Piracy

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Piracy

Post  polka23dot on Fri Aug 31, 2012 2:30 am

Why don't we hang pirates anymore? http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB122757123487054681

International piracy laws had been changed after World War II, making it very difficult to punish pirates (in the past you could just kill them, a rule observed for thousands of years). source: http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htseamo/articles/20131111.aspx

Strategy Page articles about pirates: http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htseamo/default.aspx

West African pirates steal petroleum: http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htseamo/articles/20120830.aspx

Somali piracy fades: http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htseamo/articles/20130124.aspx

April 4, 2013: Japan will now allow its merchant ships to carry armed guards. Noting that nearly 40 percent of ships passing through Somali waters now carry armed guards and that this has helped halt pirates from seizing ships, Japan amended its laws to allow the armed security personnel on Japanese flagged ships (which are about nine percent of those off Somalia). source: http://www.strategypage.com/qnd/somalia/articles/20130405.aspx

Since 2005, the Somali pirates have captured 149 ships and obtained over $300 million in ransom. source: http://www.strategypage.com/qnd/somalia/articles/20130416.aspx

The solution to piracy is essentially on land, where you go into uncontrolled areas and institute some law and order and remove the pirate safe havens. This has been the best approach since the Romans eliminated piracy in the Mediterranean over 2,000 years ago. Trying to tackle piracy just on the maritime end can reduce the incidence of piracy but can't eliminate it. source: http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htseamo/articles/20130508.aspx

Off the coast (in the Gulf of Guinea) kidnapping of sailors (usually officers) for ransom has increased. In the first six months of the year 30 such hostages were taken. source: http://www.strategypage.com/qnd/nigeria/articles/20130717.aspx

An epidemic of piracy has developed off the Nigerian coast (the Gulf of Guinea) and the criminal gangs expanding their activities or entering the business have more than tripled the number of ships hit this year. There are now two or three attacks a week and the pirates are becoming more thorough in stripping a ship of valuable portable items and even kidnapping ship’s officers and taking them to hideouts ashore to be held for ransom. The gangs are apparently advised by expert fences on what equipment to look for because some of these expensive shipboard electronics are showing up for sale in other parts of the world. The fences ship (or sell via the Internet) the stuff out of Africa to where it will get a better price. As a result the pirates are gaining more money per ship raided and that persuades more land-based gangs to give piracy a try. There are plenty of tankers and other merchant ships in the Gulf of Guinea and not all are paying attention to warnings about improving security. While the Somali pirates could gain larger ransoms (sometimes over $10 million per ship) they have not been able to grab a ship in over a year because of more aggressive naval patrols and tighter security on the big ships. That has not happened on the west coast, and the gangs are happy if they can net several hundred thousand dollars in loot (including cargo transferred at sea to a pirate owned freighter or tanker) and ransoms per ship raided. The shipping companies have to pay higher insurance premiums and deal with lower crew morale and are now incurring higher operating costs because of the need for better security. All these additional costs are passed on the countries adjacent to the Gulf of Guinea in the form of higher shipping rates. source: http://www.strategypage.com/qnd/nigeria/articles/20130725.aspx

Somalia is a sad place and one of the saddest tragedies ever is being played out where pirates in the north are holding 40 sailors and several ramshackle ships that no one will pay a ransom for. These are seagoing fishing boats and small freighters owned by small operators with no insurance to cover ransoms and not enough cash, or inclination, to pay what the pirates demand. The negotiators (who work for the pirates) have explained all this to the pirate chiefs, who are facing hard times themselves and stubbornly refuse to face the fact that they will never get anything for these 40 sailors and their ramshackle ships (one of which recently sank at anchor). Just killing the remaining prisoners (some held for three years) and sinking the ships risks retribution from the anti-piracy patrol off shore. Countries the prisoners are from have been pressured to pay ransom, but all of them adhere to the “no negotiating with terrorists” code. There is growing pressure on the pirates to simply release the unwanted prisoners on “humanitarian grounds” and at least get some good press out of this mess. That’s a bitter solution for the pirates, who have not captured a ship that could be ransomed in over a year. Several pirate gangs have disbanded and those still around have shrunk and cut the payroll considerably. The big time piracy is largely out of business because warship patrols and better security aboard large ships passing Somalia has made it nearly impossible to seize these vessels. Holding ships for ransom only worked initially because Somalia, a state without a government since 1991, provided small ports on the coast of East Africa where pirates could bring the merchant ships they had captured, and keep them there, safe from rescue attempts, until a ransom could be negotiated. Off West Africa, pirates have come up with another angle. These pirates, believed to be only a few well-organized gangs, target small oil tankers operating in the Gulf of Guinea (where Nigeria and its neighbors have oil fields). The pirates quickly board and seize control of a tanker at night. The crew is locked up in an internal space and the tracking devices are disabled. Then the tanker is taken to rendezvous with another tanker, which takes the oil from the hijacked tanker, along with the pirates and their other loot and makes for a port where oil brokers willing to buy stolen oil (at a steep discount) take the pirated cargo, pay the pirates, and perhaps tip the pirates off on another small tanker that could be hit. The pirates have since expanded this technique to include freighters carrying portable, high-value items (consumer electronics, for example) that can be transferred at sea before daybreak and the coast guard arrive. The hijacked tankers, stripped of portable items of value and then set adrift, are soon found and the crew released. Normally, pirates attack merchant ships anchored near the coast grab all the valuable portables and quickly leave. This is considered armed robbery, although pirates increasingly kidnap a few of the ships officers (or the entire crew) and hold them for ransom. But this requires a good hideout and more resources. The pirates who steal oil cargoes require even more technical organization and connections. But because the payoff is so high (millions of dollars for a stolen oil tanker cargo), a growing number of skilled gangsters are being attracted to the business. The East African style of piracy won’t work off the Somali coast because of the anti-piracy patrol and much more alert ships. Despite the countermeasures off Somalia. There has been something of a piracy revival in the last decade. Piracy hit a trough from the late nineteenth century into the later twentieth. That was because the Great Powers had pretty much divided up the whole planet and then policed it in the 19th century. Piracy began to revive in a modest way beginning in the 1970s, with the collapse of many post-colonial regimes. Note that what constitutes an act of piracy is not clearly defined. It essentially comes down to non-state sanctioned use of force at sea or from the sea. This could include intercepting a speedboat to rob the passengers, but that's usually just thought of as armed robbery. And something like the seizure of the Achille Lauro in 1985 is considered terrorism, rather than piracy. In the past some marginal states have sanctioned piratical operations, like the North African Barbary States, but that is rare any more. The trend, however, is definitely up. Pirates usually function on the margins of society, trying to get a cut of the good life in situations where there aren't many options. This is usually in areas where state control is weakest or absent, in failing and "flailed" states (a flailing state is something like Nigeria, Indonesia, or the Philippines, where the government is managing to just barely keep things together, unlike a failed state such as Somalia, where there isn't any government at all). The solution to piracy is essentially on land, where you go into uncontrolled areas and institute some law and order and remove the pirate safe havens. This has been the best approach since the Romans eliminated piracy in the Mediterranean over 2,000 years ago. Trying to tackle piracy just on the maritime end can reduce the incidence of piracy but can't eliminate it. In the modern world the "land" solution often can't be implemented. Who wants to put enough troops into Somalia to eliminate piracy? And flailing states are likely to be very sensitive about their sovereignty if you offer to help them control marginal areas. A new industry has developed that attempts to "pirate proof" ships operating off Somalia. The most successful (and most expensive) technique is to put a small number of armed guards on each ship. That, and warship patrols, has greatly reduced piracy off East Africa (Somalia). But off West Africa (especially the Gulf of Guinea) the piracy threat is growing because pirates have found ways to get more valuables off ships before security forces (police, coast guard, or navy) can show up. source: http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htmurph/articles/20130725.aspx

The Somali pirates have been beaten, but not defeated. The pirates captured no ships in 2013. Compare that to 2012 when 14 were taken, 2011 when 28 were, 2010 saw 47 grabbed and 2009 had 46 hijacked. Each of these ships yielded, on average, several million dollars. That kind of money attracted a lot more people to the business... One of the more unnerving tactics was monitoring the pirate ports and following ships that left. UAVs or ships would observe these vessels and once they were in international waters (22 kilometers from the Somali coast) board and search any suspected of being pirates. If weapons and boarding equipment was found, the pirates were detailed, taken back to Somalia and left on a beach. Their boat was sunk at sea, along with their weapons and tools. Documents found on the boat were passed on to intelligence specialists. This degree of scrutiny was more than the pirates could handle... Most of the pirate gangs dissolved or went back to smuggling people to Yemen or what many of the pirates originally did; fishing... These days the “Pirate Coast” is off West Africa in the Gulf of Guinea. Most of the pirates there are Nigerians and they attacked 31 ships and briefly hijacked nine of them in 2013. The Nigerian pirates have no safe place to keep captured ships while a large ransom is negotiated. Instead they rob ships they attack and quickly leave. In some cases they arrange to hijack much of the cargo, usually at sea, by transferring to another ship at night and then scampering away before the navy or police show up. Sometimes a few of the ships’ officers are kidnapped for ransom. source: http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htwin/articles/20140113.aspx

While a decade long international effort to suppress Somali piracy has succeeded, there has been a huge increase in piracy elsewhere. In the Straits of Malacca there has been a sevenfold increase since 2009 and off Nigeria there has been a similar increase. The big difference is that only off Somalia could ships and crews be taken and held for ransom for long periods. Everywhere else the pirates were usually only interested in robbing the crew and stealing anything portable that they could get into their small boats. But a different type of piracy has developed off the Nigerian coast where pirates increasingly kidnap some ship officers to hold for ransom. Other Nigerian pirates have taken to forcing the crew to move small tankers to remote locations where most of the cargo (of oil) can be transferred to another ship and sold on the black market. The seized ship and the crew are then abandoned as the pirates make off with much of the cargo and anything else they can carry off the plundered ship. source: http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htseamo/articles/20140627.aspx

Recently there was another piracy incident near the Malacca Strait. On July 15th 2014 pirates boarded the MT Oriental Glory, an 85 meter (276 feet) long tanker going from Singapore to Borneo with a valuable cargo; 2,500 tons of marine (for ship engines) diesel. The cargo was worth over two million dollars and the pirates got it all. The small tanker was missing for several days because the pirates had someone with them who knew how to disable the communications systems and disable the engines. The pirates apparently had another tanker or barge standing by to offload the marine diesel. The pirates also looted the ship of any portable valuables and locked up the crew of fifteen. Three crewmen were slightly injured during the nighttime takeover. This was the ninth such pirate attack since April and police believe it is the same gang. These pirates are well organized, apparently research their targets carefully and use competent people to board the target ships at night and quickly overwhelm the crew. These pirates are armed but disciplined and don’t fire unless they have to. The pirates know that as long as they don’t kill anyone there will not be a major police effort to hunt them down. This sort of thing is part of a pattern that evolved even before an international effort to suppress Somali piracy succeeded in the last few years. While the Somali piracy was being suppressed there was a major increase in attacks in the Straits of Malacca and the South China Sea. Big as in a sevenfold increase from 2009 to 2013 (when there were 150 attacks). There was also a jump (to 50 attacks a year) off Nigeria. What made Somalia so special was the fact that that ships and crews could be taken and held for ransom for long periods. Everywhere else the pirates were usually only interested in robbing the crew and stealing anything portable that they could get into their small boats. Off the Nigerian coast pirates occasionally take some ship officers with them to hold for ransom. Off Nigeria and the Malacca Strait some pirates have developed more complex but much more lucrative tactics. This involves recruiting someone who knows how to find and turn off tracking devices as well as someone familiar with marine engines. Then the pirates use their own personnel or force the crew to move small tankers to remote locations where most of the cargo (of oil) can be transferred to another ship and later sold on the black market. While that sort of thing requires a lot of organization, nerve and luck there have been at least two pirate gangs, one in Nigeria and another from somewhere around the Malacca Strait (Singapore, Malaysia or Indonesia) that have figured out how to do this. Nevertheless most of the attacks off Nigeria and Malacca Strait are still armed robbery. Given the amount of portable electronics on a seagoing ship (both company and personal), a half dozen armed pirates can net several thousand dollars per ship hit. There are fences on shore who pay cash for this stuff and quickly move it out of the country. But stealing several thousand tons of fuel oil from a small tanker is worth a thousand times more. source: http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htseamo/articles/20140819.aspx

The European Court of Human Rights told France that it must pay damages to Somali pirates because authorities held them in custody for too long. The pirates will receive up to 5,000 euros each. source: www.dw.de/a-18110804

Financial problems have led the Somali pirate groups to have largely disbanded. The problem is that no large ships taken (and ransomed) since May 2012. The pirates captured 14 ships in 2012 . In 2011 28 were taken and before that in 2010 47 and in 2009 there were 46. Each of these ships yielded, on average, several million dollars in ransom. That kind of money attracted a lot more people to the business. Lack of that kind of money led the major pirate gangs to disband. Despite that shipping companies have been warned to maintain the expensive security measures they have been using until the “pirate coast” of Somalia is cleared of warlords, Islamic terrorists and criminal gangs. At that point the shipping companies can eliminate the expensive security measures and people living in East Africa and dependent on goods imported via ship will see prices go down to pre-2006 levels. The cost of the additional anti-piracy measures was passed on to consumers and it is noticed. Meanwhile piracy has shifted to Southeast Asia and the coast of Nigeria, where 13 small tankers and cargo ships were taken during the first half of 2015. During that period pirates attacked 134 ships compared to 116 for the first half of 2014. Most of these attacks are robbery and assault on crews as well as kidnapping of a few officers. In the first half of 2015 pirates temporarily held (and robbed) 250 merchant sailors, assaulted 14, (injured nine and killed one) and kidnapped ten for ransom... One of the more unnerving tactics was monitoring the pirate ports and following ships that left. UAVs or ships would observe these vessels and once they were in international waters (22 kilometers from the Somali coast) board and search any suspected of being pirates. If weapons and boarding equipment was found, the pirates were detailed, taken back to Somalia and left on a beach. Their boat was sunk at sea, along with their weapons and tools. Documents found on the boat were passed on to intelligence specialists. This degree of scrutiny was more than the pirates could handle. The pirates needed cash to keep operating as each multi-million dollar ransom quickly disappeared into the pockets of the pirates and their financiers and suppliers. Few of the pirate leaders wanted to invest their newly acquired wealth in keeping the level of activity where it had been until 2012, when it became clear that capturing more ships was frustratingly difficult and eventually nearly impossible. So the financing of the pirate gangs disappeared and most of the pirate gangs dissolved or went back to smuggling people to Yemen or what many of the pirates originally did; fishing. source: http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htseamo/articles/20150813.aspx

polka23dot
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