attacked by pirates as it tried to navigate through the Gulf of Aden at the mouth of the Red Sea.
The blog gave an account of the latest report from the International Chamber of Shipping, the principle trade association for the industry, which noted the ship’s escape was aided by the timely arrival of a military jet.
(Map found here).

The ICS reported some agonizing moments for a ship’s skipper and crew.

  • Situation: Vessel was under full lockdown with anti-piracy lookout posted on both bridge wings night and day and navigating in Gulf of Aden safety corridor.
    First attack took place at 08:00 in posn 13-26N, 48-27E. Three high speed craft approached with direct intent from port side 45degrees off the bow.

    I called the company on the telephone, I made evasive maneuvers, mayday call on vhf, mustered all in our security muster station (conference room) and kept 3/O on the bridge with a helmsman.
    We came under automatic small arms fire targeted at the bridge. No damage or injuries.
    I was also sounding the air horn whilst making S-turns and calling Mayday on VHF16.
    After about 10min the attackers gave up chase and stopped and re-grouped. We escaped.

And then again, after the captain had calmed the crew:

  • The 2nd attack was more serious and came at 15:00 in posn 12-54N, 46-40E where 3 fast attack boats were seen departing from a mother ship fishing vessel white in colour.

    I immediately called Mayday on vhf, mustered crew in safe place and was again fired upon by automatic small arms fire but with more aggression lasting about 5 minutes into the accom block. Fortunately a coalition warship (Spanish Navy) heard my mayday call and responded by sending out a Russian aircraft to our scene which was patrolling the area.

    I was very happy to see the echo on my radar of the inbound aircraft.
    The pirates were within 100m when the small fixed wing Russian bomber arrived and gave a very low passing.
    The pirates yielded. The aircraft then proceeded to drop ordinance on them.
    The situation became safe very quickly with the bomber in attendance.
    About 20min later a French attack helicopter arrived to check our situation was under control and we alerted him as to the estimated position of the pirate mother ship.

The report concludes:

  • If evidence is needed of the lawless situation in this part of the world then the attached report provides it.
    It illustrates both the effectiveness of organic defensive measures as well as the need for active military intervention.

A hairy-high-old-time had by all.

Piracy is becoming a major problem for shipping and for humanitarian aid to the Horn of Africa.
Each year about 16,000 ships use the Gulf of Aden, one of the most important trade routes in the world — the southern route to the Suez Canal.
The piracy has already caused insurance premiums for the Gulf of Aden to increase tenfold.

As reported earlier this month by the Danger Room blog at Wired News:

  • Resolving Somalia’s at-sea piracy crisis requires “the formation of a Somali government that can clear out pirates’ land bases,” I reported in a new piece for Popular Mechanics.
    But there’s a twist: Somalia had just such a government only two years ago, and the United States helped destroy it.
    Two years ago, the hardline Islamic Courts regime, allied with a number of regional warlords, had brought a measure of stability to Somalia after 15 years of civil war.
    The Courts suppressed piracy to its lowest level in years.
    But U.S. suspicions that the Courts were actively harboring Al-Qaeda operatives led the U.S. to sponsor an joint invasion by Ethiopia and an alliance of outside Somali clans, destroying the Courts and sparking a bloody, Iraq-style insurgency.
    In the wake of the invasion, piracy flared up again.

McClatchy reported today on more blowback from US policy shit involving the old, time-tested suicide bomber routine:

  • Five suicide blasts rocked government and international targets in northern Somalia on Wednesday, killing at least 31 people, according to international security officials, in the most highly coordinated terrorist strike in years in the troubled East African nation.

    A U.N.-backed transitional government was formed nearly five years ago to restore order to Somalia, but it’s split apart because of corruption, infighting and clan divisions.
    With less than a year left in its mandate, its leaders have lost control of nearly all the country to militant groups such as al Shabaab, which have begun targeting African Union peacekeepers and humanitarian workers.
    The lawlessness extends to the waters off Somalia, where pirates in speedboats have earned world headlines this year by capturing dozens of vessels and securing millions of dollars in ransom payments.

One seems to lead to another.
Another sad, side-show in Decider George’s Wide World War on Terror.

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