Wednesday, March 09, 2011

That's good news.

The Maersk Alabama apparently had another encounter with pirates off the coast of Africa. This one, however, ended without all the hostages and lifeboats and SEAL snipers and other rigamarole, because:
"The captain followed the appropriate protocol and authorized an embarked security team to fire warning shots in order for the pirates to turn away," the statement said.
Well. It's good to see that common sense appears to be percolating through some skulls out there. I was afraid that, instead of providing armed security for their ships, they'd instead pressure the UN to pass a resolution banning the possession of firearms by pirates.

(And banning pirates from having guns would inevitably lead to a dangerous population explosion among ninjas, without their natural opponents to keep their numbers in check...)


Tango Juliet said...

Warning shots??? What will the lil' pirates do when they realize that's the only consequence and come on ahead?

Eventually some pirate boats will need to be re-configured into matchsticks to get the point across.

Tam said...

I'd imagine that the warning shots are to warn that the next shots won't be warning shots.

Anonymous said...

True dat. The threat of violence should never be a bluff, or else you're double-boned.

Boat Guy said...

Well, appears we're getting some bits of economy; an "embarked security team" would still be cheaper than flying in a buncha Team Guys even if you fed the security team on champagne and caviar.
HOPE they weren't bluffing ... guess we'll find out one of these days.

Tam said...

Boat Guy,

I'm wondering which of the military contracting/security firms finally sales pitched some sense into the shipping line?

Bram said...

A "warning shot" should rupture the skull of a pirate. The brains and blood all over the others will remind them not to be pirates.

Tam said...


Those ships are on a schedule; I'd imagine its cheaper for everybody involved if the pirates just leave and go pester somebody else. The last thing they want to do is be pulled over on the side of the sea lane filling out a police report.

BobG said...

I'm with Bram on that. And who needs a police report? The "3 S's" applies here.

Shut up

Tam said...


Yeah, that's easy to say when there's not multiple millions of dollars at stake. The last thing Maersk needs is a crew tied up in port while an incident gets sorted out, or bad press, or any of the zillions of other possible negative outcomes of even winning a gunfight at sea.

Because the media are going to love it when your security force, composed of hardened 40-yr-old ex-SF vets making Big Mercenary Dollars, shoots up a zodiac full of adolescent pirates. The press will forget all about the fact that these teenagers were raping and pillaging their way around the Horn of Africa just the day before...

Maersk doesn't need that drama; they just need their cargo in port on time, and then the ship and crew free to head on to the next port.

Tam said...

Let me add that I want to see dead pirates as much as the next ninja, but at the same time, I understand why the security procedure involves attempting to warn them off first.

Anonymous said...

We don't use one of my favorite military tactics anymore - punitive raids.

USMC comes ashore, kills the men, burns the town and captures the the women and children to sell into slavery and leaves back to the ships in a couple of hours.

OK it's got a problem or two to work out but it's a time proven.

I sent this to a friend (O-5) in the 5th Fleet. She's good to go but thinks her boss may have some issues with it.


Ed Foster said...

Canadian ditty called "Barretts Privateers".

"God damn them all, I was told we'd cruise the seas for American gold, We'd fire no guns, shed no tears, now I'm the last of Barretts privateers".

"At last we stood two cables away, how I wish I was in Sherbrooke now, Our crack four pounders made an awful din, but with one broadside the Yank stove us in".

My Grandfather and his brother came to this country 110 years ago, and joined the army to get their citizenship in 2 years instead of 5. They ended up fighting Moslem guerillas in Mindanao.

Pirates and Moslem whackoes. Some things never change. Including the fact that Americans and Brits still fight, while the rest of the world temporises and tries to strike a deal.

Tango Juliet said...

I'm not at all convinced the Americans still fight. Certainly we have the capability and the men to do it but we lack the political will.

Soul searching and hand wringing are so much more fashionable these days.

Tam said...

Tango Juliet,

There's an assload of Hadjis that would disagree with you if their mouths weren't full of cold dirt.

Chad said...

I think in years past a majority would be willing to fight. But surveys now say a minority of men would ever considering fighting in the military in a crisis. It's a shame.

Bubblehead Les. said...

I'd say something about the Grandchildren of Kenyan Mau- Mau Terrorists hampering the safety needs of modern day Commercial Shipping. After all, there are people who feel the Evil Imperialists are not paying their Fair Share to the Poor Exploited Peoples of Puntland. Surprised the U.S. Military wasn't sent in to disarm that "Security Team", which we all know is just a term for Mercenaries sent in to guard the ill-gotten Gains of Capitalists. Or that's what Pugsley Chavez would say to NPR if he got the chance.

Crucis said...

Wasn't that the NRA "Trolling for Pirates" cruise?

Dave_H said...

Issue letters of marque to all American ships. The government still can. If I recall correctly, it happened as recently as WW2 with civilian dirigibles being pressed in to anti submarine service. Also, bring back those Korean M-1's and M-1 carbines. Sell those to merchant sailors at fire sale prices, or even just issue them directly.
Of course this won't happen, but that is how I think about it.

Tango Juliet said...

I don't believe the bunch currently residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave would have pulled the trigger on the Taliban post 9/11.

Instead, UN resolutions.

Yes, we are certainly still there, killing the Islamofascists. Naturally we're doing it while severely handicapped by ROE clearly designed by politically correct halfwits.

No, I stand by my original assertion. Our political leadership lacks the spine to fight... REALLY fight.

Ed Foster said...

I was watching some doofus bitching on TV about all the collateral killing we've been doing in Ragland, quoting 125,000 killed by our ruthless exterminators.

Interesting, as that's just about the number of armed terrorists the U.S. military has whacked over there, although a SEAL NCO I know says we're not supposed to mention that number.

It seems the locals over there get quite incensed whenever somebody points out that the actual number of combat killed Americans, rather than heart attacks, traffic accidents, and plane crashes, adds up to an exchange rate of almost 80 dirtbags for each American soldier or marine. Even the ones "on our side" end up with damaged pride.

Has anyone figured out if this is all an exercise in damaged Arab machisimo? Consider. A small nation of not much more than three million has kicked the asses of the entire Arab world, in 1948, 1956, and 1973. People the Arabs describe as schoolteachers and shopkeepers.

Considering all the Sturm und Drang in the Koran, that doesn't make the present generations of raggers look all that good does it?

The problem isn't Arab insecurity, or Islam, or their oil. It's the combination of all three. Take away one of the tripod's legs and the milking stool falls over. The easiest to remove is the oil.

If the asshats take over Saudi, we could shut off their military computers, move into the "Empty Quarter" and pump it ourselves, then put the new Emir's share into escrow until the formation of a democratic government.

In other words, never ;-)

Zendo Deb said...

The response of the "international community" to Somali piracy has been a joke. It would be funny if people weren't dying.

Of course it didn't help that most people so out of touch with anything that isn't Charlie Sheen or Lady Gaga or whoever is being a complete waste of oxygen. And getting way-to-much media time.

(When I started writing about the piracy problem, a few years back, people told me I was crazy, then denied they were really pirates, then... you get the picture. Pirates are funny. They are a Disney movie, or something.)

700 hundred hostages and 33 vessels are held by Somali pirates. Until the four Americans were killed a few weeks back, no one cared. Damn few people care today.

The Europeans and Canadians in International Task Force 151 - which has to be the most ineffective naval force embarked since the Spanish Armada - were practicing catch and release. (They would sink boats and put the bad-guys ashore in a neutral country.) Recently some pirates were sentenced to a few decades in a Scandinavian prison. (And how is that worse than life in a Somali village? Food, clothing, medical care, ...)

The British Empire stopped people "sailing on the account" by giving them a fair hearing - which lasted about 5 minutes - after which they were hanged. That strategy was so effective it cut back on piracy for nearly 200 years. Too bad no one will do that today. (And it helped the US sent the Marines into the "shores of Tripoli" to discourage the trade.)

So how are you going to stop 15 or 20 Somali lads from taking a chance that if it pays off will mean they get to split 4 million US dollars? or so? Even minus expenses that is more money than they could get in 10 lifetimes. You have to make it more of a sure thing that they will die in the practice of the trade, or it will spread and get worse.

Anonymous said...

If the scumbags and their craft are all sent swiftly to the bottom, there won't be a need for any more warning shots.

"Pirates? Pirates? We didn't see no steenking pirates." -- Lyle

Frank W. James said...

May I make a suggestion? Why don't we have the next 3-Gun World Championship take place on a really Big Freighter sailing south past the Horn of Africa? There could be both 'day' and 'night' courses of fire. The winners get the usual stuff, everyone else gets some live fire experience...

All The Best,
Frank W. James

Tam said...

Zendo Deb,

"When I started writing about the piracy problem, a few years back..."

I first became aware of modern-day piracy back in '94, when one of my customers, an ex-Ragnar who ran a contracting business in the Atlanta 'burbs during the off-season, told me about his other job doing "yacht security" in the Care-a-bean. I've been fascinated by it ever since...

Firehand said...

'Ex-Ragnar'? Who was he before?

I think I first read something about it ten or so years ago, then it was about the dangers in the Caribbean and South American waters. Both from the effing pirates and from the governments that would either imprison you or rob you blind of they caught you with evil guns on board, "...and don't try to give us that pirate stuff, WE didn't see them!"

Lewis said...

Someone needs to link to that Russian Naval Infantry boarding exercise. They sure didn't seem, uhh, unduly hampered by restrictive ROEs.

Anonymous said...

I guess Maersk (perhaps others) have figured out that it's a bit cheaper to stick a small "security team" armed with some medium or heavy MG's and other small arms on their ships than it is to have the ships drifting idle around the Indian Ocean while the teenage bucaneers on board wait for their ransom to be delivered.

Machinegun and box of ammunition - $3000

Former soldier hired as a security guard - $60k

Pirates running away and leaving your ship to deliver its cargo on time - Priceless

For everything else, there's Ma Deuce.

Ed Foster - Considering all the Sturm und Drang in the Koran, that doesn't make the present generations of raggers look all that good does it?

Hadn't thought of that, but you've got a point. Even our women kick their a**es.

In fairness, though, our technology gives our folks a tremendous advantage. I recall reading in "Blackhawk Down" that the Somalis - people not exactly known for timidity in battle - felt that they could have rolled over the Rangers and Delta operators if not for US air power. All the courage in the world is of no account if your opponent can kill you before you can even target him.

DJ said...

Send that USAF YAL-1 airborne laser over there for some target practice. After several dozen boats mysteriously catch fire and crispy pirates keep washing ashore, they'll knock that $h!t off.

Henry Blowfly said...

I approve mightily of "security teams" aboard ships sailing near pirate prone areas.

I also wonder why this hasn't been done years ago. Surely about <>$100K for security is a lot better than paying out millions for hostages and hijacked ships?

There are many problems with commercial ships being armed in foreign ports, particularly with certain governments whose best interests are being served by ensuring that commercial vessels remain unarmed and unprotected.

I can see the answer, and it doesn't involve governments.

Justthisguy said...

Zendo lives aboard her boat, and I betcha she would like to cruise around, a bit, without having to worry about being despoiled and raped by pirates. I would like to cruise around a bit too, if I still had my inheritance, without being despoiled and raped.

Pirates don't seem to care if one is a boy or a girl when it comes to the raping.

mariner said...


I'd imagine that the warning shots are to warn that the next shots won't be warning shots.>

Ayup. In the official language, continuing after warning shots are fired is "additional evidence of hostile intent".

Anonymous said...

As someone who works at sea extensively, I am more interested in how the Maersk guys got a permit in the ports of call to have firearms aboard. That is an impressive bunch of paperwork they pulled off.

Ian Argent said...

ISTR Maersk Alabama is under contract to some part of the us to deliver food aid to the neighborhood.

Working for Uncle Sam is about the only reason commercial vessels that aren't in the coasting trade fly the red, white, and blue.

Given that she ports on the Horn and in a US-controlled port, and not points between, I think the paperwork necessary can be assumed