Thursday, October 28, 2004

Pirates! Terrorists! Oh, My!

For those of you who never, ever go to sea, you might find it surprising that pirates still cause problems for the world shipping. While piracy problems exist in many parts of the world, the Straits of Malaaca are particularly dangerous especially along the Indonesian coast. Large oil tankers, carrying oil to the world from the Middle East pass regularly through these straits...The International Chamber of Commerce provides a weekly piracy report that is always interesting to read (if you are a old sea dog like me)

The Asia Times has an interesting series of articles here, here and here on piracy and maritime terrorism. The author, Eric Koo, reaches this conclusion:
Piracy and maritime terrorism are forms of asymmetrical warfare that non-state actors use as instruments in disrupting the peace and security of states. It is therefore necessary for navies to revamp and find new definitions for their role in the modern security context.

The U.S. Navy is paying attention, as noted in this article from Military.com:
“The seas are unpoliced and unregulated and, therefore, attractive to those who want to exploit or abuse them,” said U.S. Navy Secretary Gordon R. England. Speaking in July at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C., England said, “On average, more than one ship each day is attacked, robbed, hijacked or sunk.”

The situation grows worse each year, according to the London-based International Maritime Bureau (IMB), part of the Commercial Crime Services division of the International Chamber of Commerce. Recorded pirate attacks increased by 20 percent in 2003 alone, rising to a total of 445 incidents compared with 370 in 2002, according to IMB statistics. In these incidents, 21 seafarers are known to have been killed -- compared with 10 the previous year -- and 71 crew and passengers were listed as missing, IMB reported.

For as long as mankind has used the sea to transport valuable, there have been people willing to attempt to hijack the goods. Armed merchants, convoys and Navy escorts were used to help stem the problem in years past. Looks like we might have to return to those techniques again.

Piracy and maritime terrorism are linked. Here's an interesting warning article that starts out, "Singapore is trying to blow the whistle on the global threat posed by jihadists taking their terror tactics to the sea.

In his new book Shadow War, Richard Miniter devotes an entire chapter to "Terror at Sea" including a chilling portion about the odd assault on chemical tanker Dewi Madrim in March 2003 by a group of armed men. Instead of partaking of the usual cargo jacking or kidnapping, the attackers made only token effort at robbery, but devoted their time to disabling the ship's radios, switching on their own radios and "...practiced steering the vessel."
Noel Choong, who runs the International Maritime Bureau's Piracy Reporting Center in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, was concerned about "three things - the automatic weapons, the fact that chemical tankers were targeted, and finally, the fact that they know how to operate the tankers..."
Pirates in the South Pacific rarely use automatic weapons. They usually target oil and diesel tanker - which have cargos that are easily sold in black markets - not chemical tankers..."

Miniter also notes that Osama bin Laden once had a fleet of 15 ships...

A recent workshop on Maritime Security, Maritime Terrorism and Piracy in Asia had some interesting topics, e.g "  Piracy, Armed Robbery and Terrorism at Sea in Southeast Asia:A Global and Regional Outlook." Wish I could have gone.

Keep an eye on the sea.


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