In the old days (last week) Somali pirates would occasionally board a ship, there’d be some negotiations, money would change hands, and the ship would be back on track. That was not a good system, but it was a system.

Then the first American flagged ship to get taken by the pirates comes along and the crew does the Chuck Norris thing and the whole system has collapsed.

The latest news:

  • A Panama flagged carrier freighter was attacked by pirates, and the attack was repulsed with fire hoses.
  • Friday, on a yacht sailing through the area, one Frenchman and two pirates died during an attempted rescue by the French military.
  • Negotiations are still underway regarding the US flagged ship and its captain, still held hostage on a lifeboat.
  • Naval vessels are converging on the area.

bbc

Comments

  1. #1 mk
    April 12, 2009

    This seems a tad outdated.

  2. #2 Irene Delse
    April 12, 2009

    The captain was freed today:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/7996087.stm

  3. #3 Mike
    April 12, 2009

    Pirates being repelled by fire hoses is not new. It’s standard anti-pirate practice – try to keep them from boarding by any non-fatal means.

  4. #4 Greg Laden
    April 12, 2009

    Well, at the time I posted the original news, it it was the current BBC news. Then time goes by but the text does not necessarily change. See, this is a blog, not a new… oh, never mind….

    To be a bit more accurate, he was not “freed” in the sense that his captors freed him. He jumped overboard and the captors were gunned down and killed by snipers. One of the pirates apparently is still alive and he’s singing like a canary.

  5. #5 Virgil Samms
    April 12, 2009

    In the old days (last week) Somali pirates would occasionally board a ship, there’d be some negotiations, money would change hands, and the ship would be back on track.

    That’s a rather rosy summary. At least a dozen ships and more than 200 crew members are currently being held by pirates off the coast of Somalia, according to the International Maritime Bureau and NATO. Some hostages have been held for weeks or months.

  6. #6 Dan J
    April 12, 2009

    The news source I read basically said that the lifeboat was being towed behind the US Navy ship. One of the four pirates was on board the ship negotiating. Navy snipers were watching the lifeboat with orders not to do anything unless the captain’s life appeared to be “in imminent danger”. It seems that one of the three pirates on the lifeboat pointed an AK-47 at the captain’s back, prompting the snipers to take out all three pirates.

  7. #7 peter
    April 12, 2009

    shit, even a pirate can’t make a half decent living anymore without being threatened…what has the world come to?

  8. #8 Virgil Samms
    April 12, 2009

    This is information which I included in an earlier post which has not been approved. This time I will leave out the link so that approval is not required.

    Greg Laden: In the old days (last week) Somali pirates would occasionally board a ship, there’d be some negotiations, money would change hands, and the ship would be back on track. That was not a good system, but it was a system.

    From the Washington Post, Sept 11 2008:

    Pirates in the Gulf of Aden are holding nine ships with more than 100 passengers for ransom off Somalia, the International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Center said Thursday.

    From the AP, Apr 10, 2009:

    At least a dozen ships and more than 200 crew members are currently being held by pirates off the coast of Somalia, according to the International Maritime Bureau and NATO.

    Some of the crews have been held for months. Your characterization of the situation does not seem especially accurate.

  9. #9 Brian X
    April 12, 2009

    Considering that the average American passenger plane is likely to curbstomp an attempted hijacker, why didn’t it occur to the pirates that an American-flagged ship is likely to do the same thing to them?

  10. #10 Mankel
    April 12, 2009

    Pirates aka unfavored citizens of the world who happen to have a boat and a few Kalashnikovs can shove their guns up their mouths and pull the trigger. The only worthwhile victim will be global warming.

  11. #11 Greg Laden
    April 12, 2009

    Some of the crews have been held for months. Your characterization of the situation does not seem especially accurate.

    Indeed. The situation is much worst than I had thought.

  12. #12 Stacy
    April 12, 2009
  13. #13 blf
    April 13, 2009

    Greg’s right in one sense even though he apparently wasn’t too informed about the seriousness of the problem. To-date, few-to-none of the kidnapped hostages have been killed or seriously harmed by the pirates, albeit there have been some beatings. This is dispute previous French raids and the practices (such as firehoses, barbed wire, speeding to create a large wash, sonic guns, and other non-lethal techniques) used to prevent boarding.

    However, the (combination of the?) latest French raid (and the first one to go wrong) and/or the navy’s action is causing some of the pirates to threaten “revenge” on the next French or USAian they manage to capture. From http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/apr/12/hostage-captain-freed-somali-pirates

    Fears were expressed last night the violent end to the hijack could lead to an increase in fatalities. Most of the hijacks had ended with no loss of life after the payment of ransoms. But [Vice-Admiral William Gortney, head of the US naval central command,] said: “This could escalate violence in this part of the world, no question about it.” He said the intention had been to end the hostage crisis without violence.

    Pirates contacted by phone by news agencies threatened retaliation, with one promising revenge against the next hostage they take from the US or France, whose special forces have also been involved in separate actions.

    So the experts and perpetrators seem to agree with Greg, the balance has been upset. That doesn’t mean the French or the navy did the wrong thing—the pirates are a serious menace and have driven up the cost of shipping insurance, not to mention disrupting the delivery of supplies (including food aid) to that part of the world. That’s the reason multiple navies are now patrolling those seas, which in turn is the reason the pirate attacks are now occurring much further out-to-sea (and further away from Somila) than they used to.

  14. #14 Peter
    April 13, 2009

    “He jumped overboard and the captors were gunned down and killed by snipers.”

    As a sailor I say ‘excellent’.

  15. #15 Greg Laden
    April 13, 2009

    The part about him jumping over may not be accurate.

  16. #16 HolfordWatch
    April 13, 2009

    Interesting piece on how the Somali pirates may be on the receiving end of some unjustified criticism when some of them have a little justice on their side.

    Allegedly Europe exploited the political difficulties of Somalia to dump toxic waste there and to steal its seafood.

    Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the UN envoy to Somalia, tells me: “Somebody is dumping nuclear material here. There is also lead, and heavy metals such as cadmium and mercury – you name it.” Much of it can be traced back to European hospitals and factories, who seem to be passing it on to the Italian mafia to “dispose” of cheaply. When I asked Mr Ould-Abdallah what European governments were doing about it, he said with a sigh: “Nothing. There has been no clean-up, no compensation, and no prevention.”…
    This is the context in which the “pirates” have emerged. Somalian fishermen took speedboats to try to dissuade the dumpers and trawlers, or at least levy a “tax” on them. They call themselves the Volunteer Coastguard of Somalia – and ordinary Somalis agree. The independent Somalian news site Wardheer News found 70 per cent “strongly supported the piracy as a form of national defence”.
    No, this doesn’t make hostage-taking justifiable, and yes, some are clearly just gangsters – especially those who have held up World Food Programme supplies. But in a telephone interview, one of the pirate leaders, Sugule Ali: “We don’t consider ourselves sea bandits. We consider sea bandits [to be] those who illegally fish and dump in our seas.”

  17. #17 Virgil Samms
    April 13, 2009

    From a current AP story by Todd Pitman and Lara Jakes:

    This could escalate violence in this part of the world, no question about it,” said Gortney, the commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command.
    A Somali pirate agreed.
    “Every country will be treated the way it treats us. In the future, America will be the one mourning and crying,” Abdullahi Lami, one of the pirates holding a Greek ship anchored in the Somali town of Gaan, told The Associated Press on Monday. “We will retaliate (for) the killings of our men.”

    The thing about the Golden Rule is that it works both ways. The pirates are holding hostages (currently over 230, according to the same story) at gunpoint and using them as human shields. That’s not very nice.

  18. #18 Rick Pikul
    April 13, 2009

    Personally, I think it’s time to make piracy a tad more dangerous the same way things were made more dangerous for some U-Boats: Q ships.

    Ship sails by, pirates attack and attempt to board only to find out that the cargo includes a platoon of marines.

  19. #19 Jib Halyard
    April 13, 2009

    “Considering that the average American passenger plane is likely to curbstomp an attempted hijacker, why didn’t it occur to the pirates that an American-flagged ship is likely to do the same thing to them?”
    ———————————

    Because the pirates are known to be looking exclusively for ransom, and not trying to crash the freighters into office towers? and since 911, a planeload of french or anyone else is just as likely to “curbstomp” a hijacker as americans are. get over yourself, guy.

  20. #20 Virgil Samms
    April 13, 2009

    Ship sails by, pirates attack and attempt to board only to find out that the cargo includes a platoon of marines.

    Trojan tankers.

  21. #21 Brian X
    April 13, 2009

    Jib:

    I’m not trying to be jingoistic, and truth be told I really hadn’t thought much about other countries’ possible response. But it still seems foolish of the Somali pirates to go after people they know will fight back.

  22. #22 Rowan
    April 13, 2009

    There is quite a bit of escalation occurring. Here is a link to the International Chamber of Commerce Live Piracy Map There are also links on that page to prior years’ incident. You can see the increase in attempts and successes of the pirates. There is a link to daily reports of outcomes or you can click on specific map pins to see the results.

    Do not forget in addition to the French (three recent missions in response to held ships), the Indian Navy and its response to the pirates in December 2008 where they captured 23 pirates. There is a lot of activity going on with the international task force that isn’t necessarily reported in the mainstream media.

  23. #23 Rowan
    April 13, 2009

    Link to piracy map here

    I apologise. I forgot this posting software requires use of “s in order to write the code.

    There has also been humanitarian aid rendered in the area.

    On April 6, the HMCS Winnipeg brought food and water to a 25-foot boat with 51 Somali refugees, including women and children, en route to Yemen.

    “We made sure the boat was seaworthy, that they all wanted to be there, that it wasn’t a human-smuggling situation, and let the Yemen Coast Guard know they were coming,” Baines said, adding the ship’s crew has a good relationship with the Yemeni patrols.

  24. #24 Soren
    April 13, 2009

    The presence of navy ships is not new.

    The Danish navy has had a presence for some time, and they have arrested multiple pirate crews. The problem has been where and how to prosecute them. One batch of pirates were released,because the legal situation was such that they could not be tried in Denmark, and releasing them to the authorities would be a death sentence, which off course was not an option.

    I know the US navy would probably just have sent them of to rot in one of your secret prisons, or let them be killed, but alas, some nations are bound by the rule of law.

  25. #25 Troublesome Frog
    April 13, 2009

    It seems to me that if you’re in the business of kidnap & ransom, it’s not wise to outright announce that you plan to kill American and French victims outright. At least, not unless you assume that fire hoses and noise makers are as viciously as your victims are able to fight back, even when their lives are on the line.

    When things start escalating, it’s wise to ask who has more room for escalation. I think that certain players have been getting the wrong impression with the “AK-47s for us and firehoses for them” tradition.

  26. #26 jj
    April 13, 2009

    I know the US navy would probably just have sent them of to rot in one of your secret prisons, or let them be killed, but alas, some nations are bound by the rule of law.

    Actually, they are going to try the one remaining pirate who survived this ordeal – Either in the US, in DC or New York, or in Kenya, as Kenya has been designated the state to prosecute pirates and have done so in the past.

    From http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/30190113/ :

    Washington federal courts normally handle cases involving crimes committed against U.S. citizens abroad. But the FBI office in New York takes the lead when crimes are committed against U.S. citizens in Africa.
    Both piracy and hostage-taking carry life sentences under U.S. law and this is shaping up as the first U.S. piracy case in recent memory.
    A top U.S. Navy commander says prosecutors are also considering taking the pirate to Kenya, where there’s an agreement to try captured pirates

  27. #27 Art
    April 13, 2009

    Mike – … “try to keep them from boarding by any non-fatal means.”

    At sea, miles off shore, the difference between such “non-fatal means” and openly lethal means are not very clear-cut. According to some sources quite a few of the pirates can’t swim and those that can aren’t up to holding out very long, much less actually swimming to shore.

    Using fire hoses or accelerating and using the ships wake to capsize the small boats can lead to some or all of the occupants drowning.

    That said I should say them drowning doesn’t bother me. Simply shooting them wouldn’t bother me much either. Pirates violate the written, and unwritten, law that says outside of an actual shooting war, that sailors look after and actively seek to rescue and protect other sailors.

    Pirates operate outside that understanding and deserve all the pain and death that can be heaped upon them. They cannot take up arms against their fellow sailors as part of a commercial enterprise one moment and then turn around an expect consideration as innocent travelers on the waters the next.

    Live by the sword, die by the sword. With the sharks taking up any slack in the middle.

    IMO a simple seven or eight man fire team on each vessel using small arms and grenades could eliminate any risk of piracy. Commercial vessels are virtually steel castles, and good firing platforms, compared to the small launches the pirates are on. A single machine gun could hold off multiple boats indefinitely. Equip the each team with 2- medium machine guns, 6- rifles, 4- pistols, a dozen grenades, suitable binoculars and communications. Six watches in 24 hours with two men per watch and two in command. Standard four hours on, eight off.

    For less than what they pay in one ransom they could run many teams for a long time. When the effective herd immunity reaches a critical point, perhaps 70 to 80%, piracy stops being a paying proposition.

    I suspect that what he shipping companies are paying in increased insurance premiums would cover a team on every ship. Most commercial carriers have suitable passenger accommodations already and there are a good number of soldiers who would do the job cheap given that it is decent accommodations, free transport and a chance to catch up on their reading and work on their tans. The opportunity to thump a few pirates would be all gravy for a lot of those guys.

  28. #28 Greg Laden
    April 13, 2009

    Art: I totally agree that the appropriate thing to do is to blast the damn pirates out of the water. But, the law seems to not allow that, apparently owing to earlier ambiguity in the very definition of a “pirate” during the times that these laws were established.

  29. #29 Monado
    April 13, 2009

    Escalation is certainly being discussed but nothing to relieve the situation of those desperate enough to turn to piracy.

    The ones that should be shot are the ones in the Caribbean who rent a boat to tourists and then make them “disappear.”

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