MH60S

Friday, February 27, 2009

Maritime Security: The Small Boat Threat

From National Defense Magazine, "No Silver Bullet for Thwarting Terrorists Aboard Small Boats":
Small boats provide terrorists with a myriad of options. They could be used in suicide attacks, as was the case in 2000 when al-Qaida operatives in Yemen rammed an explosives-laden dinghy into the USS Cole, killing 17 U.S. sailors. They could attack ships docked at shore, entering ports or sailing off the coast. They could deliver nuclear, biological, chemical or radiological devices, or be used to mine harbors, wrote James Carafano, senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation, in a paper entitled, “Small Boats, Big Worries: Thwarting Terrorist Attacks from the Sea.”

Ports can also be an entryway for terrorists, as was the case recently when gunmen struck Mumbai, India, and killed nearly 200 people.

“Mumbai was not an isolated incident,” said Allen. “We do know that the capability exists and I think that Mumbai just underscores that.”

Kenneth McDaniel, maritime security deputy division chief at the Coast Guard office of counterterrorism and defense operations, said one of the greatest threats are vessel-borne improvised explosive devices.

The consequences of an IED attack on a U.S. port would be devastating, said Scott Truver, executive advisor for national security programs at Gryphon Technologies.
Carafano article here. A more recent analysis by Dr. Carafano on the Mumbai small boat attack here.

Compare and Contrast

Young collectivists on a college campus:


Approximately same age solders engaged in Afghanistan:

Who would you pick to defend your freedoms?

Yeah, it's not a fair contest.

Friday Reading

CDR Salamander: Fullbore Friday covers USS South Dakota (BB-57)

Dusty of the Castle reminds of how where fiscal crises begin. Sorta like crazed arsonists who start fires, run around investigating everyone else and then claim they have the solution to stopping fires by pouring gasoline on them . . . sorta.

What, you like more taxes? Here you go.

A disagreement in the intel world regarding domestic terror threats? Hmmm. Last time we got 9-11.

Odd Russian admiral antics.

A nice find.

The more things change, the more they remain the same.

UPDATE: Fiddling while Rome burns. Thomas Sowell:
In another sense, however, looming ahead of us — and our children and their children — are dangers that can utterly destroy American society. Worse yet, there are moral corrosions within ourselves that weaken our ability to face the challenges ahead.

One of the many symptoms of this decay from within is that we are preoccupied with the pay of corporate executives while the leading terrorist-sponsoring nation on earth is moving steadily toward creating nuclear bombs.

Does anyone imagine that we will care what anyone’s paycheck is when we see an American city in radioactive ruins?

Yet the only serious obstacle to that happening is that the Israelis may disregard the lofty blather coming out of the White House and destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities before the Iranian fanatics can destroy Israel.

If by some miracle we manage to avoid the fatal dangers of a nuclear Iran, there will no doubt be others, including a nuclear North Korea.

Although, in some sense, the United States of America is still the strongest nation on earth militarily, that means absolutely nothing if our enemies are willing to die and we are not.
See the Sgt. Goldich quote in the header.

UPDATE2: If we don't say the word "terrorism," maybe it will go away. (H/T:CI Centre)-- Perhaps we can banish the words "death" or "cancer" the same way. Where are the grownups in the Obama administration? Will this work for "taxes?" That's a dodo nearby . . .

UPDATE3: Steve Schippert has a problem with cognitive dissonance. Something about sending money to Hamas while Pakistan burns . . .

Pirate Fighting Robot

From here, a Russian company offers up a safer alternative to putting crewmen on deck facing armed pirates.

Not as pictured.

Robot from here.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

16th Anniversary of the1993 World Trade Center bombing

When the War on Terror got started on U.S. soil - by the other side- February 26, 1993 World Trade Center bombing:
The 1993 World Trade Center bombing occurred on February 26, 1993, when a car bomb was detonated below Tower One of the World Trade Center in New York City. The 1,500 lb (680 kg) urea nitrate-hydrogen gas enhanced device was intended to knock the North Tower (Tower One) into the South Tower (Tower Two), bringing both towers down and killing thousands of people. It failed to do so, but did kill six people and injured 1,042.
More here, with a prescient quote:
Thousands of office workers were trapped as smoke billowed up through the buildings.

With no working lifts or lighting there was total pandemonium.

People did not know whether to stay in their offices or brave the journey down via the smoke-filled stairwells.

"It felt like an airplane hit the building," said Bruce Pomper, a 34-year-old broker.

Somali Pirates: Pirate attack reportedly stopped by Chinese navy

China may have stopped a pirate attack on an Italian merchant ship, it is reported here:
China's navy has rescued an Italian ship from a pirate attack off the Somali coast, Chinese state media said Thursday.

Few details were given in the one-line report by the official Xinhua News Agency. The ship was identified only as an Liberian-flagged Italian merchant vessel whose crew had been attacked.

If verified, the rescue operation would be the first direct engagement between the Chinese navy and Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden since Beijing dispatched a three-ship squadron for anti-piracy operations last December.
UPDATE: A Danish ship reportedly stopped a pirate attack on a Chinese merchant ship, too.
UPDATE2: More on the Danish ship activity here: The Danish flexible support ship HDMS Absalon (L 16) successfully deterred an attempted pirate attack on the Chinese M/V Yandanghai at approximately 1:30 p.m.
Absalon closed on the coordinates given by the Chinese ship following their distress call and spotted a skiff matching the description given by the captain of the motor vessel. A Danish boarding team then boarded the suspected skiff, finding several weapons, including a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG), four AK-47 assault rifles, two grenades and a knife. The weapons were cataloged and confiscated.

The suspected pirates were unable to board the vessel due to evasive measures taken by the ship’s crew who engaged their fire hoses to keep the suspected pirates a safe distance from the ship.

According to Yandanhai’s captain, two of the motorvessel’s crew sustained minor injuries during the attack.
UPDATE3: More on the Chinese activity here:
Destroyer "Haikou" of the Chinese navy received a SOS from the Liberia-flagged Italian ship around 10:03 a.m. reporting two unidentified yachts were approaching just about 3 to 4 nautical miles away.

A shipborne helicopter with three combatants and one photographer on board was immediately sent to the scene.

"When our helicopter reached the area, the two yachts were already close to the merchant ship. They were equipped with two engines and were traveling with high speed," said Captain Chen Yi.

Hovering around the Italian ship "LIA," the Chinese helicopter fired two flares as a warning to scare the yachts awa
By "yachts," I assume the sort of "skiffs" used by pirates in the area was meant.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Sri Lanka: Interesting LTTE Boats Captured

Photos of an interesting boat design attributed to the LTTE found by Sri Lankan military forces at a purported Tamil Tiger boat yard, as reported here in a typically florid piece from the SL government:
Troops of 58 Division on final phase of the Wanni liberating offensive uncovered the largest LTTE boat ever found during the Wanni offensive from northwest of Puthukudiyirippu yesterday, 23 February. , ,



The recovered sea tiger boat is nearly 60 feet long, military sources said.

LTTE terrorists have removed the engine and other accessories of the boat and abandoned it on a trailer when it was recovered by the troops.

Troops in further search and clear operations were able to locate the boats manufacturing yard in 500m away this morning, 24 February. Machineries used for the boat production, prototype of the boat and the removed accessories of the boat were also found from the boat yard, military sources added.
To me the boat appears to be a semi-submersible design with two screws, two rudders. Judging by the rust level it may not have been an active project.

In addition, there have been recent reports of captured LTTE submarines (with link to SL government site) with more photos, some of which are below. As you may note, some of the craft pictured at the government site do not appear to be submarines.





UPDATE: Daniel Sekulich at Modern Day Pirate Tales had an earlier report on the "LTTE subs."

U.S. - Partner in African Pirate Fight

U.S. Government website says America Builds New African Partnerships to Tackle Piracy:
The United States and other international partners are helping African governments confront piracy and improve maritime security on two coasts of Africa. While the waters off the coast of Somalia rank number 1 in the world for piracy and armed robbery at sea and the Gulf of Guinea on Africa’s west coast ranks closely behind in the number 2 spot, the two regions have different scenarios and different types of crime.

Jun Bando, the maritime security coordinator and U.S. Africa Command liaison for the State Department’s Bureau of African Affairs, made that point February 19 in an interview with America.gov.

Looking at the problems in the two regions, Bando said, “What we are seeing off the coast of Somalia [is] ... acts such as ship hijacking, which is often committed on the high seas or international waters. In the Gulf of Guinea, the balance leans toward criminal acts that happen within a country’s territorial waters.”

In the Gulf of Guinea, Bando said, “We are seeing hijackings, kidnappings, considerable levels of violence” in criminal acts that are “typically more violent than what we are seeing in the Horn of Africa.”

Small armed groups in the Gulf of Guinea tend to commit their crimes along the coastline, offshore and on offshore oil rigs as well.

“We have seen an increase in attacks” in the Gulf of Guinea, she said. “We are seeing a number of criminal activities that are happening not only in international waters but also within the territorial waters of countries, and involving everything from drug smuggling to trafficking in both arms and persons.”

Turning to the situation off the coast of Somalia, Bando said there “the international ‘actors’ have come to play a very visible role in combating piracy.” That, she said, “is a reflection of several factors, the most important being that Somalia has not had the capacity to deal with the situation on its own and has asked the United Nations Security Council for help.

“If we are talking about the Gulf of Guinea, it is a very different scenario where certainly international cooperation has a role to play” in prevention, she said, “but it would be hard to envision the same type of international reaction that we would see off the coast of Somalia” because there are governments in the Gulf of Guinea capable of acting, although they may require technical or other support.
Red arrow on map points to Gulf of Guinea area, green arrow to Gulf of Aden/Somalia area.

Somali Pirates: U.S. Navy UAV System Scouting for the Fleet


Scouting for the fleet is job of vital importance for naval forces - knowing what lies ahead and where potential threats lie is vital to safety and operations. With the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) from smaller surface combatants, the "eyes of the fleet" reach further and see more. This scouting ability is being refined off the coast of Somalis, as the USN forces assigned to anti-piracy task force 151 deploy their UAV assets.

For example, here's an interview with a U.S. Navy UAV operator as UAVs join in the pirate fight from here:
The unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) capability aboard USS Mahan (DDG 72) provides the capability to pace emerging threats during its counter-piracy mission and perform missions in a more efficient and effective manner throughout its expected service life.

"Mahan is the first [guided missile] destroyer to deploy with a UAV system fully integrated into the ship's combat systems," said Intelligence Specialist 1st Class Danielle Fournet, one of Mahan's UAV imagery analysts.
***
"The UAV's mission supports the ship's mission as part of CTF 151," said Fournet. "It supports the counter-piracy mission by providing maritime surveillance and cueing on suspicious activity."
***
Watchstanders in the operations center of the ship believe it is evident that equipping the ship with an integrated UAV system makes it a technologically advanced hub of modern warfare on the tip of the spear with significant surveillance and monitoring capabilities.

"The UAV provides invaluable cueing that is used by the operations personnel [and CTF 151 staff] to station associated surface assets," explained Fournet. "It is versatile and very responsive, able to change operating areas and change missions in mid-flight."
For those of us who remember DASH, it makes you wonder where we would be if we had stayed on that path instead of taking a long break between UAVs . . .

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Speaking of Budget Cutting

Rep. Barney Frank (D. Mass.) suggests that a 25% cut in the defense budget might be appropriate to consider in Cut the Military Budget--II:
The math is compelling: if we do not make reductions approximating 25 percent of the military budget starting fairly soon, it will be impossible to continue to fund an adequate level of domestic activity even with a repeal of Bush's tax cuts for the very wealthy.

I am working with a variety of thoughtful analysts to show how we can make very substantial cuts in the military budget without in any way diminishing the security we need. I do not think it will be hard to make it clear to Americans that their well-being is far more endangered by a proposal for substantial reductions in Medicare, Social Security or other important domestic areas than it would be by canceling weapons systems that have no justification from any threat we are likely to face.
(Hat tip: Mudville Gazette.)

This is not a new ploy by Rep. Frank. And, who knows, maybe there are DoD excesses that would allow a 25% cut. But it occurs to me that the Congress ought to be willing to share in the pain of the American people as we weather this economic downturn.

Therefore, I propose a 25% reduction in salaries of members of the U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Senate, all staffs of Senators and Representative and in the budgets for the all offices (in DC and all the local offices they operate) of said Senators and Representatives.

Congressmen currently pull in $174,000 per year. A 25% cut would drop $43,500 x 535 from the budget - a little over $23,000,000 dollars for all of Congress - just from Congressional pay. And would still leave our representatives $130,000 to live on and would keep them in the upper 10% of income levels. In fact, it would take their pay back to 1997 levels - about to where the Dow sits today.

Certainly, while it may not cover the cost of "an adequate level of domestic activity" - whatever that means in plain English- it would set a stirring example of patriotism and sacrifice on the part of our elected officials.

I further suggest, that, effectively immediately, that all travel on government aircraft by the "servants of the people" be billed out at actual cost rather than at airline rates. And that these servants pay regular postage for their mailings to their constituents rather than using a "franking privilege."

And, while they are at it, I suggest that our representatives go on record with any "voluntary" contributions they are making from their personal funds to the Treasury of the United States to help reduce the national debt and the burden on future voters.

Rep. Frank can lead the way.

BBC Reporter Finds Piracy Patrol Frustrating and Boring

BBC reporter spends a few days on a Royal Navy frigate, probably hoping for a big story, but finds things are not all that exciting - as set out here:
The most tangible sign that the Northumberland has made a difference during its three months with the EU anti-piracy taskforce has been its success escorting ships carrying food aid into Somali ports.

It has had rather less joy catching pirates or stepping into prevent attacks. On three occasions, the most latest being the case of the MV Saldanha this weekend, the frigate has arrived just too late.

Whether because they were too far away - or because no alarm was raised - the crew has three times had the frustrating experience of watching a hijacked ship sail off over the horizon.
Five part series, all links available.

UPDATE: (25 Feb 09) - Another reporter on the same ship found it a little more exciting.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Somali Pirates: Anti-Pirate Task Force Routines

Nice report on the daily doings of part of CTF-151, the anti-pirate task force bobbing around in patrolling the Gulf of Aden from Navy Times:
The group’s Seahawks and ScanEagle unmanned aerial vehicles do the bulk of the patrolling and surveillance, Cox said, investigating reports about boats that could be carrying hijackers. Although pirates and fishermen off Somalia use almost identical types of vessels, Cox said his pilots can make educated guesses about a boat based on its contents.

“Mostly it’s the weapons,” he said. “If you see certain types of weapons” — rocket-propelled grenades, for example — “that’s just not what your typical fisherman carries. If you see fishing gear, that’s not what your typical pirate carries. Also, ladders — there’re not too many pirates who use ladders for fishing.”
More on Scan Eagle info here. H-60H info here.

Monday Reading

Fred Fry's Maritime Monday 150 at gCaptain.com - Fred has photos from Ernst Jacob shipping of some big bodies at work. And much more.

African Pirates: South Africa's Navy to Start Escorting Ships

South Africa's Navy will be getting involved with African piracy matters, as set out here:
South Africa's navy could be escorting billions of dollars worth of cargo through treacherous East African waters within weeks as attacks by pirates around the continent continue to escalate.

This was revealed on Friday during a media briefing by the South African National Defence Force's joint operations division in Pretoria.

In scenes reminiscent of convoy escorts during World War 2, the South African Navy could soon be involved in patrolling and escorting hundreds of vessels off the coast of Somalia and the rest of the continent's eastern coastline.

It is believed that South African ships would escort vessels from South Africa's territorial waters into Somali waters where other navies, currently patrolling those seas, would take over the escort duties.

It is believed that South Africa is being requested to escort ships between South Africa and Somalia because of fears that the attacks could move further south.

In June, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution allowing ships from foreign nations that co-operate with the Somali government to enter Somali territorial waters "for the purpose of repressing acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea".
Very interesting, as the loose ends are being tied up - limiting the safe areas for Somali pirates to operate in.

On the map, the arrow points to South Africa, the "x" is off Somalia.

"Sunday" Ship History

It's coming . . . things happen.

Pirates of Malacca: Kidnapped Crew Freed

Reported as Kidnapped Indonesian crewmen freed: piracy centre
Two Indonesian tugboat crewmen kidnapped by pirates in the Strait of Malacca last week were released on Monday, a Singapore-based piracy information centre said.

The two men "were finally released this late afternoon and arrangement (has) been made for them to return to their hometown to be reunited with their families after their traumatic experience," said a press release from the ReCAAP Information Sharing Centre.

It said there were no immediate details on how their release came about. Twelve armed men in a small boat attacked the MLC Nancy 5 last Thursday while it towed a barge about 80 nautical miles west of Penang in Malaysia, the ReCAAP said.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

After I win the lottery . . .

Next time I find a spare $4 million or so in change under the cushions on the couch, or win the lottery, I may be in the market for a Trumpy 63:
Price, completely equipped and ready to cruise: $2,935,000.






Of course, I could be coerced into springing for one of these instead.














Of course, my real budget may allow for something like this:


Someday.

Somali Pirates: Greek Ship Captured by Pirates in Gulf of Aden

Reported in Pirates seize vessel off Somalia:
Pirates in the Gulf of Aden have seized a Greek-owned cargo ship.
***
The pirates had ordered the captain to warn the British warship, the HMS Northumberland, to stay away.

The British vessel is part of an EU task force patrolling the waters off the unstable Horn of Africa to deter pirate attacks.

The warship was around 100km (60 miles) from the Saldanha, reportedly sailing under a Maltese flag, when the cargo ship was hijacked.

The Greek merchant marine ministry confirmed the Saldanha was seized, adding that the ship was manned by a 22-strong crew, Reuters news agency reported.
Ship photo from Shipspotting.com. Photo credited to E. Vroom.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Iran: Iranian Navy goes "international"



Iran has announced its "international navy" here:
Iran has deployed naval ships to the high seas as part of a full-fledged campaign initiated by the highest level of government.

Iranian Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari on Friday indicated that Tehran had overcome the self-imposed barrier of warship deployment in its own territorial waters to establish a powerful naval presence in international waters.

"We have a right to have a naval presence in international waters. Our initiative will work to protect the national interests of the Islamic Republic and will hoist the Iranian flag with pride," explained the navy commander.

Ordered by Leader of the Islamic Revolution and Iran's Commander-in-Chief Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, the newly-launched initiative will ensure that Iranian warships remain stationed in a large area of the Indian Ocean.

Iran in late 2008 opened a naval base in the eastern part of the strategic Hormuz waterway. Military officials then described the base as a protective barrier against enemy infiltration at the main entrance to Iranian waters.

Dubbed as a "defense front", the Jask base was said to be part of plans to make the area "impenetrable" for a non-regional enemy.

Rear Adm. Sayyari said Friday that the Jask naval base plays a major role in the new push into high seas.

"With this presence, we seek to convey the message of peace and friendship of the Iranian nation to the entire world, to help instruction and to pass on our experiences to our young generation," he continued.

According to the official, Iran is working on further strengthening its presence in international waters by improving its naval infrastructure and adding new destroyers to its fleet.

An Iranian warship has already ended a one-month mission in the Indian Ocean as part of the initiative.
On the map above, the arrow points to the Jask area, and the circles indicate other Iranian naval base locations. Google Earth image arrows point to locations of potential interest, as discussed below.

Iran announced the opening of its Jask base in October:
Describing the port of Jask as the main entrance to Iranian waters, Brig. Gen. Moussavi said the new naval base would act as a protective barrier against enemy infiltration.

The Iranian commander added that the country's Armed Forces have set up an 'impenetrable naval barrier' in the eastern parts of the Strait of Hormuz and the Sea of Oman.

Moussavi also stressed the need for the expansion of Iran's military bases, arguing that, "In the past, our military had to brace itself for countering regional enemies. This is while today we are faced with extra-regional threats."
An assessment of Jask's role here:
Jason Alderwick, a naval expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said Jask would offer some important advantages.

"It is in a better position strategically than Bandar Abbas," Alderwick said. "It has access to the Arabian sea, so there is deep water access straight away. It has a commanding position vis-à-vis access to the straights, being forward, to the east for them. The real question is what forces are going to be based there? At this stage it's unclear what the Iranians are going to station there, for example, if they want to re-site their submarines there. That would be significant."

Lee Willett, the head of maritime studies at the Royal United Services Institute, said the mere announcement of a new base could be an end in itself. "The cynic would say that any time Iranians say something about the Gulf the oil prices go up, and they are oil exporters, so they are going to make some money," Willett said.
Upper photo is from the Jask base opening ceremony with "frigate" P224 from here. P224 is a Sina-class missile boat, a reverse engineered French design equipped with Chinese missile (C-801) and radar:
The Sina "frigate" at 350 tons is not a frigate in the commonly used meaning of that word. The "Sina-1" is in service; it is a near duplication of the old La Combattante II's Iran operates; but from the outset with Chinese C-802 missiles, Chinese diesels, and less elaborate EW systems.
Google Earth images of Jask reveal - well- not much. First a view from 50,000 feet, arrows point to places of interest. Image with "A" shows a breakwater with small craft moored along it and at anchor. Image "B" shows airfield with one runway and arrow points to helicopter pad. Image "C" is of some interest as it appears to be a newer breakwater protected port. Image "D" is a facility on a river with lots of small craft about.

Below are some images of Iranian naval vessels including a C-802 launch.





Tamil Tigers: Suicide Planes

Terrorism trendsetters, the Tamil Tigers, claim to have used "kamikaze" aircraft on a mission against the Sri Lankan government, as reported here:
A Tamil Tiger plane on a "suicide mission" has flown into a government building in the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo injuring at least 39 people.

It smashed into Sri Lanka's main tax office, detonating a bomb and causing a massive explosion.

A second plane involved in the mission was shot down by Sri Lanka's air force as it attempted to get away.

The country's only international airport was shut down and flights diverted to neighbouring India, military officials said.

Airforce spokesman Janaka Nanayakkara said gunners had brought down one of the light aircraft near the international airport.

Residents in Colombo said they heard blasts shortly after the electricity supply was cut off, plunging the capital and its half-a-million residents into darkness.

Anti-aircraft guns began firing into the night sky from several locations across the city.

Military officials say they tracked two aircraft which they believed to be those of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

Those planes operate out of a narrow strip of land still under their control in the north-east of the island.
The propaganda arm of the LTTE claims the attacks were on the Sri Lankan Airforce HQ and an airbase.

More info here:
The military has recovered the wreckage of the aircraft and a body of the LTTE pilot from Katunayake area. The military, quoting initial investigation, said in a statement that that the pilot, whose body was found intact, had a large quantity of explosives and bombs inside the aircraft.

"The dead Tiger pilot was carrying two cyanide capsules and a powerful bomb with his seat," the statement said.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Friday Reading

CDR Salamander: Vulcan 607

A liberal senator wants a "plan" for Somalia. You know where that leads.

Steeljaw offers up an early warning on missile proliferation International Conventions just in time to help out the Secretary of State.

Lex has a few thoughts on Attorney General of the United States Eric Holder's "nation of cowards" comment. As does this gentleman. And this guy. And this guy offers up a helpful hint on how not to get a conversation going: "Calling everyone a coward isn’t a good place to start."

Senator Leahy, who is pictured nearby, is back with his quest for "truth commissions", couching the idea in "healing" terms:
During the past several years, the U.S. has been deeply divided. This has made our government less productive and our society less civil. President Obama is right in saying that we cannot afford extreme partisanship and debilitating divisions. As we commemorate the Lincoln bicentennial, there is a need, again, "to bind up the nation's wounds." Rather than vengeance, we need an impartial pursuit of what actually happened and a shared understanding of the failures of the recent past.
I have previously made my feelings known on this sort of idiocy and I stand by them. What a smarmy sack of ..., you are, Senator.

Speaking of idiots, useful or otherwise, here's a nice shot at the U.S. State Department, which, after all, represents the U.S. and the hopes for meaningful democracy to the world.

Perhaps I just don't trust the powers in Washington, but since the President said he is opposed to reinstating the "fairness doctrine," I have been wondering if he was just setting up Congress to do the job for him. Betsy Newmark has a post on that very topic. Rush Limbaugh is involved.

Sir Lanka: Tamil Tiger Underwater Gear Found

The government of Sri Lanka has been engaged in a major push against the Tamil Tiger rebels. As part of that offensive, government forces have located some Tiger underwater gear, as reported here:
Troops have recovered LTTE marine equipment including 20 diving kits and 3 underwater scooters. They were found by the 58th division commanded by brigadier Shavendra Silva in the area of Ampalavan and Pokkanai to the north of Puthukudiyiruppu. This is the first recovery made by the soldiers of LTTE marine equipment. Security forces believe that these equipment were to be used either for LTTE leaders to escape or for the use of suicide attacks.
Tamil Tiger suicide attack have been a model for other radical groups, including their use of suicide bomb belts. The "Sea Tiger" maritime portion of the group has engaged the Sri Lankan Navy in pitched sea battles and bombed ships in harbors. The equipment captured would support covert insertion of underwater attack units.

More here from the Sri Lankan Ministry of Defense:
Infantrymen of 58 Division further advanced into LTTE hiding area entering Ampalavanpokkanai town perimeter have found underwater scooter, diving kits, oxygen cylinders and many other diving equipments from west of Puthukudiyirippu area yesterday, 19 February.


Nearly 5 hours long fighting between troops of 6 Gemunu Watch (6GW) and terrorists ensued in the area before troops captured these items, defence sources in battlefront said.

Two underwater scooters, Oxygen cylinders in various capacities, modern diving kits, sniper weapon and many other diving equipments were among the items uncovered.
Pictures are from that site and appear to me to show rebreathing diving gear and one man sea scooters. Not fancy, but capable.

Conviction in fake pirate "Joe Cool" murder trial


It's been a couple of years since charges were brought in the Joe Cool case. You might remember it as the case in which a couple of guys were found floating in a life raft with the crew of their chartered fishing boat missing (see here). The guys in the raft alleged pirates had done them and the crew harm.

Now there's been a murder conviction in the case:
After asking the judge to clarify the law on first-degree murder, federal jurors on Thursday convicted a former Hialeah security guard of killing four crew members aboard the Miami Beach charter boat, the Joe Cool.
***
Before the first trial, Zarabozo's partner, Kirby Archer, a fugitive from Arkansas, pleaded guilty to the four murders and one conspiracy count. He was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Archer, 36, and Zarabozo chartered the Joe Cool on Sept. 22, 2007, paying $4,000 in cash for a one-way trip to Bimini. Prosecutors say both men used the Bimini trip as a ''pretext'' to hijack the vessel to Cuba, sparking the fatal shootings at sea.

Strait of Malacca Pirates: 2 sailors kidnapped

In recent years, the Strait of Malacca has shown a large decrease in reported piracy, but there is still danger out there, as reported here:
'A Singapore-managed tug and barge was attacked in the Malacca Strait on February 19 in the afternoon,' a maritime source familiar with the incident told AFP.

'About 12 pirates armed with guns attacked the tug and barge and kidnapped two crew members as the vessel was en route to Singapore,' he said, adding that the rest of the crew and the boat were not seized.

The nationality of the sailors was not known, and neither was it known whether negotiations to secure the release of the pair have begun.
Kidnapping of crew members for ransom is a frequent form of piracy in the Strait of Malacca.

UPDATE: There are predictions that piracy will be on the rise in the Strait of Malacca. See here which point to the down turn in the economy as a factor. In January 2009, a ReCAAP report suggested that pirates may be shifting their operations to less well patrolled areas, especially off the southeast coast of Jahor and Tioman Island. See here.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Latest ONI Worldwide Threats to Shipping (to 19 Feb 09)

The latest ONI Worldwide Threats to Shipping (to 19 Feb 09) is available here. Highlights:
6.  ONI SPECIAL ADVISORY:  A suspicious skiff was reported in location 13:52N –
050:12E at 0636 UTC on 27 Jan 09, approximately 75 NM southeast of Al Mukalla, Yemen. The
suspicious skiff was described as a blue hull speed boat, 10 meters in length with five to six
people onboard, heading 358 degrees with a speed of 14 knots. The sighting was reported to a
naval warship in the area, which proceeded to investigate the skiff. The warship reported having
seized five pirates and their ammunition and weapons. Another speed boat was also sighted in
the area. ONI Comment: Somali pirates have recently released multiple vessels after receiving
ransom payments. Past reporting suggests efforts to hijack additional vessels increase as
previously hijacked vessels are released. Past reporting also suggests efforts to hijack vessels
increase as wind speeds decrease. Over the next 48 hours, wave heights are only expected to
reach 1 ft., with wind speeds averaging 10 kts, which is very condusive to piracy operations.
Pirates appear to be most active and successful when average wind speeds are between 0 to 10
knots. Activity is also reported when winds are between 10 to 15 knots but pirates appear to be
less successful under these conditions. Little to no incidents are reported when winds average
between 15 to 20+ knots. This time of year, when prevailing monsoon winds are out of the
Northeast, wind speeds are lower and more conducive to piracy operations closer to the Yemeni
coast and less favorable in the central Gulf of Aden.
***
1. NIGERIA: Tanker fired upon 10 Feb 09 at 1905 local time while underway in position
03:59N – 005:47E, southeast of Pennington terminal. Ten heavily armed pirates in a speed boat
approached and attempted to stop a tanker underway. The pirates opened fire at the vessel. The
alarm was raised and crew alerted. The master took evasive maneuvers and prevented boarding.
The pirates continued firing at the vessel and attempted to board but failed due to effective
preventive measures. Later, the pirates aborted their attempt (IMB).
.
2. NIGERIA: Tanker attacked, robbed 14 Feb 09 at 2130 UTC while at Lagos anchorage.
Around 12 to 14 robbers wearing masks and armed with AK-47s boarded the vessel at anchor.
They took a crewmember hostage and forced him to guide them to the bridge. They opened fire
and destroyed the ship’s communication system and then stole ship’s stores and personal
belongings before departing after 30 to 40 minutes. No crewmembers were injured (IMB).
.
3. NIGERIA: Vessel attacked, captain killed 5 Feb 09 at 0200 UTC while operating in an
oilfield off the coast of southern Nigeria’s Akwa Ibom state. Two private security groups
working in the sector said a gang in two boats attacked the vessel. The captain of the vessel was
killed and one other crewmember was injured, according to sources (AP, Reuters).
.
4. NIGERIA: Tanker (MEREDITH) attacked 21 Jan 09, early morning while underway in
the Bonny Fairway Buoy in the Niger Delta. Heavily armed assailants riding in four speedboats
hit the tanker with dynamite at around dawn as it was in transit to Port Harcourt with
approximately 4,000 tons of diesel fuel. A Romanian crewmember was taken hostage but later
released according to Nigerian military officials. An official said the unidentified gunmen
inflicted “massive” damage on the tanker’s engine and superstructure. The militant group MEND
later claimed its affiliates had carried out the attack (UPI, Reuters, AP).
.
5. CAMEROON: Fishing vessels attacked, skipper killed 24 Jan 09 while operating just off
the port of Douala near Kribi. According to reports some 30 armed men used three small craft to
board and seize a fishing vessel. They attempted to take it into international waters but a second
fishing vessel gave chase. The skipper of the second vessel was shot dead. The gang then robbed
the crews of both ships and abandoned them, escaping from the scene in their small craft. The
Cameroonian navy is reported to have rescued the 40 surviving fishing vessels crew members
(Maritime Global Net).
***
1. RUSSIA: Vessel (NEW STAR) fired upon 14 Feb 09 while underway off the coast of
Vladivostok. The Chinese cargo vessel was being detained at the Russian port of Nakhodka after
being suspected of smuggling. The vessel left the port without permission, and after failing to
stop after warnings were given, a Russian warship fired on the vessel, eventually sinking it.
Three Chinese sailors were rescued, while seven others were still missing (Reuters, AP).
***
UPDATE: The BBC reports that piracy is "spreading" to West Africa. As readers of this blog know, piracy has been an issue off Nigeria and other West African countries (mostly in the Gulf of Guinea) for some time. Much of it is of the minor board and steal type with a few exceptional kidnapping ransom cases by paramilitary guerrilla forces. It is not new and has been a focus of U.S. Africa Station efforts.

UPDATE2: More on that Russian Coast Guard sinking of an alleged "Chinese" smuggling ship. As noted here, these matters get confusing:
A Russian news agency said Russian Coast Guard vessels had opened fire after the cargo ship ignored warnings to return to port. Russian officials say five Indonesian and three Chinese sailors drowned after their Sierra Leone-flagged ship began to sink in heavy weather.
Gotta love those flags of convenience.

ICC Live Piracy Report

The International Chamber of Commerce Commercial Crime Serices Weekly Piracy Report has been replaced with the ICC CCS Live Piracy Report which carries reports of piracy for a 10 day period. You can view the Live Piracy Report here.

Some highlights:
12.02.2009: 1430 UTC: Posn: 13:09N - 049:09E, Gulf of Aden. Five pirates armed with RPGs in a black/white coloured speed boat approached and fired upon a bulk carrier underway. They attempted to board the ship from the port side using a steel ladder. Master raised alarm, sent distress messages and took evasive manoeuvres. The coalition forces sent a helicopter to the location. After 10 minutes, pirates aborted their attack.

12.02.2009: 0001 UTC: Posn: 12:44N – 047:46.2E, Gulf of Aden. Five pirates in a boat fired upon and chased a tanker underway. The boat came as close as 10 meters from the ship. The master increased speed; raised alarm carried out evasive maneuvers and contacted UKMTO Dubai. A coalition warship contacted the tanker and proceeded towards the ship. The pirates aborted the attempt after around 40 minutes.

11.02.2009: 0630 UTC: Posn: 10:39N - 055:54E, off Socotra islands, Somalia. Five pirates armed with RPG and assault guns in a light blue coloured boat approached and attempted to board a bulk carrier underway. They fired towards the accommodation. The Master increased speed, took evasive manoeuvres and crew activated fire hoses. Pirates aborted the attempt. A Russian warship has been in contact with the ship.

11.02.2009: 1130 UTC: Posn: 12:59N - 048:16E: Gulf of Aden.A skiff with seven persons armed with guns approached a vessel underway. The pirates attempted to board but due to evasive manoeuvres taken by the vessel, they failed to board. Warships and helicopters were contacted and investigated the incident.
This new and improved version features a Google map for each incident.

Egypt's Ultra Secret Anti-Pirate Weapon

Ah, nothing like a Weekly World News story. This time its not space aliens mating with Big Foot, but rather details on a secret weapon allegedly employed by the Egyptians (who are probably wondering how WWN broke the news before Senator Feinstein) all as set out in "Whales Take Down Somali Pirates":
Somali privateers operating in the Indian Ocean have been robbing trade ships in the region and taking hostages, sometimes with political overtones. Egypt has responded with an elite fighting force of ramming whales trained to neutralize the vessels through headlong collisions.

So far, the unit of whales—code-named Moby Hit—has successfully engaged Somali pirate ships on at least four occasions, although some information surrounding their operations remains classified. But it seems clear enough that the whales are unstoppable commandos of the deep.

“They’re not human!” wailed a captured Somali pirate, after an engagement that left his ship a wreck and his crew prisoners. “I mean, I know they’re not human, but like…I mean it in the superlative sense, like they’re not bound by human limitations.”

“It’s an expression,” the man intoned dully as he was led away by Egyptian authorities.

The whale trainers, a best-and-brightest team culled from marine parks all over the world, are as rigorous in their standards as they are unwavering in their pride.
Photo shows a killer whale practicing its pirate nabbing technique on some sealions.

Really, what we need is the Russian Weather Machine.

Marine Landings on Iwo Jima began this date 1945


Today is the 64th anniversary of the U.S. Marines landing on Iwo Jima kicking off a battle that has become legend:
More than 450 ships massed off Iwo as the H-hour bombardment pounded the island. Shortly after 9 a.m., Marines of the 4th and 5th divisions hit beaches Green, Red, Yellow and Blue abreast, initially finding little enemy resistance. Coarse volcanic sand hampered the movement of men and machines as they struggled to move up the beach. As the protective naval gunfire subsided to allow for the Marine advance, the Japanese emerged from their fortified underground positions to begin a heavy barrage of fire against the invading force.

The 4th Marine Division pushed forward against heavy opposition to take the Quarry, a Japanese strong point. The 5th Marine Division's 28th Marines had the mission of isolating Mount Suribachi. Both tasks were accomplished that day.
As part of the prep for the landing, small gunboats, LCI(G)s, took part in the bombardment of the island and paid a price:
Many more dead and wounded would follow. Honor the fallen.

UPDATE: Changed the post title to more accurately reflect the content.