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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Somali Pirates: Late May Activity

MV Orna
Somali pirates have been somewhat inactive due to sea conditions. See NATO summary here:
The current situation is generally quiet throughout the AOR as the weather is not conducive for pirate operations.

The MV ORNA is underway and last located in the vicinity of 12 17N 062 43E At 302136ZMAY11. She appears to be operating as a Mothership.

A Dhow PAG is probably active in Northern Arabian sea.

In South Red Sea and in the vicinity of Bab al Mandeb Strait a Dhow PAG is probably active based on several attacks in that area.
As set out in part of this NATO Shipping Centre SOMALIA PIRACY UPDATE 31st MAY 2011, much of the activity that has occurred has involved the movement of a suspected pirate mothership, the captured ship MV Orna:
MAY 31,2011
Latitude: 12 58N Longitude: 062 58E
Alert Number 191 / 2011
--- UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE ---
At 1316 UTC / 31 MAY / a previously hijacked ship MV ORNA was reported in position 12 58N 062 58E course 282 / 6.2 kts.
It is likely that this vessel is conduction mothership operations.
___________________________________________
MAY 31, 2011
LATITUDE 13 32N LONGITUDE 042 41E
Alert number 193 / 2011
--- UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE ---
At 0403 UTC / 31 MAY / a merchant vessel was reported under attack by 1 skiff in position 13 32 N 042 41 E.
6 POB in skiff, weapons and ladder reported.
***This vessel managed to evade hijack***
The Pirate action group is still in the area.
________________________________________________
MAY 29,2011
Latitude: 14 44N Longitude: 042 06E
Alert 192 / 2011
At 1157 UTC / 29 May a Merchant Vessel was attacked by two skiffs with six persons on board at position 14 44N 042 06E. Small arms have been fired.
*** vessel managed to evade hijack ***
_______________________________________
MAY 29,2011
Alert Number 191 / 2011
--- UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE ---
At 2252 UTC / 28 May / Hijacked vessel MV ORNA was reported in position 09 32N 058 07E. Course 076 / 8.2 kts
It is likely the ship is being used as a pirate mothership
______________________________________
MAY 28, 2011
Alert Number 191 / 2011
---UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE---
At 0150UTC / 28 MAY / a previously hijacked ship MV ORNA was reported in position 07 57N 055 16E Course 068 / 7.5 kts
It is likely that this ship is being used as a pirate mother ship.
________________________________________
MAY 27, 2011
Latitude 07 09N Latitude 053 20E
Alert Number 191 / 2011
---UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE---
At 0830 UTC / 27 MAY / a previously hijacked ship was reported in position 07 09N 053 20E Coure 078 / 7.5 kts
It is likely that this ship is being used as a pirate mother ship.
________________________________________
MAY 26, 2011
Latitude 06 09N, Longitude 050 33E
Alert Number 191 / 2011
---ALERT ALERT ALERT---
At 0908 UTC / 26 MAY / a previously hijacked ship MV ORNA was reported in position 06 09N 050 33E Course 072 / 7kts
It is likely now that ship is being used as a pirate mother vessel.
The "Orna Track":

Track of MV Orna (click to enlarge)

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day

Today we honor and remember those who died in the the service of their country.

Remembered at places like this:


Take a moment and thank them.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Western "Weather Machines" "Stealing" Iranian Rain- Says Wacky Ahmadinejad

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says Europe "stealing Iran's rain":
"Western countries have designed plans to cause drought in certain areas of the world, including Iran," Mr Ahmadinejad said in the city of Arak in Markazi province.

"Stolen Rain"
"According to reports on climate, whose accuracy has been verified, European countries are using special equipment to force clouds to dump" their water on their continent, he said.

By doing so, "they prevent rain clouds from reaching regional countries, including Iran," Mr Ahmadinejad charged.


Next, Mr. Ahmadinejad, we'll be exporting tornadoes to plague you personally. We have plenty to share.

 For another example of crazy theories of weather modification see here.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Fearless Navy Bloggers Take to the Air: Episode 72 Lawfare and the Long War 05/22 on Midrats

Modern warfare and counter-terrorism bump up against international law and the "law of war" on a moment to moment basis - and that's the subject of this week's Midrats show - Episode 72 Lawfare the Long War 05/22 by Midrats on Blog Talk Radio:
Never in our history have we fought a war where law, lawyers, and layers of legalese have impacted all levels of the war, Political, Strategic, Operational, and Tactical.

Why do we find ourselves here and in what direction are we going?

From Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and even domestically, the legal definition of the use of military power is evolving.

To discuss the impact of Lawfare for the full hour with Sal from the blog "CDR Salamander" and EagleOne from "EagleSpeak" will be David Glazier, CDR USN (Ret.).

David is a Professor of Law at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. Prior to Loyola, he was a lecturer at the University of Virginia School of Law and a research fellow at the Center for National Security Law, where he conducted research on national security, military justice and the law of war. He also served as a pro bono consultant to Human Rights First.

Before attending law school, Glazier served twenty-one years as a US Navy surface warfare officer. In that capacity, he commanded the USS George Philip (FFG-12), served as the Seventh Fleet staff officer responsible for the US Navy-Japan relationship, the Pacific Fleet officer responsible for the US Navy-PRC relationship, and participated in UN sanctions enforcement against Yugoslavia and Haiti.

Glazier has a JD from the University of Virginia School of Law, an MA from Georgetown University in government/national security studies, and holds a BA in history from Amherst College.
So, with experience ranging from warrior to law of war scholar, Professor Glazier has some interesting (and sometimes unexpected) views on the matters described above.

Join us this Sunday at 5pm Eastern as we delve into the world of "lawfare." I promise that the name of Hugo Grotius will be invoked somewhere along the way.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Somali Pirates: Armed Guards on Maersk Alabama Scare Away Pirates

Reported here:
The Maersk Alabama, escaped another pirate attack last weekend in the Gulf of Aden.

The famous victim of a 2009 attack, in which its captain was held hostage for three days on a lifeboat until U.S. Navy snipers killed the kidnappers, escaped the recent attack with the help of an armed security team, according to a Danish media report and two industry sources with deep ties to various sectors of the maritime industry.

Five pirates in a speedboat rapidly approached the small container vessel on Saturday night and fled when private security guards onboard the vessel fired warning shots in the air, the Danish newspaper Borsen reported on its Web site.

The vessel is owned and operated by Maersk Line Ltd., the U.S. subsidiary of Denmark’s Maersk Line, the world’s largest container shipping company.

The attack occurred in the international transit corridor patrolled by international naval forces in the Gulf of Aden, according to the sources, who asked not to be named because of the sensitive nature of their business relationships with Maersk. The vessel was on its way from Salaleh, Oman, to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Both sources stressed the Maersk Alabama never was in any danger and was never fired upon.

Such probes, to test the ability of merchant ships to defend themselves or take evasive action, are relatively common in the Gulf of Aden, but the Maersk Alabama attracts more attention when it encounters pirates because of its history.
The use of shipboard armed security teams is deterring some pirate attacks.

Take a look at these reports involving the Indian Ocean area from 6 May to 16 May 2011, (from the Anti-Shipping Activity Messages found here):
Date of Occurrence: 05/16/2011 Reference Number: 2011-247
Geographical Subregion: 62 Geographical Location: 24° 11' 00" N 61° 11' 00" E
Aggressor: PIRATES Victim: MERCHANT VESSEL
Description: AROUND 81 MILES SOUTHEAST OF CHAHBAHAR, IRAN: A merchant vessel reported coming under attack at 1036Z on 16 May in position 24-11N 061-11E in the Gulf of Aden. Vessels are advised to keep 100 miles clear of this position and to exercise extreme caution.

Date of Occurrence: 05/15/2011 Reference Number: 2011-246
Geographical Subregion: 62 Geographical Location: 14° 09' 00" N 55° 25' 00" E
Aggressor: PIRATES Victim: MERCHANT VESSEL
Description: AROUND 171 MILES NORTHEAST OF SOCOTRA ISLAND, YEMEN: A merchant vessel reported coming under fire at 1639Z on 15 May in position 14-09N 055-25E. Vessels are advised to keep 100 miles clear of this position and to exercise extreme caution.

Date of Occurrence: 05/14/2011 Reference Number: 2011-244
Geographical Subregion: 62 Geographical Location: 13° 54' 42" N 57° 56' 12" E
Aggressor: PIRATES Victim: CARGO SHIP
Description: AROUND 220 MILES OFF SOCOTRA ISLAND, YEMEN: A general cargo ship underway spotted a mother vessel launch a skiff which approached the ship at 25 knots. Duty officer raised alarm, increased speed, altered course SSAS activated, security team onboard alerted and crew went to the citadel. The security team fired rocket flares when the skiff was at a distance of 1.5 miles but the skiff continued to approach the ship. When the skiff closed to 600 meters, the security team fired warnig shots the skiff continued its approach and the next warning shots were fired when the skiffs were at a distance of 400 meters from the vessel. This resulted in the pirates aborting the attempted attack and moving towards their mother vessel.

Date of Occurrence: 05/14/2011 Reference Number: 2011-242
Geographical Subregion: 62 Geographical Location: 19° 13' 00" N
60° 19' 00" E
Aggressor: PIRATES Victim: CHEMICAL TANKER
Description: AROUND 190 MILES OFF RAS AL HAD, OMAN: Pirates in a dhow and a skiff chased a chemical tanker underway. Master raised alarm, icreased speed and took evasive maneuvers resulting in the pirates aborting the attempted attack. There were 4-5 pirates in the skiff with ladders sighted.

Date of Occurrence: 05/14/2011 Reference Number: 2011-243
Geographical Subregion: 63 Geographical Location: 8° 32' 00" N
67° 53' 00" E
Aggressor: PIRATES Victim: TANKER
Description: AROUND 304 MILES WEST OF MINICOY ISLAND, INDIA: About five pirates in a skiff chased and fired upon a LPG tanker underway. Ship raised alarm, increased speed and took evasvie maneuvers resulting in the pirates aborting the attempted attack.

Date of Occurrence: 05/13/2011 Reference Number: 2011-245
Geographical Subregion: 62 Geographical Location: 13° 10' 42" N
48° 37' 00" E
Aggressor: PIRATES Victim: CONTAINER SHIP
Description: GULF OF ADEN: A small fast contact was noticed on radar approaching a container ship underway at 4 miles. Duty officer monitored the contact and at a distance of 1.6 miles it was observed as a skiff and alarm was raised. When the skiff approached at a distance of 50 meters the bridge team noticed 4-5 pirates onboard with a hook ladder. The onboard security team fired two shots in to the skiff when the skiff closed to 30 meters resulting in the pirates aborting the attempted attack.

Date of Occurrence: 05/11/2011 Reference Number: 2011-236
Geographical Subregion: 62 Geographical Location: 18° 42' 00" N
59° 32' 00" E
Aggressor: PIRATES Victim: PRODUCT TANKER
Description: AROUND 220 MILES SOUTH OF RAS AL HAD, OMAN: Pirates in a skiff armed with rpg and guns chased and fired upon a product tanker underway. Master raised alarm, took evasive maneuvers and instructed crew to proceed into citadel. Armed security team took measures to deter boarding of pirates resulting in the pirates aborting the attck. Crew and ship are safe.

Date of Occurrence: 05/10/2011 Reference Number: 2011-237
Geographical Subregion: 62 Geographical Location: 25° 17' 48" N
58° 06' 48" E
Aggressor: PIRATES Victim: CONTAINER SHIP
Description: GULF OF OMAN: Two skiffs approached a container ship. The vessel altered course, increased speed raised alarm, crew went to citadel. There were four pirates in each boat. Long rods attached with hooks and ladders were noticed on the skiffs. The skiffs followed the vessel at a distance of 1-3 cables astern. Later the skiffs aborted the attempt and moved away.

Date of Occurrence: 05/10/2011 Reference Number: 2011-239
Geographical Subregion: 62 Geographical Location: 17° 34' 00" N 58° 00' 00" E
Aggressor: PIRATES Victim: BULK CARRIER
Description: AROUND 235 MILES EAST OF SALALAH, OMAN: Pirates in two skiffs armed with rpgs and guns chased and fired upon a bulk carrier underway. Master raised alarm, SSAS activated increased speed, took evasive maneuvers and contacted warships for assistance. Due to the aggresive maneuvers, the pirates aborted the attempted attack. The ship and crew members are safe.

Date of Occurrence: 05/08/2011 Reference Number: 2011-232
Geographical Subregion: 63 Geographical Location: 12° 09' 00" N 59° 20' 18" E
Aggressor: PIRATES Victim: BULK CARRIER
Description: AROUND 280 MILES EAST OF SOCOTRA ISLAND, YEMEN: Two skiffs with firve pirates in each armed with rpg and automatic weapons chased and fired upon a bulk carrier underway. Ship sent distress message, raised alarm, increased speed and made evasive maneuvers. Bulk carrier also deployed the security team onboard and contacted authorities for help. A military aircraft was deployed. Onboard armed security team fired warning shots resulting in the pirates aborting the attack.

***

Date of Occurrence: 05/06/2011 Reference Number: 2011-234
Geographical Subregion: 62 Geographical Location: 16° 14' 00" N 55° 47' 00" E
Aggressor: PIRATES Victim: PRODUCT TANKER
Description: SALALAH, OMAN: Armed pirates in a skiff chased and fired upon a product tanker underway. The tanker took evasive maneuvers and contacted the coalition naval forces. The naval vessels in the area responded to the distress call and the pirates aborted the attack. Vessel and crew are safe.
Ten days, 4 thwarted attacks due to armed security teams.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

India: Growing a Navy - Adding 101 Ships Over Next 20 Years

Reported at Worldmaritime News - India Expects to Invest Nearly USD 50 Billion for 101 New Warships:
India is expected to invest nearly $50 billion to strengthen its naval forces over the next 20 years, adding 101 new warships, ranging from destroyers to nuclear submarines, the Indian Express reported.

“Going by the investment value, India is expected to build sophisticated destroyers, new generation and new radar vessels, nuclear submarines, and amphibious ships,” the paper quoted US naval analyst Bob Nugent as saying.

Nugent said China would likely spend $24 billion to build 113 war vessels, focusing on aircraft carriers, over the same period.
INS Mysore (D60)
Let me recommend Robert Kaplan's book, Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power to you. Here's a quote from a interview with Mr. Kaplan by Tom Ricks:
The surprise of this book is that future wars and conflicts may be vastly different than the ones of the moment. Instead of fighting neighborhood by neighborhood in Baghdad or Kandahar, we may in the future have to influence vast spaces on the map through naval maneuvers.
All of which makes the point that India sits on some major sea lines of communication on which flows a substantial amount of the world's energy and commercial shipping.

As a rapidly developing nation, India has a vital interest in protecting its sea lanes and is apparently making a serious commitment to protecting them.

Somali Pirates: USS Bulkeley and Its Helicopter Protects Large Tanker, Pirates Unsuccessful in Dodging Bullets

Reported as USS BULKELEY PROTECTS MV ARTEMIS GLORY FROM PIRATE ATTACK:
USS Bulkeley (DDG-84)
At 1035 a.m. (local) May 16, MV Artemis Glory came under attack from pirates.

The German owned, Panama flagged very large crude carrier (VLCC) was on route from Juaymah Terminal in Saudi Arabia to China with a cargo of crude oil. The motor vessel came under attack whilst sailing south east through the Gulf of Oman.

Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) Diligence (A132) received a mayday call from the MV Artemis Glory, saying that their ship was under attack by pirates.

MV Artemis Glory
RFA Diligence relayed the mayday message to Combined Maritime Forces. UKMTO confirmed in a conversation with the Master of the MV Artemis Glory that she was being pursued by a skiff with four individuals on board who were firing small arms at the vessel.

USS Bulkeley, (DDG 84) operating with Combined Maritime Forces, responded to the mayday and launched her helicopter, an SH-60B from “Vipers” helicopter squadron, light (HSL) 48, detachment four to investigate the mayday call.

SH-60B (U.S. Navy photo)
The helicopter observed the MV Artemis Glory under attack by four individuals in a skiff, who were firing upon the Artemis Glory with small arms.

Under the principle of ‘extended unit self defence’ and in order to provide protection to the crew of the MV Artemis Glory, Bulkeley’s helicopter engaged the pirates. All of the pirates are believed to have been killed.

MV Artemis Glory has 23 crew persons onboard. No crew members were injured in the attack.
MV Artemis Glory photo by Ivan Meshkov from Shipspotting.com and used in accord with terms of that site.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Libya: Mine Warfare and Vessel Borne Improvised Explosive Devices

Like a cornered animal, the forces loyal to Khadafy have tried a number of tricks to slow the import of assistance to Libyan rebel groups. These have included the sowing of mines as set out in this NATO Shipping Centre NAVWARNS:
CHART BA 3402
1. NATO AND COALITION SHIPS DETECTED THE LAYING OF MINES IN
VICINITY OF MISURATA HARBOUR ON 29 APRIL 11. THREE MINES WERE
IDENTIFIED.
2. MINE COUNTERMEASURE OPERATIONS HAVE REDUCED THE THREAT TO SHIPPING.
3. MARINERS ARE THEREFORE ADVISED TO ADOPT SIMPLE PRECAUTIONS WHEN
ENTERING AND LEAVING MISURATA HARBOUR SUCH AS:
- ADDITIONAL LOOKOUTS FROM THE FORECASTLE,
- REDUCED SPEED IN SHALLOW WATERS.
4. THE PORT OF MISURATA IS UNDER THE CONTROL OF THE PORT AUTHORITY
WHO WILL ADVISE SHIPS ENTERING AND LEAVING ON THE SECURITY SITUATION
IN THE PORT. NATO DOES NOT CONTROL THE PORT.
You will note that mine countermeasures were employed, as set out here:
Mine destroyed by HMS Brocklesby (Royal Navy Photo)
HMS Brocklesby, one of the Royal Navy’s Mine Counter-Measures Vessels, has destroyed a mine laid by pro-Qadhafi forces in the port of Mistrata on the Libyan coast.

Forces loyal to Colonel Qadhafi have made repeated attempts to close down the port to limit the flow of humanitarian assistance to the population of Misrata.

Using her sonar and Under Water Mine Disposal System, Seafox, HMS Brocklesby successfully located and destroyed a buoyant mine just one mile from the entrance to the harbour.

The mine, containing more than 100 kilograms of high explosives, had been crudely placed by pro-Qadhafi forces using an inflatable dinghy to transport it to sea.
Another ploy by Khadfy loyalists has been the use of Rigid Hulled Inflatable Boats (RHIBs) stuffed with explosives and "crewed" by mannikins. This "Vessel Borne Improvised Explosive Device" (VBIED) threat, too, has thus far been defeated. See NATO Maritime assets thwart another attack on Misrata by pro-Qadhafi forces:



NATO photo of explosive laden RHIB
In the early hours of 16 May, maritime forces engaged in the NATO-led Operation Unified Protector detected two rigid-hull inflatable boats (RHIBs) that appeared to have deployed from the vicinity of Zlintan and were headed towards Misrata. NATO forces reacted by sending warships and helicopters to investigate and identify the RHIBs.


NATO Photo of approx 1 metric tonne of explosives on Rhib
NATO Photo of Semtex on RHIB

As NATO forces made their approach, one RHIB stopped in the water as the second escaped at high speed to the West, towards Zlintan.

An explosive ordnance disposal team from an allied warship was deployed to inspect the abandoned RHIB and discovered a large quantity of explosives (approximately one tonne) and two human mannequins. In view of the obvious threat posed by the explosives, the decision was made to destroy the RHIB at sea. This was carried out by the allied warship using small arms fire.

NATO Photo of RHIB being destroyed by naval gunfire
This incident bore similarities with a recent incident, where pro-Qadhafi forces laid sea-mines in the approaches to the port of Misrata. However this is the first evidence of an attempt to use an improvised explosive device with decoy human mannequins to threaten commercial shipping and humanitarian aid in the area of Misrata.

This is also the third incident in recent weeks where pro-Qadhafi forces have been active on the seas, a change in their operations that signifies their continued intent to bring harm to civilians or to attack NATO vessels.
NATO photos from here.
UPDATE: NATO video brief from 17 May 11. Discussion of RHIBs begins about 6:15 mark:

Monday, May 16, 2011

Somali Piracy Warnings: 16 May 11

NATO Shipping Center warnings from here:
MAY 16, 2011
LATITUDE 07 17N LONGITUDE 053 26E
Alert Number 175 (update) / 2011
---WARNING WARNING WARNING---
At 1310 UTC / 16 MAY / a previously hijacked ship MV EAGLE was reported in position 07 17 N 053 26 E course 260 / 7 kts.
It is likely now that the ship is being used as a pirate mother vessel.
____________________________________________
MAY 16, 2011
LATITUDE 24 11N LONGITUDE 061 11E
Alert Number 183 / 2011
At 1036 UTC / A merchant ship was reported under attack by a single skiff at posn 24 11N, 061 11E, small arms have been fired at the vessel.
________________________________________
MAY 15, 2011
Latitude 14 09N Longitude 055 25E
Alert Number 182 / 2011
---WARNING WARNING WARNING---
At 1639 UTC / 15 MAY / A merchant vessel was reported under attack by pirates. The vessel was fired upon by small arms.
This vessel manged to evade hijack. The Pirate Action Group is still in the area.
_______________________________________
MAY 15, 2011
Latitude 14 13N Longitude 058 19E
Alert Number 181 / 2011
---WARNING WARNING WARNING---
At 1112 UTC / 15 MAY / A Pirate Action Group consisting of a dhow towing a skiff was reported in at the above position, crs210, 5.0 kts.
I added red arrows to the NATO Shipping Centre May incident map to point to the most recent alerts (175 revised, 183, 182, 181).

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Somali Pirates: Danes Rescue Hostages, Kill and Capture Pirates

Esbern Snare
Reported as "ESBERN SNARE has been in a firefight with a pirate mother ship":
During patrols along the Somali coast on Thursday 12 May the morning approached ESBERN SNARE himself a pirate mother ship. Since ESBERN SNARE tried to stop the mother ship with Cry, was the pirate mother ship opened fire on ESBERN SNARE who immediately returned fire.

Shortly after the exchange of fire was from the pirate mother ship tossed more weapons overboard and were showing signs of surrender.

ESBERN SNARE subsequently took control of the pirate mother ship.

"Pirate mother ship after the surrender."- Royal Danish Navy Photo

44 people on the pirate mother ship
On board the pirate mother ship, there were 16 Iranian hostages and 28 presumed pirates. Were also found several weapons and other pirate-related equipment.

Following the gunfight, four suspected pirates killed. In addition, 10 others wounded, while 14 remained unharmed. All ten wounded pirates treated on board ESBERN SNARE.

They killed four suspected pirates have been buried at sea according to NATO procedures and taking account of Muslim traditions.

Hostages freed
The 16 Iranian hostages will be expected to look forward to an early reunion with their families.

The 24 suspected pirates are provisionally detained on ESBERN SNARE, while the Danish authorities to explore the possibility of prosecution.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Disaster Relief: Filling the Gaps with Volunteers

A couple of weeks ago, I was out providing disaster assessment (DA) evaluations for the Red Cross in the areas smacked hard by the North Carolina tornadoes. The Red Cross uses the DA evals to estimate the financial needs of the individuals/communities struck by such disasters and, later, will talk with those impacted about getting them some temporary shelter, money for groceries, clothing and bedding (as needed).

Everywhere the DA teams deployed, we saw the yellow shirted members of the NC Baptist Men disaster relief teams deployed, cutting up downed trees, clearing debris, helping with emergency home repairs and through their filed kitchens, providing meals to victims and volunteers.

Here's a nice piece from the Raleigh News & Observer noting this good work, under the headline,
"Tornado victims praise work done by N.C. Baptist Men crews":
It's been nearly a month since the tornadoes hit, and Baptist Men volunteers have provided more than 8,500 volunteer days, completed more than 1,050 jobs and served more than 70,000 meals.

Many volunteers are retired. Others use vacation time. All pay their own travel expenses and a small fee that covers housing, usually in a church, and meals, prepared by other N.C. Baptist Men volunteers.

Dwayne Patterson, neighborhood services supervisor for the city, said the Baptist Men fill a huge gap by doing on private property what the city can't do and insurance won't pay for and residents can't afford.

"And they're so efficient and so effective," Patterson said. "They've been able to get a tremendous amount of cleanup done that would have taken weeks or months."

The work helps the whole community, Patterson said, not just those on whose property the Baptists labor.

You might note in the comments that even these good deeds get challenged by people who either lack faith ("So although I don't believe in the bulk of the religious dogma that these folks do I can certainly appreciate the fine, charitable, humanitarian work they are doing. Its a conundrum that I'm all too aware of. I don't respect their beliefs but some of the good they do, evidenced here certainly gets my attention. That makes me think further that what's the difference what we believe or don't believe? Its the kind of people we are, aside from our beliefs, and what we DO and how we act toward each other that counts the most.") or who feel the NCBM gets too much favorable publicity to the detriment of other groups (". . . there are many individuals and groups that assist in disasters. But, these other groups are just not published about in this highly prejudicial newspaper that slants its articles in favor of the Southern Baptist Convention only.").

I did see other organizations out in the field (Methodist Men, Samaritan's Purse, Salvation Army for example) and know they all made outstanding contributions to helping the victims. I did not see any organization of avowed atheists or agnostics out marshaling their resources to help anyone. Maybe they feel that their tax money is enough. Though members of all the charitable orgs mentioned above also pay taxes.

Humans.

.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Online Wargame as Piracy Fighting Guide?

The U.S. Office of Naval Research is, among other things, trying some interesting ideas in looking toward the fleet of the future and the strategies it may employ. For instance, using the case of fighting Somali pirates as a jumping off point for testing "cloud" cooperation, as set out in this ONR press release, To Help Combat At-Sea Piracy, ONR Recruits Defense Community for Online Wargame :
The Office of Naval Research (ONR) intends to launch on May 16 a new Internet wargame, recruiting a community of more than 1,000 players to collaborate on solving real-world problems facing the Navy.

Scheduled to run for three weeks, the Massive Multiplayer Online Wargame Leveraging the Internet (MMOWGLI) exercise will recruit online players from across the government to suggest ways of combating piracy off the coast of Somalia.

“MMOWGLI is an online game designed to find and collectively grow breakthrough ideas to some of the Navy's most complex problems--those 21st-century threats that demand new forms of collaboration and truly outlying ideas,” said Dr. Larry Schuette, ONR’s director of Innovation, whose office is managing the project.

The piracy scenario was chosen as a means to demonstrate the platform, but MMOWGLI itself can be applied to any scenario, officials said.

ONR intends to produce varying results from a diverse group of players drawn from the ranks of academia, defense, and government and nongovernment organizations. The plan is for MMOWGLI to identify solutions to difficult challenges by tapping into the intellectual capital of a broader community.

“We hope MMOWGLI will help us to understand what happens when your insights are combined with the observations and actions of another player,” Schuette added. “Will that fusion result in a game-changing idea or solution, or will the MMOWGLI platform teach us something about our traditional thought processes?”
Interesting.

For the pirate-specific trial, I wonder how many "successful" strategies will involve not letting the pirates get to sea with their weapons and ladders?How many will involve an invasion of Somalia or a long, slow wait for some sort of civilization to assert itself over that failed land? Is there a "patience" meter?

Will the game reward more "action" oriented strategies (chasing pirates) or more "static" strategies like blockading pirate ports of operation?

I wonder how the game deals with alleged "allies" who show up to wave their national flag, but who don't really do anything meaningful to address the pirate issue?

Kobayashi Maru, anyone?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Somali Pirates: Record Levels

Well, after a few days away, here's a bit of frustrating news to welcome me back - the International Maritime Bureau reports "Attacks off the Somali coast drive piracy to record high":
Indian Ocean Area
Piracy at sea hit an all-time high in the first three months of 2011, with 142 attacks worldwide, the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) International Maritime Bureau’s (IMB) global piracy report revealed today. The sharp rise was driven by a surge in piracy off the coast of Somalia, where 97 attacks were recorded in the first quarter of 2011, up from 35 in the same period last year.

Worldwide in the first quarter of 2011, 18 vessels were hijacked, 344 crew members were taken hostage, and six were kidnapped, IMB reported. A further 45 vessels were boarded, and 45 more reported being fired upon.

“Figures for piracy and armed robbery at sea in the past three months are higher than we’ve ever recorded in the first quarter of any past year,” said Pottengal Mukundan, Director of IMB, whose Piracy Reporting Centre has monitored piracy worldwide since 1991.
IMB 2011 Piracy Map to 10 May 11

In the first three months of 2011, pirates murdered seven crew members and injured 34. Just two injuries were reported in the first quarter of 2006.

Of the 18 ships hijacked worldwide in the first three months of the year, 15 were captured off the east coast of Somalia, in and around the Arabian Sea and one in the Gulf of Aden. In this area alone, 299 people were taken as hostage and a further six were kidnapped from their vessel. At their last count, on 31 March, IMB figures showed that Somali pirates were holding captive 596 crew members on 28 ships.

“We’re seeing a dramatic increase in the violence and techniques used by pirates in the seas off Somalia,” said Captain Mukundan.

He added: “The overwhelming number of vessels hijacked off Somalia took place east and north east of the Gulf of Aden. The positions of some of the attackers’ mother ships are known. It is vital that strong action is taken against these mother ships to prevent further hijackings.”
I guess the NATO/EU/CTF151 and all the other naval forces bobbing about in the Indian Ocean can take some solace in the fact that the numbers might be even higher without their efforts.

That's damning with faint praise.

You should also consider the number of attacks on merchant ships thwarted by armed security teams on board ships that came under attack by pirates . . . the IMB numbers are really only about 1/2 the story.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Libya: Refugee Ship Sinks Off Tripoli - Hundreds Aboard

Reported as Witnesses: Ship with hundreds sinks off Libya:
An overcrowded ship carrying up to 600 people trying to flee Libya sank just outside the port of Tripoli, the U.N. refugee agency said Monday, citing witness accounts.

Aid officials were still trying to confirm the fate of those people after the vessel broke apart Friday in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Libya, UNHCR spokeswoman Laura Boldrini said.

Witnesses who left the Libyan capital on another boat shortly afterward reported seeing remnants of the sunken ship and the bodies of some passengers floating in the sea, she told The Associated Press.

Other witnesses saw passengers swimming to shore but it was unclear how many survived, according to the International Organization for Migration

Friday, May 06, 2011

Somali Pirates: Hijacked ship with 24 Chinese sailors in Arabian Sea rescued by US and Turkish Navies

Reported as Hijacked ship with 24 Chinese sailors in Arabian Sea rescued:
The 24 Chinese sailors on board a Panama-flagged bulk cargo ship, hijacked by pirates yesterday at the Arabian Sea, have been rescued, as Turkey and U.S. navy ships in the nearby rushed to them and chased away the pirates, Xinhua News Agency reported.

About seven suspected Somali pirates have left the ship, "Full City", and the 24 Chinese workers are found safe, locking themselves in the safety vessel of the ship, the report said. Guarded by U.S. Navy ships, a group of Turkey Navy commandos boarded the pirated ship.

The pirates attacked "Full City" at midday on Thursday local time, and seized it about 450 nautical miles off the coast of Mumbai in India.

Update: More on the rescue from the Turkish Navy point of view from Saturn5 at his blog post TCG Giresun Saves M/V Full City:
Upon arriving to M/V Full City, that was damaged by the rocket-propelled grenade and small arms fire of the pirates, communication with the crew of the ship was established.
Update2: India says its maritime patrol aircraft scared off the pirates here:
The pirates had boarded the vessel but the crew managed to lock themselves up in the safe house. Patrolling in the area, a Indian naval aircraft reached there and found a pirate mother ship next to the MV Full City and a skiff in the vicinity.

The naval aircraft warned the pirates on radio to leave the merchant ship immediately. Heeding to the warning, the pirates departed from the area at full speed. The ship was thus saved from being hijacked due to the prompt action.




Full City photo by Tomas Østberg- Jacobsen from Shipspotting.com and used in accord with the terms of that site.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Somali Pirates: Hijacking, Attack and Counterattacks

Red=Hijacking, Orange=Attack (click on map to enlarge)
A report of a hijacking of a ship and an on-going attack on another, from the NATO Shipping Centre :
MAY 01 2011
Latitude 02 47S Longitude 043 03E
Alert Number 166/2011
---WARNING---WARNING---WARNING---
At 0733 UTC 01 MAY 11. A merchant vessel was reported hijacked by pirates in the above position.Two skiffs seen on board the vessel.
______________________________________
April 30th 2011
SOMALI BASIN
Latitude 07 01S Longitude 041 22E
Alert Number 165/2011
---WARNING---WARNING---WARNING---
At 0403 UTC April 30th A merchant vessel is currently under attack by pirates in the above position.
UPDATE: Report of a Singapore chemical tanker being taken off Kenya here:
The tanker, Gemini, was headed to Mombasa, Kenya when the incident took place, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore said in a statement. A distressed call was received at about 0350 GMT.
The ship owners report the cargo of the ship is palm oil:
Glory Ship Management Pte. Ltd. said in a statement Sunday that pirates are believed to have seized the Singapore-registered MT Gemini and its more than 28,000 tons of crude palm oil.

Glory said the ship was en route to Mombasa, Kenya, from Indonesia when it was believed to be hijacked and is now likely headed to Somalia.