Friday, December 03, 2010

Obviously there aren't enough seagoing ninjas.

I'm reading Dangerous Waters, a very interesting book on the modern scourge of piracy. The author, after getting boarded and robbed on his sailboat by M16-wielding goons in the Straits of Malacca back in '92, set out to investigate pirates and their effect on oceangoing commerce. He interviewed survivors of pirate attacks, talked to prevention and recovery specialists, rode along on tankers and patrol boats. It's just a fascinating in-depth look at the whole thing.

It also ties neatly into this post by Billy, since the author pointed out that Russian and Israeli flagged vessels aren't often 'jacked.

The solutions, (which aren't going to be implemented until something truly horrible happens), are more active defense of commercial vessels combined with the kind of aggressive patrolling by the world's major navies that drove piracy almost to extinction by the 19th Century.

31 comments:

John Peddie (Toronto) said...

I finally see a useful role for those airport security goons.

We'll station them in flotillas offshore in those piracy-prone areas, and they can probulate there.

Hearts and minds thing...

Tango Juliet said...

Hand wringing, soul searching, tepid responses to violence only invite more of the same.

WV: nomor You want nomor pirate attacks?? Start shootin'!

Noah D said...

$4.56 with Prime Shipping? Sold!

The video in the second link is interesting - apparently, the common language of the pirates and Russians is English.

Weer'd Beard said...

Had a friend who was married to a millionaire radio mogul who took a sailboat through the panama canal. While north of Columbia they were approached by small boat filled with squirrely looking natives asking to use their water machine. No idea if they were armed or not as Hubby told them the water machine was broken, while perching a shotgun on his hip, while wife and kid were below with a glock.

Story makes no sense for poor mariners needing water, but strikes me a opportunistic pirates looking for an easy score.

Ed Foster said...

Russian container ships were getting hit in the South China Sea about 15 years ago, mostly by Red Chinese naval boats running under no flag. The Chinese would board, head directly to the containers they wanted, shoot at anything that moved, then decamp with their newfound goodies.

The Russians figured out what clerks in the shipping agencies were working with the Chinese, "convinced " them to send some interesting messages, and had a suprise waiting for the Chinese when they landed.

The containers were filled with Marines (O.K., Morskaya Peckhota), who proceeded to kill every Chinese sailor in the boarding party and on their boat, emasculate them, place said removed body parts in the mouths of the deceased, then line all the dead bodies out neatly on the deck of their patrol boat, which was left to drift with it's transponder running.

Oh, the dead bodies? Each was wearing a shiny new Russian navy life preserver.

D.W. Drang said...

The theory of dealing with pirates is as simple as the theory of dealing with terrorists.
In both cases, the practice can be more complicated than the theory, but in both cases, a hemp necktie is a salutary cure. (More colorful practices are also effective, if one has the stomach for them. Alas, our current "leadership"--even with sarcasm quotes, that was hard to type--fat chance.)

theirritablearchitect said...

Wait, wait, wait.

You mean, shooting back makes the bastards stop?

You must be joking?

Matt said...

"Ed Foster said...Russian container ships were getting hit in the South China Sea...[etc]"

Damn. Now there's a country that _deserves_ to be run by a real-life Bond villain. :)

Also, not that big a surprise that a Russian flag now seems to be very effective pirate-repellant.

As viscerally satisfying as the stories of massive retaliation are, an active, assertive defense capability on board the ships being targeted is probably a better solution. "If you attack my ship, my countrymen will avenge me in a horrific and humiliating way" doesn't hold a candle to "if you attack my ship, you'll die...right here, right now...and then I'll sail on with my load lightened only by the weight of the ammo I use up in killing you".

Justthisguy said...

Well, Matt has a tactico-psychological point, there, but I tend to default to "Git a rope!"

Bram said...

Read "Dangerous Waters" a while back. Thought that the security firm they inverviewed was a little weak. They spray pirates with light birdshot to get them to go away - and hit the next ship without a security team. A mix of buck and slugs is the proper load for pirates.

Anonymous said...

The real problem is that the "solution" is just not cost effective. While it makes cool news stories and sucks if you're hijacked, piracy is just not nearly as big a problem in real dollars as it was in the olden-days.

staghounds said...

It is hilariously tragic that the world's Navies have the perfect skills and technology to do this, yet we choose not to.

And it's just plain hilarious that in Somerset, everyone talks like a p
irate all the time.

Arrrr!

Anonymous said...

Have to disagree with "The real problem is that the "solution" is just not cost effective."

Self defense has almost no cost we simply have to -allow- it. I have a friend who's a marine engineer for a large US company that rhymes with shevron. That company has the sense to pay it's employees well and not search them. (They may have stupid HR manuals now I honestly don't know. But at least they're not wanding people as they come to work.) In terms of boats likely to be high on a pirates list, they're not on the list.

mariner said...

"Aggressive patrolling by the world's major navies" is already being done.

The problem is that once the major navies capture pirates they release the poor misunderstood oppressed fishermen, in the same condition they were captured.

After the Maersk Alabama was recovered, it was attacked by pirates a second time. This time Maersk had an armed security team on board, and the outcome wasn't even newsworthy.

mariner said...

Anonymous,

Well, they won't be on the list after the first encounter. Good for shevron.

Maersk is no longer on the list either; it seems the company decided armed self-defense was not only cost-effective but much less embarrassing.

Ed Foster said...

On the subject of cost effective, I gather that only a few percent of piracies ever get reported, for fear of increases insurance costs.

Wouldn't it be more cost effective to put an old 40mm twin tube Bofors on the fantail and have a naval armed guard attached to any ships passing through high risk areas?

A lot cheaper than maintaining an entire fleet, and you could stick some Marines in with the Navy gunners, rotated out from the aircraft carrier's shipboard compliments for a little OJT.

If there is one thing the Federal government is responsible for, it's the safety of American ships at sea. We fought a naval war with the French, another with the Barbary pirates, and a third with the British, all in a dozen years or so, for just that reason. To the shores of Tripoli..... or Somalia.

Stuart the Viking said...

Being an old US Marine myself, I think it would be a hoot to setup a decent rifle and tramp about the world on various ships providing pirate repellant. As far as I can tell from the reports I have read about the current crop of pirates, the old "one riot, one ranger" idea might work out fine since they don't seem to be particularly brave, intelligent, or well armed. Once you get a few hits, they would probably turn tail and run.

s

Bram said...

Stuart - That is basicly what the old SAS types in the book did - they just use scatter guns instead. I think they don't want to kill them so not to damage their business.

Jason said...

Seafaring ninjas...

I wholeheartedly approve. Then again, if I had musical talent, I'd pen the answering song to Abney Park's signature tune "Airship Pirates." Yes, it would be called "Surface-to-Air Ninja."

LauraB said...

Most interesting to me was that the - er - gentleman shot and lying on the deck expressing his dismay was most assuredly NOT "native".

D.W. Drang said...

Anon @12:22: Not paying attention, are you?

Anonymous said...

A dead pirate will never pirate again. Nor will he sire any further pirates. Just sayin'. . .

Jim said...

Hmm.. You know it would be a trivial exercise to develop a mounted .50 machine gun with a decent optical/IR sensor and a gyro for stability. You could deal with pirates without even having to go outside the hull. (That it would make for wonderful publicity videos for their co-workers is a perk.)

Jim

Graybeard said...

Jim, I like the way you think. "Deal with pirates without even having to go outside".

Old NFO said...

Much as I hate to be a spoilsport, there are a couple of issues... 1st, most of the maritime insurance companies will NOT insure a vessel with an armed force on board, they'd rather pay the pirates.

2nd, none of the navies has enough ships to actually do full time pirate patrols without taking said ships from some other location/evolution.

3rd, the Russians just shoot em all, and burn the boat, and the Israelis do the same, then go kill the bosses, that is why those two countries flagged vessels don't get touched.

Dirt Sailor said...

Hmm.. You know it would be a trivial exercise to develop a mounted .50 machine gun with a decent optical/IR sensor and a gyro for stability. You could deal with pirates without even having to go outside the hull. (That it would make for wonderful publicity videos for their co-workers is a perk.)

Jim, speaking from experience- at least in the Maritime version, it isn't trivial at all. As a matter of fact, it's about the biggest pain you could think of. Fun to operate, but about as reliable as a '72 Gremlin (or so I heard. Never actually seen a Gremlin, as they went out of production before I was born).
WV: apike, perfect for mounting the heads of just repelled pirates on the stern of your ship.

Anonymous said...

We laughingly called them "pirates", when in the 70's in the waters outlying the western Bahama islands, friends of mine who liked to bangstick giant grouper and poach lobster there would pay me $100 a day to drive the boat and sit in it with a mini-14 on view while they were on a dive.

They had learned from experience that if you go down without leaving security onboard, you might just come up to a stripped rig, or no rig.

They had sprayed a few across the bow of some of the high-bow "fishing" boats that would invariably creep out of the mangrove islands ten minutes after they anchored to dive...and after a few times, you could watch them watching you and looking for that glint of a barrel telling them they should go back into hiding and wait for a less rude response to their little welcome-to-da-islands-mon visits.

But they weren't really pirates, and neither are the vermin that are victimizing commercial shipping traffic today. Pirates, in my mind's eye and from my boyhood reading, are from another place in time; high drama on the high seas in a largely unknown and untamed world. These are subhuman parasites, and subhuman parasites should be exterminated whenever possible to protect innocents and prevent the spread of their vile disease.

Call 'em ninjas if you please, but we definitely should militarize international transportation of both people and things if we are going to protect our lives, our homes, and our trade with - and support of - the rest of the world.

AT

joe said...

Our standard anti-piracy measures in those waters consisted of locked doors and charged firehoses. I felt really secure...

Jim said...

Dirt Sailer - I use trivial here to mean in comparison to perhaps the moon landing. I know it would be quite a project, but it would be a matter of engineering rather than new science.

Graybeard - If it is I or the pirates, then it is they who should get cold. Preferably about room temperature. ;)

Cybrludite said...

Follow the pirates back to their village, then arclight the village. Repeat until you either run out of pirate villages, or the locals beat the crap out of anyone who says the pirate's life is for them.

Anonymous said...

I received a great e mail the other day. It was a brochure for a Somalian cruise aboard a smallish cruise ship. They'd cruise back and forth off the coast inviting attack. Passengers could bring their own assault weapons or use those provided. Bofor's and RPG were at an additional cost.
Funniest e mail for a long time. Then I got to thinking......why not?