American Elephants


What do you do with a Somali pirate? Hang ‘em from the yardarm or consign ‘em to Davy Jones locker? by The Elephant's Child

In earlier days, first you did the former, then the latter.  Today the problem is more difficult. There are ships and crews held for ransom for months. The 25-man crew of the Sirius Star had been held for two months.  The U.S. Navy released a film of a canister of cash — supposedly $3 million — being parachuted onto the deck of the oil supertanker.

The pirates originally wanted $16 million, but settled for 3.  Then the story gets a little fuzzy.  One account says they squabbled over the loot, then a wave washed over their getaway boat and drowned five of them.  The picture, however shows a placid sea with no storm on the horizon.

Now it is reported that one pirate washed ashore with $153,000.  Another account says the other three swam to shore.  A third claims that Somalis traveling along the shore have slowly collected dollars floating in on the tide.

The U.S. Navy is in charge of a task-force designed to prevent such piracy.  Some ships have contracted with Blackwater to protect them.  Because there is essentially no government in Somalia, there is no law to deal with them.  Pirate movies are all very well, but this is not a story of adventure or heroics, and possibly not even truth.  But there you are.



The Pirates Strike Again, and are Struck! by The Elephant's Child
November 19, 2008, 7:59 pm
Filed under: Africa, Developing Nations, Terrorism | Tags: , ,

A Hong Kong-registered ship named Delight is the latest to fall into the hands of pirates off the northern coast of Africa.  It is now steaming toward Somalia, where it will undoubtedly be held for ransom as was the Sirius Star pictured below.

The Somali government, such as it is, lacks basic law-enforcement agencies to disrupt pirates. It also has a very long coastline along the Gulf of Aden.  The neighboring countries of Yemen and Djibouti are a little more stable, but have no more capabilities than Somalia.

There have been 90 attacks on ships by Somalian pirates this year.  Commercial vessels in this high-tech era have small, mostly unarmed crews.  The International Maritime Bureau says that pirates are currently holding 15 ships and more than 250 sailors. The pirates are well equipped with modern weapons, satellite phones, GPS trackers and fast attack boats.

It’s left to the modern word to police them.  The Bush Administration set up a global effort called Combined Task Force 150 under the watch of the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet. The current commander is a Commodore of the Danish Royal Navy.

Tuesday, a Somali pirate mother -ship aimed grenade launchers at an Indian naval frigate and tried to ram it.  The Indian ship Tabar returned fire, set the pirate ship on fire and sunk it.  India’s action has probably saved many other ships. At the moment force is the only  way to raise the cost of piracy.

The costs of dysfunctional countries can be severe.  The Combined Task Force has 2.5 million square miles to patrol. That is a lot of ocean.

Diplomacy, and even talks without preconditions, aren’t going to be the answer.



Everything old is new again. by The Elephant's Child

Pirates have seized a Saudi-owned supertanker leaded with more then $100 million worth of crude oil off the coast of Kenya — the largest ship ever hijacked according to U.S. Navy officials. Somali pirates have become increasingly brazen, but this is the first time they have attacked a fully laden oil tanker. “This is unprecedented” the International Herald Tribune quotes a spokesman for the Fifth Fleet, Lt. Nathan Christensen.  “Its the largest ship that we’ve seen pirated.  It’s three times the size of an aircraft carrier.” The supertanker, the Sirius Star, was hijacked more than 450 nautical miles southeast of Mombasa, Kenya, far to the south of previous attacks.  Pirates range over an area from the Gulf of Aden to the Kenyan coast, more than a million square miles.  Most ships do not have heavy security, while the pirates are fast and well armed.  And most are taken for ransom. Shipping firms are usually prepared to pay, for the sums demanded are still low compared with the value of the ships and their cargo. This seems like a remote crime — piracy in 2008? But the International Chamber of Commerce keeps track of Commercial Crimes.  Here is a map of piracy incidents just in 2008. Once it was the Barbary Coast pirates, but now apparently everything old is new again.




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