Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Piracy Clusters Identified

I thought I would give a bit better perspective for the piracy activity in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean. Most of the piracy maps we see are very cluttered, and really make no sense of the activity. Below, I have a picture of the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden region, that shows a pattern of "clusters" that we have identified.

I must state here, that attacks do in deed take place outside of the marked clusters, however, there is a distinctive cluster pattern that has developed. That being said, any transits North and West of the green line should be considered at risk for attack.

This information thanks to:
Allan McDougall
Evolutionary Security Management, Inc

Monday, March 29, 2010

Where Was the Yemen Coast Guard?

As found HERE

 Pirates hijack ship with 24 crew: maritime agency

Mon Mar 29, 2010 8:49am EDT

Related News

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Pirates have seized a ship named MV Iceberg 1 with its 24 crew members off the Gulf of Aden, a maritime monitoring agency said Monday.
"The owners reported to NATO that pirates boarded the ro-ro vessel MV Iceberg 1 today just 10 nautical miles outside Aden Port in the Gulf of Aden," said the Kenyan-based Ecotterra.
"The vessel with her 24 member crew is now commandeered toward the Somali coast."

The question is; Where was the Yemen Coast Guard?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sympathy for Pirates?

As reported HERE

EU NAVFOR rescues Iranian crew left to die by Somali pirates
22/03/2010 14.32 UTC
EU NAVFOR Spanish warship NAVARRA assists the Iranian Dhow UAID 400
EU NAVFOR Spanish warship NAVARRA assists the Iranian Dhow UAID 400
On 19th March the EU NAVFOR Spanish warship NAVARRA was despatched by the Force HQ (ITS ETNA) to assist an Iranian dhow that had sent out a distress call.
The Iranian fishing dhow, named UAID 400, with 13 crew members, had suffered a pirate attack some days before and had been left without food, water or sufficient fuel to return to shore.
After a high speed dash, the NAVARRA's helicopter located the dhow early the following morning, 60 NMiles from its last known position. The crew were seen on deck waving their arms and making desperate signs for help as the helicopter approached them.

Once EU NAVFOR warship ESPS NAVARRA arrived in the vicinity of the dhow, a boarding party was sent onboard and confirmed that the fishing vessel's radio equipment was broken and their mobile phones were not working. The crew were already drinking sea water and there was no food onboard. The crew confirmed that it had been  four days since the attack.
The fishermen reported that the pirates had kept them tied up for two days without food or water.  When the pirates left they looted the vessel and also took the crew's possessions.
The NAVARRA provided the crew with sufficient food, water and fuel to ensure that that they could make it back to the nearest harbour. The Iranian crew, who are now all well, were extremely grateful for EUNAVFOR's quick reaction to their distress call that clearly saved their lives.

This is a prime example of why there should be no sympathy given to pirates, and maybe another example of how providing armed security to vessels should be considered and not condemned.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

International Bodies vs Armed Security on Ships

The recent announcements that attempt to blame armed security on board vessels for the death of the pirate is somewhat akin to the travesty that sees a homeowner shoot and kill somebody attempting to kidnap his or her family at gunpoint and then ending up as the accused in court. Some salient facts that need to brought back into focus.

First, International bodies need to get back into line with the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Under Article 3 of that core UN document, every individual has the right to “life, liberty and security of person.” If we are to accept the pirate sympathizer’s contention that they are simply detaining those who are a member of society that has illegally fished or dumped chemicals, then they are in violation of Article 9 that states that “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.” Finally, there is a natural right to self defence.

Second, there needs to be some kind of international action to ensure that the root causes of this problem are addressed—ranging from the failed state through to ensuring that over-fishing and illegal dumping do not continue in the region. At the same time, there needs to be an economic answer in Somalia so that the only way to get rich does not appear to suddenly become involved in this kind of organized criminality.

Third, consider that the pirates are "signaling" vessels with automatic weapons’ fire and rocket propelled grenades (A reasonable person may use a radio to signal). If this situation were encountered at any other piece of infrastructure, there would be an armed force protecting that particular point—and not necessarily the military. If a bank were attacked, we would expect the security to respond in kind. If a nuclear power plant were attacked in this way, security is there to ensure that the attack is short lived and that the facility is protected. Yet, for some reason, we are bombarded with comments that state that armed security on board vessels is somehow the root of all ills in this circumstance.

Let us be blunt. The root of this ill lies in a failed state in Somalia and a group of criminals that have become organized and found a way to prey upon something that they feel will return them wealth.

Where we need to be careful is in how that armed security is deployed and used. There is no room for cowboys or trigger happy fools that want to make a name for themselves by hunting pirates in this business. But to tell ships that they cannot use certain elements of self defence because it doesn’t fit with the credo of a certain mindset, begs the question as to when those people making that declaration are  going  out to sail off of the coast of Somalia, or are going to have to reassure the families of the taken seafarers that their loved ones are cared for and being protected.

And this doesn’t even begin to address the imbalance that comes with one pirate death as compared to the deaths and injuries that the pirates have caused, either during attacks or during the periods of captivity…

The sad reality is that this situation is going to escalate. The pirates will want to make their money and somebody will have to stop them from taking the ships.  This means that the attacks will take a harsher tone or become more aggressive…the only question really remains is to the seafarers themselves and is whether or not they want to be victims and pawns in this whole situation. That is not a question that the policy thinkers sitting around a table have the right to answer, in my humble opinion.

This has been a guest post by;
Allan McDougall

Yemeni fishing vessel hijacked by Somali pirates, Crewman killed!

As Reported HERE

SANAA, March 26 (Xinhua) -- A Yemeni fishing vessel was hijacked by Somali pirates off Somali northern coasts, while one of its 12 crew members was killed, official news agency Saba reported Friday.
The report cited security authorities in the southeast province of Hadramout as saying that the hijack took place on Thursday while the Yemeni fishing vessel was in the Somali territory waters.
The 12 crew members comprise eight Yemeni fishermen, two Somalis and two Tanzanian nationals, said the report, adding that "Othman Mohamed of Tanzania was killed by Somali pirates during the operation of seizing the Yemeni vessel."
The vessel along with its 11 crew members is now in the captivity of Somali pirates while the Yemeni security authorities have adopted measures seeking to release them, said the report.
Saba's report neither provided further information on the reason behind the existence of the hijacked Yemeni fishing vessel nor the details on its crew members, but said the vessel left al- Shiher port in Hadramout in late February.
On Wednesday, Yemen said its naval forces foiled a hijacking attempt by Somali pirates to seize a Yemeni oil tanker off Yemen's southern coastal rim in Shabwa province. 

The IMO can not close its eyes to this just because it was a Yemeni fisherman that was killed in the hijacking, and not a merchant mariner. This shows that having private security on board or as an escort is an absolute benefit.

OPINION Killing of Somali pirate could be a turning point

As can be found HERE

For the first time since pirates from the war-torn, lawless nation of Somalia began disrupting international shipping off the coast of East Africa five years ago, private security guards have shot and killed one of the criminals.
The action could mark the turning point in the United Nations’ sanctioned military campaign against the pirates, who have taken hundreds of millions of dollars in ransom from shipping companies.
The presence of armed contractors on vessels on trade routes through the Gulf of Aden is important because the warships deployed in the region are not able to adequately patrol that vast area.
In November 2008, the pirates began hijacking ships well outside the Gulf of Aden. That was a month after the United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution calling on countries with vessels in the area to use military force to prevent ships from being captured and their crews taken hostage.
Now, private security guards on oil tankers and cargo carriers have the opportunity to add another layer of security.
However, the initial reaction from some quarters to this week’s killing of the pirate is puzzling, to say the least.
Arvinder Sambei, a legal consultant for the U.N.’s anti-piracy program told the Associated Press, “This will be scrutinized very closely. There’s always been concern about these (private security) companies. Who are they responsible to?”
The simple answer is the companies that hire them to fight off attacks. It would be a mistake to think that the pirates are a group of rag-tag criminals. In fact, they use high-speed boats and are armed with assault rifles, RPG rocket-propelled grenade launchers and semi-automatic pistols.
And, they are ruthless. They have no respect for the law and don’t care that their criminal behavior has resulted in an increase in shipping costs and has disrupted the delivery of food aid to African countries that are literally starving due to government corruption and the drought.
It is foolhardy to apply standards to security guards that are providing a valuable service.
In the case of the killing of the pirate, the guards were on board the MV Almezaan, a merchant ship owned by the United Arab Emirates, when a private group approached the vessel twice. During the second approach, there was an exchange of fire between the guards and the pirates.
An European Union Naval Force frigate was dispatched to the scene and launched a helicopter. It located the seven pirates, one of whom had died from small caliber gunshot wounds.
A statement by the Spanish Ministry of Defense said the warship Navarra had intercepted two skiffs and a larger vessel believed to be the mothership. Spanish forces arrested the six pirates and took possession of the dead man.
The forces also sank the larger ship.


It is clear that the guards were doing exactly what they were hired to do — protect the merchant ship. The idea that the owners or the private security contractor may face legal problems is laughable.
The reality on the high seas is that violent confrontations between ships and pirates are on the rise. Crews are becoming increasingly adept at repelling attacks by pirates in the dangerous waters of the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden.
For their part, pirates are becoming more aggressive, shooting bullets and rocket-propelled grenades at ships to try to intimidate captains into stopping. Piracy on the high seas has gone on too long.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

'Pirate' death puts spotlight on 'guns for hire'

As Reported Here

The death of a suspected pirate off the coast of Somalia has drawn attention to the use of armed private security contractors on board merchant vessels.
The incident, which involved guards aboard the Panamanian-flagged MV Almezaan, is believed to be the first of its kind.
But several organisations, including the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), have previously expressed concerns over the use of armed security contractors.
"While we understand that owners want to protect their ships, we don't agree in principle with putting armed security on ships," IMB director Capt Pottengal Mukundan told the BBC News website.
"Ships are not an ideal place for a gun battle."
A Canadian naval vessel patrols the coast of Somalia
The Canadian navy has joined patrols off the Somali coast
One argument is that the use of armed operatives could encourage pirates to use more violence when taking a ship.
But Mr Mukundan said he had seen no evidence that there had been much of an increase in the use of armed guards by merchant ship owners.
Dozens of warships patrol the waters off the Somali coast, but this has not deterred the pirates. The amount of ocean to patrol is extremely vast and pirates have responded to the increased naval presence by moving attacks farther out to sea.
"The naval forces are displacing the threat - they can't be everywhere at once," says Nick Davis, chief executive of Merchant Maritime Warfare Centre, a not-for-profit organisation.
"Almost the whole of the Indian Ocean region - some 5 million square nautical miles - is a security risk."
But the shipping industry has, so far, largely resisted arming their boats - not least because this would deny them port in some nations. Furthermore, arming the ships can raise liability issues and increase insurance costs.
Christopher Ledger, director of security firm Idarat Maritime, says the use of private operatives is not necessary and that ship owners can find other ways to protect themselves, such as boosting training, carrying out more drills and purchasing equipment that could prevent pirates boarding a vessel.
"Private security guards are not necessary, they simply muddy the water," he said. "They are often foreign to the crew themselves and they don't know the ship well.
Experts say piracy is just one symptom of Somalia's failed state
"Many are former soldiers that have been in Iraq or Afghanistan and they think they can shake the dust off their shoes and make it as a private security guard. Their day rate is pretty high and the crew have to find ways to get them on and off the vessels."
Their presence, he said, would only lead to "more spilt blood".
This month, international shipping law firm Ince and Co released a report highlighting the issues arising from the use of armed guards. It pointed out that a fundamental question arose as to who would authorise the use of force.
Stephen Askins, a lawyer with Ince, told the BBC News website that the debate on the use of armed guards was one that polarised the industry.
"Most industry bodies and ship-owners are against them," he said. "But no ship with an armed guard has been hijacked, so there are those - particularly those who have had hijacked ships - who think they are necessary."
He said private security companies had come into their own in places like Iraq and had seen seen the maritime sector as potentially lucrative.
"Many have moved across but there is no system of accreditation, so there is no way of knowing the good from the bad," he said.
Legal status
Most security operatives are former British servicemen, but there are also operatives from the US, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
Mr Askins said some firms provided armed escort vessels, but that these did not have any status in international law.
"The various conventions dealing with piracy relate to states and their navies," he said. "The rights that they are given, like the right of innocent passage relate to military ships. There are also issues over the use of armed force. The relevant law is the law of the flag state, but a merchant ship could, for example, be Panamanian and the escort ship could be, say, UK flagged."
BBC map
But he also pointed out that there were some very good companies that had "robust rules of engagement".
"Lethal force for them would come after a series of steps including warning shots. The good companies would follow that procedure. Normally that would be enough to deter an attack."
In May 2009, the US Coast Guard drafted a maritime security directive that would require US-flagged ships sailing around the Horn of Africa to post guards, and ship owners to submit anti-piracy security plans for approval.
At the time, the Coast Guard's director of prevention policy, Rear Admiral James Watson, said that they expected to see "additional security" that could "involve the use of firearms".
He added that they were "looking for things that work but that don't make the situation worse".
The directive has not yet passed into law.
For now, the handling of Tuesday's shooting by a private security operative will be watched closely by legal experts.
An independent inquiry is planned, but first investigators will need to establish who had jurisdiction - the flag the vessel was flying, its owners or the nationality of the contractors - and who was responsible for the security contractors.

I guess I have to agree and disagree with statements in this article. In the first place, yes, a correct use of force continuum or rules of engagement is absolutely necessary. however, the media can create a frenzy and usually thrives on controversy. I do not want to even attempt to be the judge of an incident that I was not present in.

Christopher Ledger stated in the article;

"the use of private operatives is not necessary and that ship owners can find other ways to protect themselves, such as boosting training, carrying out more drills and purchasing equipment that could prevent pirates boarding a vessel."

The Idarat web site actually says;
"it is important to remember that the Somali pirates appear to avoid killing crews if possible, and carry a handbook which instructs them NOT to harm their hostages.

How do they avoid killing anyone with their firing of RPG's and automatic firing of AK-47's into the bridge of a ship? The way to avoid the killing of crew members is NOT to fire at the ship.

To date, the Somali pirates have avoided killing crew members out of sure luck.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Somali pirate killed in cargo ship hijack shooting

As reported Here 
The private guards protecting the MV Almezaan returned fire as they beat back two attacks by the same gang off the coast of lawless Somalia on Tuesday.
A Spanish warship patrolling the waters deployed a helicopter that fired warning shots to stop the pirates as they fled the area. Spanish troops seized six individuals, recovered one body and destroyed three pirate vessels.
"The body has been transferred to NAVARRA," EU NAVFOR said in a statement on its website, referring to the Spanish frigate.
"An investigation indicated that the individual had died from small caliber gunshot wounds," it added.
The MV Almezaan was en route to the Somali capital Mogadishu, the statement said. Kenyan maritime official Andrew Mwangura confirmed the incident by telephone from the port city of Mombasa.
Marauding sea gangs have attacked ships in the busy lanes in the Gulf of Aden that link Europe and Asia for several years, earning ransoms worth millions of dollars from vessels captured.
A fleet of foreign navies are patrolling the waters, operating convoys and offering safe transit corridors.
But they have found themselves increasingly stretched as the pirates roam further out into the Indian Ocean.
Some shippers have already started to avoid the Gulf of Aden, opting to go around the Cape of Good Hope, raising transport costs, while others have chosen to carry private guards.
Pirates on Tuesday seized a Turkish ship with its crew of 21 and a Bermuda-flagged reefer with a crew of 25.

It is amazing how the IMO and IMB say that having private security could escalate the use of force by pirates. The pirates are already firing AK-47's and RPG's at ships. The IMO and IMB say it is only intimidation to get the vessel to stop. However, When the RPG explodes on board, or the automatic weapons fire is directed at the bridge, how much more deadly can it get?

In this case, instead of a hijacked ship and crew, there is one dead pirate. I think this outcome was the best for all.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Somali Pirates Hijack two ships;

Somalia: Two different cargo ships hijacked today and both East of the IRTC afternoon, Tuesday 23 March, the Bermuda flagged British Virgin Islands owned cargo ship MV TALCA was reported hijacked.
The hijacking took place approximately 120 nautical miles off the coast of Oman and 180 miles south of Mazera. MV TALCA was heading from Sokhna in Egypt to Busheir in Iran. It had already passed through the International Recommended Transit Corridor, which is patrolled by warships and maritime patrol aircraft from EU NAVFOR, NATO, Combined Maritime Forces and other navies. Twenty-three of the crew are from Sri Lanka, one from the Philippines and one from Syria. MV TALCA has dead weight of 11 055 tonnes. EU NAVFOR will continue to monitor the situation.
Operation ATALANTA’s main tasks are to escort merchant vessels carrying humanitarian aid of the ‘World Food Program’ (WFP) and vessels of AMISOM, and to protect vulnerable ships in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean and to deter and disrupt piracy. EU NAVFOR also monitors fishing activity off the coast of Somalia.
Somali pirates have hijacked a ship some 1,800km (1,100 miles) from their bases - closer to India than Africa, the EU naval force says.
Cdr John Harbour said the attack, on a Turkish-owned ship, marked a major increase in the pirates' range.
He said the EU force had launched a new strategy which was pushing the pirate gangs further afield.
Somalia has been riven by civil war and unrest since 1991, allowing the pirates relative impunity.
Some of the pirates leaders have amassed fortunes by holding ships for ransom, and the Gulf of Aden has become one of the most dangerous shipping lanes in the world.
But Cdr Harbour said the EU force had disrupted about 17 pirate attacks in the past three weeks.
"The EU, Nato and combined maritime forces have been taking the fight to the pirates," he told the BBC.
"We've tried to stop them getting off the beaches; when they've got to the Indian Ocean, we've been very aggressive in targeting the individuals and disrupting pirate activity."
The ship, named as the MV Frigia, was heading east but has now turned around.
The EU said it was sailing west and appeared to be heading for one of the known pirate ports in Somalia.
The cargo ship has a 21-strong crew - 19 Turks and two Ukrainians.

For the last year, we have been saying that ship protection needs to extend far beyond the IRTC. Many ship companies have become reliant on the naval forces to protect them, but have ignored the danger areas beyond the IRTC

Friday, March 19, 2010

Shooting Back at Pirates Works

A good article I found in the Daily Star ePaper;

Thomas Countryman, principal deputy assistant at the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, “The firing of warning shots is often enough to cause pirates to break off the pursuit,” Countryman told journalists. 
The official said there had “not been a case of successful piracy” against an armed American-flagged ship. 
You can read the entire article at:

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Armed or Un-Armed?

It is a debated question if merchant and fishing vessels should have armed security on board their vessels, or merely stay with non-lethal tactics to stop pirates. some say that having armed personnel on board could escalate the pirate response. the last year has proven that having armed personnel on board is actually the best response, as there has never been a hijacking of any ship with armed personnel on board.

Recently, a fishing vessel in the Indian Ocean was fired upon by a rocket propelled grenade launcher. The grenade landed on the deck, exploded and caught fire. The on board armed security fired warning shots over the heads of the pirates and they stopped their attack and fled. however, the media called this a "firefight". I must say, this is not a firefight, this was appropriate first response by security personnel that used an appropriate amount of force to stop and neutralize the attack without any harm to any persons.

I had seen headlines like "Four Firefights in one Day Against Pirates". This is media sensationalizing the issue. None of the incidents were actual firefights, and in two of the incidents, it was military personnel involved, and not private security. In none of the incidents, were there any injuries to either side. When warning shots are fired, and the pirates flee, you could hardly call that a firefight.

It has proven time and time again, whether you have armed personnel on board, or as an escort to the vessel, there is no hijacking of the vessel.  Gosh, maybe that is a good thing. I really can not understand the IMO and IMB for criticizing this. Pirates adapt to what they must face. Their adaptation is more to the military presence than private security.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Singapore Tug, Hijacked in Malaysia, Located at Dinagat Island Philippines

A Singapore flagged tug boat, with Indonesian crew was hijacked off of Malaysian and found in the Philippines. Dinagat island is just North East of Mindanao. That is a far distance from Malaysia or Singapore. The Tug was en-route to Cambodia.

The dangers of the tug towage operation is apparent, when operating at a speed of about 5 knots.