Danica White

As this is being written, the Danish cargo ship Danica White is on her way home under the watchful eye of a United States warship. Some might say better late than never.

She and her crew have been held in an unknown location in Somalia for more than 40 days. They’ve been released for a reported $1m in a deal certainly brokered by a specialist in K&R, kidnap and ransom.

But the Danica White incident isn’t over for the men who endured the daily threat and terror of being hostages. Some will be able to put the experience behind them, for others it will affect their relationships with their families and friends, their ability to work and their self-respect. Even those who appear at first to put the experience behind them may find it coming back to haunt them in unexpected and psychologically devastating ways.

 At this moment, the formal infrastructure does not exist to help these men. They will need counselling.

The Danica White incident will not fade from the headlines. It was never there in the first place. An English newspaperman, in the days of empire, said that one Englishman is news, six Frenchmen are news, one hundred Indians is news, but nothing ever happens in Chile. Today, every seafarer is Chilean.

However, it will be long, long day before piracy is featured on Fox News or CNN. In a sense, the news organisations, and I hate to say it, are complicit in piracy by forgetting to tell their viewers and listeners how much it costs them.

One cannot blame the media, after all, the media is reactive, not pro-active. If the industry itself stopped treating piracy as a dirty little secret, like an illegitimate son, then the rest of the world might take more interest.

When the Danica White was seized in international waters by a number of well-armed pirates operating three fast boats from a mother ship, the US navy gave chase. It gave up the chase when the pirates drove the vessel into Somali territorial waters. The warship’s terms of engagement were such that unless American lives or interests were at stake it could not continue.

Yet American interests were, and are at stake in the waters around the Somali coast. Indeed, the oil supplies of every OECD country are at stake. Yet every one lacks the political will, the courage, the cojones, to insist forcefully that the piracy be ended.

And there’s little point on making that insistence known to the Somali authorities. Somalia is a non-country with a central government that has no military force and little control beyond the doormat to its presidential palace. There are no sanctions that can be applied that could do any more damage to Somalia than its already sad history has done to its people for many years.

It has been suggested that some form of aid can be applied to wean Somali pirates away from their iniquity. But it is the warlords who rule Somalia who operate the well funded and well-organised piracy system, men with such power in their hands over the Somali people that any aid funding would go into their own pockets, and their greed is such they would still retain the power to send their subalterns to sea to terrorise ships.

One maritime website has suggested that ship’s officers should go around armed. It’s hard to conceive of any weaponry a ship’s officer could use against missiles with a range of 3,000 yards or 50 calibre cannon that can put a hole through the hull from a mile off. Rambo does not belong on a ship’s bridge.

There is certainly a need for anti-piracy training for seafarers, to identify threat before it becomes a threat and take appropriate action. Sadly, there should also be training and preparation for what to do, how to act, and how to stay alive once the pirates have control of the vessel.

And it has to be said that if a tiny fraction of the technology used in Iraq was applied to the Somali coastline and the adjacent waters the interests of America, the developed world and, more importantly, the seafarer would be better served.

Recently, and much belatedly, but not unexpectedly in an organisation not known for being fast on its feet, the IMO, supported by other maritime organisations,  has expressed to the United Nations an immediate need to resolve the piracy problem around Somalia.

As it happens, having been born in a Europe just out of a devastating conflict, and having lived under the constant threat of nuclear war between two countries, neither of which was mine and in neither of which did I have any representation, I’m a supporter of the United Nations. Yes, it has made great mistakes born of lax backbone, not least in the Rwanda conflict, yet it has also supported, for instance, the allied incursion into Afghanistan following 9/11. As history has shown, its caution over incursion into Iraq was sadly well-founded.

Somalia is incapable of reigning in the pirates ruled by its warlords, as Afghanistan was incapable of reigning in Al Queida.

Piracy will not be resolved, and seafarers will not be defended, by packing six-guns on the bridge. It will be resolved when the UN has the cojones.  It has shown such political courage before, and it’s time to show it again.

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2 Responses to Danica White

  1. Bob, I like what you said about the media being complicit in piracy- it is true. The media is also complicit in the oil for food scandal, and many other foreign aid deals gone awry, as well as the real and terrible violence that is happening in darfur. No doubt you have noticed that our media would do anything to aid in our defeat in Iraq- they would like nothing more than to see our troops come home to be shamed as they did in Vietnam- even though that could never happen that way again- I truly believe they have an anti-american agenda.

    Our liberal media wants Americans to beleive that everything is better overseas. Whenever you see an article on Africa, the middle east, and asia- you see the wonderful little peasant people and the great simple lives they lead- or you see the children who are victims of famine in africa. What they fail to tell you is that the children aren’t starving because of a lack of aid. It is because our aid falls right into the hands of warlords— and worst of all- we know it. Officials in our government may even be involved in the corruption.

    Piracy is the exact same situation- if we as the American public actually knew what happened to people who are taken by pirates and how much it costs us – both in the loss of life and the loss of goods- people would be up in arms. Our media is only interested in showing you the images that further their agenda- with big stations either owned by Soros or Murdoch- what you hear is all a reflection of what the media bosses want you to hear. Only on grassroots movements- such as your blog, gcaptain, and my own will you actually get a look at what is going on in the world. A dose of the truth.

    Thanks for the good article. Maybe people will start to wake up to the dangers of piracy and the risk that our mariners face when they travel to certain high risk areas of the world. I have no doubt in my mind that Somalia has officials that are guilty of aiding and abetting piracy- just as there are many in Afganistan that would relish in the return of the Taliban and AlQueda. Your article brings up some great points- I look forward to more!

    I have you added to my main webpage- I will add you to my blogroll as well. Thanks

  2. bobcouttie says:

    Having has three good journalist friends die with bullets in the back of their heads because they chose to stand up against corruption and tell the truth I always think twice about criticising their fellow journalists. However, in this case by ‘complicit’ I mean complicit in the same way that anyone with knowledge of a crime who doesn’t report it is complicit (Or, more appropriately in this environment, a crew member who knows there’s something wrong with a lifeboat’s on-load release and does nothing about it is complicit in any deaths or injuries that result).

    If people aren’t interested in reading about piracy, then the media won’t report on piracy. There is much the industry itself needs to do to generate the political will to tackle the situation.

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