To keep the pirates distracted until EUNAVFOR vessels could arrive, Cockney oiler Ned Arbisthwaite kept them entertained with the Hokey Cockey.
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For France, the taking of the 850 tonne luxury yacht Le Ponant by the highly organised “Somali marines” pirate gang was a matter of national pride. In a part of the world where France had had a powerful presence for centuries, it was an insult, it was personal on a national scale, it was an insult.
The Somali Marines, one of four such groups, is a loose collection of well-armed, well-disciplined, well-financed fishermen-cum-pirates eqipped with-state-of-the-art communications equipment. They are unsullied by fundamentalist Islamic politics, they want the cash with as reputation for politeness towards their involuntary guests. Some 25 piracy incidents have been creditted to them in the past year.
While their ability to seized ships gets a lot of attention their real strength is organization. Once a ship is seized a logistic chain ensures that those aboard can hunker down during extended ransom negotiations with supplies of food, water and cigarettes for a long period, and replacement pirates put on board to allow the other pirates some rest and recreation.
It’s an expensive business but the rewards of the warlords who finance the operations are are high. The warlords themselves risk little since they demand reimbursement from the pirates any loses, like the skiffs sunk during the Danica White incident in 2007.
The difficulties and dangers of dealing with warlords is well presented in Blackhawk Down, an incident that still haunts the American psyche when dealing with the madness that is Somalia today. You can’t do much to a people that have nothing and who are already hurting desperately.
Calls not to pay ransom are little more than bluster, and often politically hypocritical. One seafarer, at least, has been executed to make the point, and one wonders how many seafarers’ deaths would be acceptable. Refusal to pay doesn’t work, the kidnappers will simply move on, prehaps after executing the ship’s crew, to another target.
Put it like this, if a thug puts a gun to your face and demands your wallet, will he stop robbing people if you refuse to give it over? Of course not. He’ll shoot you and move on.
What will work is to identify and target the pirate’s shore-base and act forcefully.
Whatever one thinks of the European and American empires of the 19th and early 20th century, they did provide the conditions under which pirates bases could be unilaterally attacked effectively. In today’s political economic and diplomatic climate such actions are rare.
In that sense, the French action in Somalia is a throwback to the 19th century, the era in which, it could be argued, the French are most comfortable. It would appear the old ways are the best ways.
When Le Ponant was taken on 4th April, Gendarmerie counter-terrorism units were sent to Djibouti, about 1,000 kilometres away. Djibouti is also the headquarters of the 13th Demi-Brigade of the Foreign Legion, anorganisation with a deservedly fearsome reputation and a deeply embedded institutional experience in the region.
While details of what happened next are likely to remain hazy, it is likely that a decision was made at the Elysee Palace by President Nicolas Sarkozy at a fairly early stage. One can construct a likely scenario.
While the frigate Le Commandant Bouan with a Candian helicopter from HMCS Charlottetown tracked the yacht and built an intelligence assessment as the yacht finally anchors at Garacade, off the port of Eyl, Puntland. Meanwhile, French government personnel and the yacht owners, CMA-CGM. Public announcements are made that paying a ransom cannot be discounted.
The, largely notional, Puntland government is brought into play to provide at least a veneer of an invitation for forceful intervention to legitimise the action.
On Friday, 11th April, the ransom, a modest $2m is paid and the pirate release the hostage and leave the yacht. With the hostages now safe, the armed intervention begins.
There are conflicting accounts of what happened during that intervention. Now, happy, the pirates were tracked by French attack helicoters back to the fishing village of Jaliban. Realising they’d be trailed, sdeveral of the pirates tried to make a run for it in a vehicle which was disabled by a sniper and its occupants arrested. Part of the ransom was recovered and what were described as several ‘interesting bags’ were recovered. Six out of 12 pirates were captured.
While French officials deny anyone was killed in the operation, eyewitnesses claim that three people dies and eight were wounded in rocket attacks from the helicopter.
Whatever information is drawn from the captured pirates, the issue will be how to act upon it. Putting the pirates themselves on trial in Somalia is probably not a viable option, given the situation, and expecting the Puntland government to capture or kill the warlords who finance these ventures is expecting too much.
In this case, the captured pirates will probably go on trial in France. After the action, Puntland authorities gave what is effectively carte blanche for oversea governments to go after the pirates, a significant step forward.
The French action has certainly torn a hole in the traditional invulnerability of the Somali Marines, it may need a couple more such actions to make the point. The challenge will be to turn that success intoi a long-term gain. Part of that may involve leveraging the traditional rivalries between the four main pirate groups in Somalia.
Cutting the umbilical cord between the pirates and the warlords who finance them must be a part of any long term strategy. Giving some form of economic independence and opportunity to those communities most subject to the warlords, and defending them from the warlord wrath, must be part of that strategy. Many of the pirates are young and savvy, yet without hope in a psuedo-nation that offers them little. Pirates are not stupid.
A taller order will be to tackle the clan loyalties on which the warlords depend, and which is an essential part of Somali culture, and its curse. Warlords are the centres of gravity of this system, they cannot, as a class, be removed, but can be replaced, if the political and military will is there to do so. It was said of Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines, by an American politician, “He’s a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch”, we have to replace the existing warlords with our sons of bitches.
Korean, Chinese vessels collide, 6 missing
United Press International – USA
… international waters and coast guard officials said the crew onboard the 16400-ton Korean freighter rescued two sailors clinging to the sinking vessel.
… both hit the bridge at 7 am last Sunday,” said Mardon Martin, Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) 7 maritime safety specialist, during the meeting.
French navy in pursuit of yacht seized by pirates
Independent – London,England,UK
Although piracy is on the increase, it is rare for such a spectacular vessel as Le Ponant to be seized. The ship has four decks and two restaurants.
Undersea detection system helps to guard against collision with ships
Boston Globe – United States
In the deep, cold waters off Massachusetts, the world’s last 350 or so North Atlantic right whales search for each other with soft, drawn-out “whoops” and
Charges to be laid in Suriname against Guyanese pirates
Caribbean Net News – Georgetown,Cayman Islands
By Ivan Cairo PARAMARIBO, Suriname: Prosecutors in Suriname will soon lay charges against six Guyanese nationals suspected of piracy against local and
Strikers end ferry seizure
Lloyd’s List – London,UK
SEAFARERS employed by the French Mediterranean ferry operator SNCM ended their two-day-old occupation of the SeaFrance Molière on Friday afternoon after
Barrot aide tells shipping to ‘wake up’
A senior official of the European Transport Commissioner Jacques Barrot has urged the maritime industry to “wake up” and do something about its emissions before ships are denied entry into European ports, saying that Industry executives are “dreaming” if they think they will escape new legislation designed to cut emissions such as sulphur and carbon dioxide.
DNV warns of shiprepair bottleneck ‘in two years’
New research conducted by the classification society Det Norske Veritas suggests that the shipping industry is approaching a dangerous bottleneck in the availability of shiprepair facilities within the next two years.
Weekly Piracy Report from the Internal Maritime Bureau
12-18 February 2008
The following is a summary of the daily reports broadcast by the IMB’s Piracy Reporting Centre to ships in Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Ocean Regions on the SafetyNET service of Inmarsat-C from 12 to 18 February 2008.
Chittagong anchorage, Bangladesh
The number of attacks has reduced since 2006. However, the area is still listed as a high risk area and mariners are advised to be cautious especially while approaching the anchorage and while at anchor at Chittagong
Violent attacks carried out by pirates on board vessels at anchor and vessel carrying out STS operations. Mariners are advised to exercise extreme caution in these waters.
None reportedRecently reported incidents
|06.02.2008: 0052 LT: Anchorage no. 1, Callao, Peru.Robbers boarded a container ship at anchor from a small boat. Duty crew spotted them. Alarm raised, crew mustered. Robbers escaped. Authorities informed. Coast guard patrol boat arrived after more than one hour, patrolled the waters around the vessel for about ten minutes, and moved away.|
|17.02.2008: 0540 LT: 05:48N – 118:05E, Berth no.2, Sandakan port, Malaysia.Duty crew on board a general cargo ship reported that a boat approached from the port bow. One robber was noticed on the forecastle deck passing ship stores to the other robbers in the boat. On seeing the alert crew, the robber jumped overboard and escaped with the ship stores. The forward booby hatch lock was found broken. The IMB PRC was notified who then liaised with local police for further action. Police arrived and conducted an investigation.|
|14.02.2008: 0341 LT: 06:43.5S – 039:43.8E, 20 nm off Tanzania coast.Three pirates boarded the ship from a small wooden boat equipped with an out board engine. The ship was drifting, awaiting berthing instructions. Alert duty crew noticed the pirates and the alarm was raised, ship’s whistle sounded, crew mustered and master increased speed. Pirates fled immediately. Upon inspection, two containers were found opened.|
|11.02.2008: 0540 UTC: 13.38.5N – 050:22.0E, Gulf of Aden.Two suspicious vessels one with blue hull and the other with red hull and both with white superstructure increased speed and altered course towards a bulk carrier. Master increased speed and altered course to increase CAP. Later both suspicious vessels stopped following.|
|09.02.2008: 0030 LT: Kandla anchorage, India.Duty watchman on an oil tanker at anchor noticed robbers on the forecastle. On seeing the alert ships crew, the robbers jumped overboard and escaped. The padlock of the forecastle store was broken but nothing was missing|
Piracy prone areas and warnings
Mariners are warned to be extra cautious and to take necessary precautionary measures when transiting the following areas:
S E Asia and the Indian Sub Continent
- Bangladesh : Sixty two incidents have been reported since January 2006. Pirates are targeting ships preparing to anchor. Most attacks reported at Chittagong anchorages and approaches. Although the number of attacks has fallen recently, the area is still listed as very high risk.
- Indonesia : Balongan, Balikpapan, Belawan. Generally be vigilant in other areas. Many attacks may have gone unreported.
- Malacca straits : Although the number of attacks has dropped due to the increase and constant patrols by the littoral states relevant Authorities since July 2005, ships are advised to continue maintaining a strict anti piracy watch when transiting the straits.
- Philippines : Manila – Pirates target ships at anchor.
- Singapore Straits : Pirates seen attacking ships while at anchor but in the past several ships were attacked while underway.
Africa and Red Sea
- Lagos (Nigeria) : Pirates are violent and have attacked and robbed vessels/kidnapped crews along the coast and river, at anchorages and ports. A total of 42 incidents have been reported in Nigeria since 08.01.2007. Twenty five attacks alone for Lagos and seven for Bonny River. Generally be vigilant in other areas in Nigeria.
- Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) : Twenty incidents have been reported since 05.06.2006. Pirates are targeting ships in port and anchorages.
- Mombasa (Kenya):
- Gulf of Aden / Red Sea : Numerous pirate attacks have been reported by ships and yachts in the Gulf of Aden/Red sea. In the past, some of the vessels were fired upon.
- Somalian waters : The IMB Piracy Reporting Centre has received 31 actual and attempted attacks in 2007. Many more attacks may have gone unreported. Some pirates are dangerous and would fire their automatic weapons at ships to stop them. Occasionally, they would use their RPG (Rocket Propelled Grenade) launchers at ships. Pirates are believed to be using “mother vessels” to launch attacks at very far distance from coast. These “mother vessel” is able to proceed to very far out to sea to launch smaller boats to attack and hijack passing ships. Eastern and Northeastern coasts are high risk areas for attacks and hijackings. Vessels not making scheduled calls to ports in Somalia should keep as far away as possible from the Somali coast, ideally more than 200 nautical miles. Mariners are also advised to report any suspicious boats to the Centre.
South and Central America and the Caribbean waters
- Brazil : Though the number of attacks has dropped in Santos, ships are advised to continue to be vigilant.
- Peru : Callao
Rest of the World
IMB CALLS FOR INVESTIGATION INTO NIGERIA ATTACK.
Maritime Global Net –
“This is a totally unacceptable situation,” said Captain Pottengal Mukundan, Director of the ICC International Maritime Bureau which runs the Piracy
Pirates off Somalia threaten to kill tanker crew: UN
But Andrew Mwangura, head of the Kenya chapter of the Seafarers‘ Assistance Programme, said the presence of the US vessels was complicating the negotiations
Sinking kills migrants off Turkey
Aljazeera.net – Qatar
The group met in Izmir on Saturday evening and were taken to the coast, where they boarded the boat at night but the vessel capsized two hours after setting
Jonathan Fowlie, Vancouver Sun
Published: Monday, July 31, 2006
A team of salvage experts boarded the listing cargo ship the MV Cougar Ace on Sunday to determine the best way to right it and bring it to port.
Total tanker in Gulf of Aden collision, no pollution
Guardian Unlimited – UK
“After steering southeast at low speed, the Samco Europe is currently stabilised away from traffic in this area and is waiting for the vessel’s owner and .
Thai, Cambodian fishermen rescued in Vietnamese waters
Mathaba.Net – London,UK
Seafarers from the Mekong Delta province of Soc Trang on December 6 rescued three foreign fishermen after their vessel sank off the province’s coast.
Tanker breaks down
Worthing Herald – Worthing,England,UK
… its anchor down while repairs were taking place. The crew of the Eastbourne RNLI all-weather lifeboat has been put on standby in case they are required.
A helicopter-carrying merchant ship that sank with the loss of 12 men after being hit by two Exocet missiles in the 1982 Falklands conflict was unarmed and unprotected because Ministry of Defence lawyers feared that it was illegal to fit a commercial vessel with weapon systems, according to newly released classified documents.
The container ship Atlantic Conveyor, which had sailed to the South Atlantic just six days after being requisitioned by the MoD, was struck on May 25, causing devastating fires and explosions on board – a storage section filled with cluster bombs and kerosene blew up.
It was one of the biggest-impact attacks by Argentine Exocet-armed Super Etendard bombers because the Atlantic Conveyor was carrying four Chinook and seven Wessex helicopters, all of which would have played a crucial role in ferrying British troops across the Falklands as part of the campaign to liberate the islands.
The Argentinians were hoping to target one of the two Royal Navy aircraft carriers but the missiles homed in on the 14,950-tonne merchant ship.
|Port State Control *updates*||11 Dec 2007|
► 11th December 2007: Following text approval at MSC 83, the IMO have issued a “Code of good practice for port State control officers”.
This document provides guidelines regarding the standards of integrity, professionalism and transparency that regional port State control (PSC) regimes expect of all port State control officers (PSCOs) who are involved in or associated with port State control inspections.
► 11th December 2007: IMO – Enforcement of the first deadline for the fitting of ballast water treatment facilities on new build ships under the forthcoming Ballast Water Management Convention has been postponed by the IMO.
Delays with ratification of the convention, and the type approval of treatment equipment are thought to have contributed to the decision by the IMO to delay the enforcement of Regulation B-3– Ballast Water Management for Ships.
Shipowners will not be required to have systems installed on vessels constructed during 2009 with a ballast capacity of less than 5,000 cubic metres until the second annual survey, but before January 2012.
The assembly has requested the Marine Environmental Protection Committee to review, and possibly extend this postponement to ships built during 2010 as well if it believes there is not the “immediate availability of type approved technology” when it meets in October next year.