Good Company

Good Company
Good Company

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Somali pirates release another ship

Another ship release by the Somali pirates reported here:
Somali pirates have released a Kenyan-owned freighter hijacked nearly two months ago after traditional elders intervened, the owner of the ship's cargo said on Wednesday.
The release of MV Torgelow, hijacked 52 days ago in Harardheere, 300 km (190 miles) south of the capital Mogadishu, means at least six other vessels are still held by pirates in Somalia, according to a maritime official...
...Mohamed Ali Waranle, whose Mogadishu-based Taksan Shipping agency hired the ship to ferry 850 tonnes of general cargo to Mogadishu from the Kenyan port of Mombasa, confirmed the release.
"The ship is now in our hands," a relieved Waranle told Reuters by phone from Mogadishu. "They released it condition-free after elders intervened."
He said no ransom had been paid.
The 10 crew on board the Torgelow, a Sri Lankan captain and nine Kenyan crew, were in good condition, officials said.


Silent Running finds some Orwellian definition shifting at Wikipedia here. Hmmm. I wonder who benefits from the change? Hmmm. It's so ...nuanced...

UPDATE: Well, according to Wikipedia, it's not technically Orwellian...but...

Lower number of incidents of piracy in Malacca Strait attributed to increased patrols

Noted here:
Indonesia's efforts to boost naval and air patrols in the notorious Malacca Strait helped suppress piracy there this year, but any let-up will see the attacks quickly resume, a top official has warned.

Pottengal Mukundan, London-based director of the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), said there was a dramatic reduction in attacks on ships in the strategic waterway this year.

"We believe (the reduction in the second half of 2005) is attributed to an increase in patrols by Indonesia on its side of the strait," he said in an interview with AFP in Kuala Lumpur.

Mukundan said Indonesia launched large-scale sea and air patrols in July to enforce maritime security in the Malacca Strait in an operation codenamed Gurita 2005.

As a result, there was a sharp drop in attacks to 10 in the first nine months of 2005 from 25 in the same period in 2004, in the narrow strait which is bordered by Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.The figures for the first few months of 2005 were also affected by last year's Dec. 26 Indian Ocean tsunami, which devastated parts of Indonesia and also curtailed pirates' activities.

Mukundan praised Indonesia for its efforts to police the waterway which is used by some 50,000 ships a year carrying one third of world trade, saying there was a direct link between law enforcement and the rate of attacks.

"It's always the case that when it goes off the agenda and people take their eye off this particular ball, the problem re-emerges," he said.

"We hope the level of patrols will remain so that the number of attacks will remain low. Otherwise, they will rise again."

Mukundan also warned that Indonesian ports continued to be pirates' playgrounds.

"Indonesian ports still have a very large number of attacks in proportion to world attacks. That continues to be a problem. But in the Malacca Strait it has come down," he said.

Pirate attacks worldwide dropped 18 percent in the first nine months of this year to 205 but Indonesian waters remained the most dangerous and accounted for nearly one third of the total.

Mukundan said that if attacks rise substantially in the Malacca Strait, underwriters may declare it a high-risk area.
This decrease in the number of pirate attacks is reflected in the latest Weekly ICC Commercial Crime Services Piracy Report, which lists only the following event in the Malacca Strait area:
20.11.2005 at 0600 LT in position 08:7N - 117:35.2E, Bontang anchorage, Indonesia.
Robbers boarded a LPG carrier and stole two life rafts and escaped. There were numerous small fishing crafts in the vicinity.
Note that the ICC CCS uses a rather liberal interpretation of "piracy" that includes all reported incidents of robbery and theft that occur even at anchorages and ports so long as they involve shipping.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Daily Demarche signs off

Sad to report that the The Daily Demarche has joined the Diplomad in retirement (although he will guest at some other sites). Dang.

This will scare those pirates!

Headline: U.N. maritime agency condemns piracy.
The International Maritime Organization, an agency of the United Nations, passed a resolution last week condemning piracy in response to a surge in attacks off the coast of Somalia, including a Nov. 5 incident involving the Seabourn Spirit cruise ship.

Meeting Wednesday in London, the IMO said the growing problem of piracy near Somalia should be brought to the attention of the United Nations Security Council, which could authorize military action.

Expeditionary Strike Group 8 Transits Suez Canal

Photo caption:
With the dock landing ship USS Carter Hall (LSD 50) trailing closely behind, infantrymen from Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 2nd Marines, provide security with a machine gun-equipped High-Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) on the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Nassau (LHA 4) as the ship transits the Suez Canal. The 22nd MEU’s passage through the Suez Canal took it into the Central Command area of operations as the landing force for Expeditionary Strike Group Eight (ESG-8). U.S. Marine Corps photo by Gunnery Sgt. Keith A. Milks

More here:
ESG-8 will fully support MSO while operating in the 5th Fleet AOO...
...ESG-8 includes 6,000 Sailors and Marines aboard six ships. In addition to Nassau, the strike group includes the guided-missile cruiser USS Cape St. George (CG 71), the amphibious transport dock USS Austin (LPD 4), the dock landing ship USS Carter Hall (LSD 50), the guided-missile destroyer USS Winston Churchill (DDG 81) and the attack submarine USS Norfolk (SSN 714). The 22nd MEU(SOC), embarked aboard the ships, is composed of its command element, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines; Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 261 (Reinforced), and the MEU Service Support Group 22...
...MSO set the conditions for security and stability in the maritime environment as well as complement the counter-terrorism and security efforts of regional nations. MSO deny international terrorists use of the maritime environment as a venue for attack or to transport personnel, weapons, or other material.
Haze gray and underway, with some green highlights.

Expert warns of maritime terrorist attack in SE Asia

Reported here:
Rohan Gunaratna, head of terrorism research in Singapore's Institute for Defense and Strategic Studies (IDSS), warned on Tuesday of the probability of a maritime terrorist attack in Southeast Asia.

According to Channel NewsAsia report on Tuesday, Gunaratna said at an IDSS workshop on maritime security that terrorists have been found to be developing their underwater demolition capability.

Having 18 years of operational, policy and academic experience in counter terrorism, Gunaratna noted that a manual on how to set up and run a diving school was found in Kandahar and some interest in basic diving training has been detected in the region.
As Froggy from Froggyruminations has discussed in the past, this underwater threat scenario seems to pop up about once a quarter (see here and here).

Ukraine says force was considered to free crew captured by Somali pirates

Instead of paying the ransom, freeing a Ukranian ship crew by force was considered as reported here:
Force scenario was considered among others for releasing Ukrainian seamen, captured by pirates off Somalia's cost, NSDC Secretary Anatoliy Kinakh says
As Mr Kinakh said, from the very first time after the Panagia boat was captured, the situation was constantly monitored by the President of Ukraine.
A special expert group, led by the President's representative, NSDC Deputy Secretary Vasyl Krutovyi, were working in London, cooperating with such international organizations as the International Maritime Organization, the International Maritime Bureau, the Analytical Center for Piracy Counteraction and special services of Great Britain, France and the USA. Ukrainian paramilitary bodies and the Foreign Ministry were also actively working. The operation was coordinated by the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine. As Anatoliy Kinakh reminded the negotiations met international maritime norms and principles and were staged by means of mediators, whom posed to be the company ship-owner and the insurance company. As Anatoliy Kinakh reminded, the negotiations resulted in freeing the Ukrainian citizens. He rejected naming the sum of money, which was paid for them, saying it was not state funds.
Falls into the "all options were considered category"- I guess.

Cargo Theft

Nice report from the Chicago Tribune on cargo theft, a $10-15 billion problem:
Nationwide, the cargo industry and FBI estimate $10 billion to $15 billion in goods slip away from cargo docks, warehouses and truck lots in the U.S. each year, joining a river of stolen commerce that continues to swell.

Compared to the revenues of Fortune 500 companies, cargo theft ranks just behind Anheuser-Busch in annual business, alongside U.S. Steel and Samsung.

Ultimately consumers pay for that. Commercial security experts and law enforcement officials estimate this dry-land piracy could add as much as 20 percent to the cost of a computer, 5 percent to a designer shirt.

Most cargo these days is shipped in standard-sized steel containers, which can be loaded onto trucks, trains or ships. The equivalent of about 12 million of those cargo containers pass through the Chicago area each year, according to the Chicago Area Transportation Study, making the region the third-busiest freight-transfer point in the world, behind Hong Kong and Singapore.

Along the way, goods are lost, stolen or diverted to the black market. The contents of entire containers make their way into shady stores in city neighborhoods far from where they're stolen, or they are sold online. Police say many of us buy into this black market when we find an impossibly good deal.

Reorganizing the Military Sealift Command

Looks like the Military Sealift Command is moving from its old HQ in the Washington Navy Yard to join the Norfolk HQ crowd as reported here:
A Navy command that operates 133 ships manned mainly by civilians, but not usually counted in the fighting fleet, is getting a new name and headquarters here.

The Military Sealift Command has established in Norfolk the Military Sealift Fleet Support Command , which includes about 5,000 members – 4,000 civilian mariners assigned worldwide, 400 civilian support staff and about 200 military members.

It was formally created Nov. 13 by consolidating offices in San Diego and Norfolk and will be responsible for manning, training, equipping and maintaining a fleet of government-owned and -operated ships worldwide.

Sealift ships carry the prefix “T” before their hull numbers and include ammunition ships, combat stores ships, hospital ships, oilers, ocean tugs, survey ships, missile range ships, pre-position container ships and roll-on, roll-off ships.
Hat tip to NOSI.

Vietnam and the Law of the Sea

Vietnam is participating in the effort to bring order to the seas as reported here:
At the regional level, Viet Nam confirmed the importance of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (Bien Dong) and called upon other signatories to fully implement the commitments in the declaration in order to ensure peace and stability in the region.

Viet Nam has actively participated in negotiating and adopting the Tokyo Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia as well as other activities by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
Sinagpore, Laos, Cambodia and Japan are also on the RCACPARSA. Of course, Vietnam is also holding its hand out for aid money.

Monday, November 28, 2005

The military and its response to Hurricane Katrina

Interesting read from the Heritage Foundation: Military Support to Civilian Authorities: An Assessment of the Response to Hurricane Katrina
Immediately after Hurricane Katrina struck, criticism began about how slow the federal response was. However, response timelines from other, similar natural disasters show that the military arrived at least at its typical speed. There are three lessons that one can learn from this response.

First, the creation of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Northern Command (NORTH COM) did not slow or complicate the response.

Second, while the Department of Defense (DOD) has an adequate response mechanism for normal disasters, it is not adequately organized and prepared to respond to catastrophic disasters.

Third, the Defense Department should restructure the National Guard so that it can respond more effectively to catastrophic disasters.

Raytheon unveils port security system

Making it harder to sneak ships into port, this system "integrates various sensors and data sources, giving it the capability to monitor ports and shorelines on an international basis."

Good idea. And not all that expensive...

Irish ferries have problems with labor

Reported as Anti-piracy drill stopped ferry takeover, a group of workers stages a "lock out" in protest of labor policies...

Latest ICC Commercial Crime Services Weekly Piracy Report (to 22 November 05) and the latest ONI World Wide Threat to Shipping Report (to 23 November)

For the latest ICC CCS weekly piracy report, go here. Of interest might be the continuing robberies and muggings of ship crews near the Iraqi oil terminals. They are, in the great scheme of things, relatively minor and preventable, one would think, by an active police patrol in those waters...

For the latest ONI World Wide Threat to Shipping report (for 23 November 2005), go here and click on the date. Highlights:
1. GREENPEACE RETAINS IMO MEMBERSHIP: The International Maritime Organization (IMO) Council announced 18 Nov that
environmental activist organization Greenpeace would be allowed to
retain its consultative status. The campaign by some member
states to eject Greenpeace for actions in breach of maritime
safety rules resulted in a temporary suspension two years ago...(Eagle1 notes that the sort of thing that has some member states upset with Greenpeace is its flaunting of the rules of safe navigation as set out in the following)
flag bulk carrier (HOPE) was surrounded by several Greenpeace
inflatables while attempting to enter Gdynia port, according to 21
Nov report. Several of the boats chained themselves to the ship’s
anchor chain and prevented it from entering port with its cargo of
genetically modified grain. ONI Comment: The, the first recent
Greenpeace maritime operation, also represents a rare incident of
action in the normally quiet Autumn-Winter season when Greenpeace
ships are usually in winter layup and refit (LM, ONI).
I wonder if another transnational organization that interfered with shipping in such a manner would simply be labeled as "terrorist"and dealt with in a rougher manner than having its membership in the IMO threatened?

A timely reminder of an assault on a Greenpeace ship here. Of course, the French tried to shift the blame...
Newly declassified British documents show France tried to blame British intelligence for sinking the Greenpeace agency's ship in New Zealand 20 years ago.

Soon after the bombing in July 1985, French media reported the theory that Britain's foreign intelligence MI6 agency had sunk the Rainbow Warrior as the environmental group was protesting France's nuclear testing in the South Pacific, The Times of London reported...

...The scandal rocked then French President Francois Mitterand's government, which for more than two months denied responsibility for the act of state terrorism.
State terrorism? I don't always (well, hardly ever) agree with the French, but I'm not sure that protecting your national interests from outside interference is an act of "terrorism," especially as it appears the idea was to prevent people from getting more seriously hurt.

Some history of the Rainbow Warrior sinking here and the Greenpeace version here. More here.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

A lesson

Headline: "Alleged threatening comments lead to partial harbor shutdown":
One officer said the incident should remind people not to make idle threats at the harbor or other public facilities.

“Don’t use the terrorist word. That’s not a good thing,” said Jim Medeiros, a sheriff’s deputy and facility security officer for Kahului Harbor. “We do take it seriously.”

Medeiros said the incident started when an elderly male passenger died of natural causes on the ship. The ship was closed off for about five minutes while medical personnel removed the body. The employee was angry about the closure and confronted ship officials.

“He made some statements, and he’s now getting removed,” Medeiros said.
The employee sounds like a class act.

Apparently paid off, Pirates Release Ukrainian Ship Seized Near Somalia

It may be proof that piracy pays here:
Ukraine's Foreign Ministry has said that pirates freed a Ukrainian cargo ship seized nearly 40 days ago off the coast of Somalia.

The Foreign Ministry announced today that the ship's 22 crewmembers are safe after being freed late on 26 November.

It was not immediately clear if the $700,000 ransom demanded by the pirates had been paid, although officials in Kyiv had previously said the Ukrainian owners of the vessel were prepared to pay.
The US and Europe used to pay off the Barbary pirates, too...

Former(?) KKK member allegedly "Improves American Image In Arab World" by spewing hate message

Very sad that this report might be given credence by anyone.

If you judge a man by the company he keeps, everyone in the report seems to be scraping the bottom of the hate-filled barrel looking for friends.

Private US firm to patrol Somali waters?

Must be an interesting contract to read, in which a US marine security firm has agreed with the transitional Somali government to patrol Somali waters and help stop the wave of piracy and other activities taking place there, as reported here:
The two-year agreement signed by Somali Fisheries and Marine Resources Minister Hassan Abshir Farah and Peter Casini, President of Topcat Marine Security, will help fight terrorism, curb illegal fishing and combat pirates, who have used speed boats, automatic weapons and satellite phones to target UN-chartered ships and other vessels.

"The comprehensive agreement will create a maritime security program to protect and control all Somali waters within its exclusive economic zone," said Farah after signing the deal in Nairobi.

"This agreement includes the creation of five coastal security bases including advanced communications equipment, high speed patrol boats, ground vehicles, and several helicopters to patrol the entire Somalia coastline and its territorial waters," he said.

"Also included in this program will be a comprehensive trainingpackage for coast guard, special forces, and all other necessary personnel to continue the safe enforcement of Somali sovereignty for decades to come," Farah added.
Topcat home page is here. BBC quotes:
The firm is also expected to help the Somali government set up five naval bases.

"We will end the piracy very quickly, there is no question about that," said Mr Casini.

"There is a ship that is launching small ships 75 to 100 miles from the shore, our goal is to take the mother ship."
Good place to start.

UPDATE: Strategy Page take:
While no one is saying it, the United States is basically taking over coastal security duties for Somalia. The Transitional Government there has no money for this sort of thing, so it appears that the U.S. is picking up the tab. This could get interesting, for the Somali warlords who operate along the coast are not going to take kindly to some foreigners trying to interfere. The first priority of the new coast guard is to put the pirate gangs, and especially the two larger "mother ships", that are supporting attacks far out at sea, out of action.
By the way, the use of privateers to do such work is an old tradition, normally involving letters of "marque and reprisal":
A letter of marque and reprisal was an official warrant or commission from a national government authorizing the designated agent to search, seize, or destroy specified assets or personnel belonging to a party which had committed some offense under the laws of nations against the assets or citizens of the issuing nation, and was usually used to authorize private parties to raid and capture merchant shipping of an enemy nation.
Everything old is new again...

Friday, November 25, 2005

India and Indonesia in strategic relationship

Reported here
India and Indonesia vowed on Wednesday to strengthen security, trade and diplomatic relations between Asia's largest democracies as part of a new partnership.

The declaration came after talks between Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who is on a two-day official visit to New Delhi.

"This partnership, based on shared values and commitment to democracy and multilateralism, seeks to impart higher strategic and political dimensions to bilateral relations," a joint statement by the world largest Hindu and Muslim nations said.

On Tuesday, Yudhoyono called for greater defense cooperation between the neighbors after visiting a state aeronautical complex in the southern city of Bangalore before flying to Delhi.

The statement said both Jakarta and New Delhi wanted a strategic partnership "in keeping with contemporary realities."

It did not specify what these were but analysts said both were uneasy about Beijing's growing economic and military clout.

"Amid the changes in the region, including the rise of China and the new assertiveness of Japan, India and Indonesia find it necessary to launch a strategic partnership that will include defense cooperation," foreign policy analyst C. Raja Mohan said.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Thanksgiving with the troops

Go here and scroll through. John has the festivities covered.

Our own "troop" - the Navy pilot son- has returned from deployment in time to share the holiday with us as we tour the Mississipppi Gulf coast...his counselor wife previously served a stint down here with the Red Cross assisting hurricane stricken Americans. In a nice touch for the holiday, she'll be sworn in as an US citizen soon. We are blessed. Our Thanksgiving is enhanced and we extend best wishes to all who serve and who support those who serve this great country, whereever and however.

Brit takes command of coalition maritime security for Arabian Gulf

Covered here:
Royal Navy Commodore Bruce Williams assumed command of Combined Task Force 58, the multinational coalition force responsible for conducting maritime security operations (MSO) in the North Arabian Gulf, Nov. 18...
...MSO seek to preserve the free and secure use of the world’s oceans by legitimate mariners, and prevent terrorists from attempting to use the maritime environment as a venue for attack or as a medium to transport personnel, weapons or other illicit material.

“The strength of a coalition is greater than the sum of its parts,” said Williams. “In terms of the coalition here in the northern Arabian Gulf, the real demonstration of that concerted strength and concerted capability is the fact that here I am, as a British one star, in charge of a force made up of Australian, American, United Kingdom and Iraqi forces able to operate together.”

As part of MSO in the North Arabian Gulf, CTF 58 is also entrusted with the security of Iraq's Al Basra and Khwar Al Amaya oil terminals. These two oil terminals account for a significant percentage of Iraq's revenue and are vital to the Iraqi rebuilding process.

“The role of CTF 58 is to assist the Iraqis sustain their territory and to ensure that it's economic infrastructure is unharmed by those who wish to see the current progress in democracy to fail,” said Williams.
Related article here on Mobile Secuiryt Detachment 31 and the portection of the Iraqi oil platforms:
In an interview Nov. 20, the Officer in Charge of MSD 31, Lt. Garth Kaliczak, said his most important mission during his unit’s tour is the security of Iraq’s two oil terminals in the Persian Gulf.

"Without these platforms, [the Iraqis] would not be able to fund much of the reconstruction they are doing right now, and without this oil income, there is definitely lack of resources for them to get started on the things they need to do,” said Kaliczak. “Being a part of this is probably one of the most important things I've ever done in my life. Helping in the rebuilding and reconstitution of a nation is probably the most rewarding thing I'll ever do.”

ABOT and KAAOT account for a significant percentage of Iraq's revenue and play a vital role in the rebuilding process.

MSD 31, based in San Diego, serves a dual role on the oil platforms. They are charged not only with the security of Iraq’s oil terminals, but they are also training their Iraqi counterparts to provide security for the oil platforms.
Earlier post on protecting the terminals here and at link therein.

Chinese terrorism drill

A different sort of Chinese drill reported here:
The drill began with a peaceful scenario, in which cranes were busy working with containers from an international ship at berth No. 2.

The exits and entries were staffed around the clock and more than 200 electronic detectors were overlooking the whole port and the bridge.

The license plates on all the vehicles entering the area were scanned and identified.

When the security level moved to 2, a level mainly used for visits by important officials, staff were added to various posts.

Inspections were tightened and security personal patrolled the port and bridge more frequently.

In addition, the area holding dangerous goods containers, power stations, oil tanks and the port front were sufficiently staffed to ensure security. After the port security officials were informed two terrorists had hid in a container on a newly arrived ship, the highest security level were enacted.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

On the road

On the road visiting family for Thanksgiving all along the US Gulf Coast (yes, we are doing the Katrina inspection tour!), so blogging will be spotty. Happy Thanksgiving!

US is issuing more warnings to stay away from Somalia and to be alert off Yeman, too here
Boats and ships near Somalia and Yemen should travel in convoys and maintain good radio communications at all times because of the threat of pirate attacks, a U.S. travel advisory warned Wednesday.

Sailors should avoid the Somali port of Mogadishu and remain at least 200 nautical miles (230 miles or 370 kilometers) off the Horn of Africa nation to avoid pirate attacks, armed robberies and kidnappings for ransom, according to a travel advisory released by the U.S. Embassy in Kenya.
The International Herald Tribune warns of terrorist dangers to sea lines of communication (SLOCs) here:
Governments and businesses around the world take note: Today's Information Age economy of bytes, portals and fiber optic cables still depends on barges, ports and shipping lanes that are highly vulnerable to natural or man-made disasters.

New Orleans underscores the geopolitical significance of a single port or passageway when 80 percent of world trade still moves by ship. Fed by the Mississippi River and its tributaries, the Port of New Orleans is the conduit for most of American grain exports and large quantities of imported oil, steel, rubber and cement. But more than two months after the hurricane, the port is accepting only a handful of ships a day.

Still, the consequences of Katrina pale beside those of a storm or terrorist strike that could potentially disrupt even larger ports like Hong Kong, Singapore, Shanghai and Rotterdam. Even more vulnerable are the half-dozen navigational "choke points" through which passes 75 percent of maritime trade.
Kuwait has apprehended some Iraqi "sea robbers":
Kuwait has arrested four Iraqi "pirates" who used a stolen boat to rob Kuwaiti ships, state news agency KUNA said on Wednesday.

Mubarak al-Omairi of the Kuwaiti Coast Guard was quoted as saying a patrol seized the men after a sea chase, following reports of armed robbery in Kuwaiti territorial waters.

The four men, described as Iraqis, have been referred to prosecutors, Omairi said. The men were using a boat stolen six months ago from its Kuwaiti owner.
Nigeria crack down on some oil thieves:
The Navy in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, said on Monday that it seized 16 boats and two ships suspected to be on illegal bunkering missions between May and November this year.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Iran "protector" of the "Persian Gulf?"

According to this, Iran, formerly known as Persia, has long been a peace-keeping presence in the Persian Gulf (which is the same Gulf many of us learned to call the Arabian Gulfduring the first Gulf War).
Previous to the Achaemenid era, Persians tried to keep Persian Gulf region as safe and peaceful place as possible. The safety of Persian Gulf was a vital matter to merchants during ancient times. It was so important that they preferred crossing the Persian Gulf even if they had to spend more days on the water to keep safe from pirates and deliver their goods safe and sound to the destination.

“From the Achaemenid era, shipping existed in the Persian Gulf which was a bridge between the west and east. At that time the King Road extended from Susa to the Minor Asia and from Susa to the Persian Gulf. The road was 2650 kilometers,” said Ardeshir Khodadadian, professor of ancient history in Shahid Beheshti University, Tehran, about the Persian Gulf safety.

According to Khodadadian, Darius charged Eskilaks to cross the distance between the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean to the African Sea to provide the map of the Persian Gulf. At that time it was supposed that Darius wanted the map for his campaigns but later on it was revealed that he wanted the maps mainly for the use of merchants and businessmen. The maps were created help form a guardian force in the Persian Gulf, a force today known as coast guards to establish peace and safety in the region.

After Darius, most of the nations of the world were hoping to take control of the Persian Gulf.

A Greek admiral of Alexander came to the Persian Gulf with his navy and joined Alexander forces. In his itinerary, the admiral described Persian Gulf as a beautiful place. Businessmen at that time believed that not only Persian Gulf waters were calm and peaceful but also the region too was a safe area for transferring their goods.

“It is not just today’s governments, including the US, who want to take control over the Persian Gulf, but from the ancient times and the Achaemenid era, the Greek had an eye on the Persian Gulf,” says Khodadadian.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Importance of first responder communication

The importance of good communications for all first responders in all sorts of disaster stressed here.

Dutch to take over Combined Task Force 150

Reported here:
In the coming months, the Netherlands is to play a prominent role in protecting the seas around the Arabian Peninsula. On Monday 21 November, two navy ships left the harbour in Den Helder to participate in the maritime element of Operation Enduring Freedom, the US-led coalition against al-Qaeda and affiliated terrorist networks.

Flagship, supply ship, submarine
The two ships currently on their way to the peninsula are the new flagship of the Dutch fleet, ‘The Seven Provinces’ and supply ship ‘The Rotterdam’. A submarine - ‘The Porpoise’ - had already set off earlier in the direction of the peninsula.

Onboard ‘The Seven Provinces’ is Commander Hank Ort. In the coming months, he will be in charge of all non-US ships patrolling the Arabian Peninsula and the Indian Ocean; this naval unit is known as Combined Task Force 150 (CTF 150). The ultimate aim of the operation, says Commander Ort, is “to arrive at a safe and stable situation where international terrorism has been eliminated.”
...The main task of CTF 150 is protecting shipping lanes and intercepting suspect boats in an enormous area of operations: from the Suez Canal right across to the Straits of Hormuz and the Indian Ocean. “That’s around 2.5 million nautical miles square on the coastline,” says the Dutch commanding officer. CTF 150 consists of around seven to ten ships, “But, in the period February to March, that could increase to a unit of around 15. There are, in total, around 3000 men and women under my command,” he says.
Photos: Ship is "The Seven Provinces", sub is the "Dolfijn". Dutch sub site.

North Korea zone: David L. Asher on DPRK Narco-Criminal Networks

Another eye-opener from the North Korea Zone blog: North Korea zone: David L. Asher on DPRK Narco-Criminal Networks:
The rise of the criminal state in North Korea is no secret. It has occurred in full view of foreign governments and with increasing visibility to the world media. Over the last three decades agents, officers, and business affiliates of the DPRK have been implicated in hundreds of public incidents of crime around the globe. Incidences of illicit activity have occurred in every continent and almost every DPRK Embassy in the world has been involved at one time or another. This should be no surprise. North Korea is perhaps the only country in the world whose embassies and overseas personnel are expected to contribute income to the "Party Center," not rely on central government funds for their operations. Such repeated illicit actions from diplomatic premises amount to a serial violation of both articles 31 and 41 of the Vienna conventions on Diplomatic Relations, which respectively convey that A. commercial, and most certainly, criminal activities for profit shall not be conducted by accredited diplomats or via accredited facilities and B. mandate that officials posted abroad must obey the laws of the nation to which they are posted. The DPRK routinely pays no attention to either critical provision of the Vienna conventions...
...And if I am right, then the criminal sector may account for as much as 35-40% of DPRK exports and a much larger percentage of its total cash earnings (conventional trade profit margins are low but the margin on illegal businesses is extremely high, frequently over 500%)...
...Under International Law, counterfeiting another nation's currency is an act of causus belli, an act of economic war. No other government has engaged in this act against another government since the Nazis under Hitler. North Korea has been counterfeiting the dollar and other currencies of importance the entire time it has been on the international engagement bandwagon. What does this say about the regime's intentions?

As the recent DOJ indictment of Sean Garland and other members of the Official IRA for their partnership in the criminal distribution of counterfeit US currency reads: "Beginning in or about 1989, and continuing throughout the period of this Indictment, a type of high-quality counterfeit $100 FRNs began to be detected in circulation around the world. Their high quality made it particularly difficult for them to be detected as counterfeit by untrained persons. The United States Secret Service initially designated these counterfeit notes as "C-14342" and they came to be known as "Supernote" or "Superdollar." Quantities of the Supernote were manufactured in, and under auspices of the government of, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea ("North Korea"). Individuals, including North Korean nationals acting as ostensible government officials, engaged in the worldwide transportation, delivery, and sale of quantities of Supernotes."
...As we learned from the investigations concluded this summer, containers of counterfeit cigarettes, counterfeit currency, weapons, and other illicit items apparently produced in the DPRK or linked to a distribution chain it has ready access to have managed to make their way into the US. So could North Korean WMD if we don't create a system to better scrutinize cargoes and enhance Maritime Domain Awareness to protect our SLOCs....
I'm not sure that "outlaw state" quite covers the DPRK.

onefreekorea takes a look at the Korea Teachers' Union (South Korea, mind you)

Read it here:
The Trotskyites in the Korean Teachers' Union have cut out a few f-words and gone ahead with their agenda of poisoning little minds to hate America

So it goes....

The Chinese Ballistic Missile Threat to Taiwan

Interesting analysis of the Chinese missile threat to Taiwanhere.
Simply put, the combined warhead capacity of 467 CSS-6 and CSS-7 SRBMs (1,100 pounds each) is the equivalent of only 9.5 Vietnam era B-52 sorties (54,000 pounds each). Even if all 700 SRBMs were used and all reached their targets, it would only equal 14 sorties. To look at it another way, the 700 SRBMs would only total 385 tons of high explosives, compared with the hundreds of thousands of tons dropped on Vietnam, for example.
Worth a read.

Hat tip to: Simon World.

For an update on China's DF-31 ICBM, go here. And info on the CSS-7 (DF-11) here and a CSS-7 os pictured above.

Ralph Peters: "How to Lose A War"

Ad he says it right here.

Gingrich on Iran's threat

World Net Daily coverage of former Speaker Gingrich's testimony before a subcommittee of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee last weekhere:
Gingrich pointed with alarm at a report first published in G2 Bulletin that Iran had tested the firing of ballistic missiles from a merchant ship in which warheads were detonated in midair over the Caspian Sea rather than at a land or sea target. National security experts and scientists commissioned by Congress to study the threat of electromagnetic pulse attacks on the U.S. concluded that Iran was preparing for just such a scenario. So does Gingrich.

"In short, a country with a track record of carrying out its murderous ideology may soon have the capability to deliver on its publicly declared and unambiguously stated intentions to inflict mortal harm on the United States on a massive scale," warned Gingrich last Tuesday at the hearing of the Federal Financial Management, Government Information and International Security Subcommittee chaired by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla. "A nuclear tipped intermediate-range Iranian missile launched from a merchant ship off the coast of the United States could do just that. That, or Iran could simply supply its terrorist handmaidens with a small scale nuclear device to use against U.S. targets here at home or abroad."

The threat is compounded by recent disclosures by the International Atomic Energy Agency that Iran is in "non-compliance" with its treaty obligations against developing nuclear weapons...
...Gingrich said there are reasons to believe Iran "is testing the capability to launch a surprise attack on the United States from a merchant ship of our coasts."

"An attack by a single Iranian nuclear missile could have a catastrophic impact on the United States by causing an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) over a portion of the country," he said. "Such an attack could quickly turn a third or more of the United States back to a 19th century level of development. Electrical transformers and switching stations would fall. Without electricity, hospitals would fails, water and sewage services would fail, gas stations would be unable to provide petroleum, trucks would not be able to distribute food supplies, and essential services would rapidly disintegrate."

Gingrich said "this is not idle speculation, but taken from the consensus findings of nine distinguished scientists who authored the Report of the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack, which was delivered to the Congress on June 22, 2004, the same day the 9-11 commission report was published."

Gingrich pointed out that such a sneak attack – especially if launched from a merchant ship at sea – could have the added benefit of deniability by Iran.

"Contemplating an EMP threat makes more troubling reports that certain Iranian missile tests resulted in missiles that have detonated in flight at or near apogee, which the Iranian press has reported as successful events," explained Gingrich. "Normally, it would be expected that the ability to target specific locations would be the standard for success for ballistic tests. However, if the ability to launch an EMP attack was being tested, detonation at apogee would be the measure of testing success. As noted by the EMP commission, a country with limited nuclear capabilities and few choices as to delivery platforms has only a few options to deliver a deadly blow. An EMP attack would be on such strategy."
Earlier posts on the EMP threat, missiles and merchant ships here, another threat, and cruise missile threat here. On how EMP works here and here. And A July 2004 report on the threat here. Photo is of Iran’s Shahab 3, on launcher for a parade. (source).
Some of Iran’s tests of its Shahab-3 had been terminated before the completion of their ballistic trajectories, that is, exploding in mid-flight by what appeared to be a self-destruct mechanism. Iran has nevertheless described the tests as fully “successful.” Pry noted that the apparent contradiction would make sense “if Iran were practicing the execution of an EMP attack.” Lowell Wood is quoted as having testified to the subcommittee that such an attack upon the United States could keep off most electrical functions for a time period of a few hours or decades, depending on how it was executed. Wood also warned the subcommittee that such an EMP warhead could be delivered against the United States by “a Scud missile launched from a freighter off the Atlantic coast.”
says here.

The "E-bomb and terrorist threat" here from a 2001 article in Popular Mechanics. Under $400? Yikes.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

On watch

SUNSET WATCH — As the sun sets over the Persian Gulf, a U.S. Navy sailor remains watchful at a .50 caliber machine gun mount on the Khawr Al Arnaya Oil Terminal . The terminal, located off the coast of Iraq, is one of two major platforms that export the majority of the country's oil. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Randall Damm
(photo and caption source)
Previous posts on protection of the Iraqui terminal here and at the links contained therein.

Somali pirates free small tanker

Reported here:
Somali pirates have freed a ship and its crew after holding them hostage for almost one month off Somalia's northeast coast, a maritime official said on Saturday.

The Maltese-owned San Carlo tanker, carrying a 24-member Greek crew and a cargo of gas, was hijacked on October 20 in the Indian Ocean as it made its way from Bahrain to South Africa.

"We have information that the vessel was released yesterday and we believe that it is making its way to its original destination which is South Africa," said Andrew Mwangura, programme coordinator at the Kenyan Seafarers' Association.

"We don't know whether any ransom was paid, but I am sure that some compensation would have been given to the captors for them to release the ship," he told Reuters in Nairobi.

According to the International Maritime Bureau, there have been at least 25 hijackings and attempted seizures of vessels by Somali pirates since March.

There are still six ships being held along with their crews by pirates and at least five ships have been attacked weeks in a sharp rise of banditry in the busy Indian Ocean corridor off the coast of the East Africa.


Buried somewhere in this compilation of nonsense is the result of the vote: 403-3.

In Little League baseball they would invoke the "mercy rule."

Friday, November 18, 2005

New frigates for Europe

Reported here:
The Organisation for Joint Armament Cooperation (OCCAr) today awarded ARMARIS and Orizzonte Sistemi Navali the first phase of the contract for the development and building of a new generation of European multi-mission frigates (the FREMM program). This initial phase covers the development, building and in-service support for the first eight frigates destined for the French Navy: six in an anti-submarine warfare (ASW) version, and two in a land-strike version. The contract, to be apportioned equally between DCN and Thales, both shareholders in ARMARIS, is valued at 3.5 billion euros. The vessels will be delivered in stages from 2011 to 2015.

Under an inter-governmental Memorandum of Understanding signed on 15 November 2005 by the French and Italian Ministries of Defense, Italy has committed itself to order the development and building of its two first frigates no later than May 2006. This program thus confirms the principle of European defense procurement collaboration by extending French-Italian partnership on the Horizon anti-air frigate program, which was launched in October 2000.

“With a total of 27 frigates planned, the FREMM program is set to become the most extensive series of warships ever built in Europe,” affirmed Pierre Legros, Executive Chairman of ARMARIS.
CDR Salamander will be jealous.

Japan, India conducts joint exercise to deal with pirates

Interesting headline Japan, India conducts joint exercise to deal with pirates:
The Japan Coast Guard and the Indian Coast Guard conducted a joint exercise Friday in the sea off the city of Kitakyushu, Fukuoka Prefecture, to deal with pirate attacks on ships.
It is the sixth such drill since 2000 when Japan and India started joint pirate exercises by dispatching patrol vessels to visit each other's country.

VOA News: "Somalia Pirates Bold and Well-Organized"

Nice piece here from the Voice of America on the Somali pirates:
Harjit Kelley is a retired commander with the Kenyan navy who is a consultant for the United Nations' Monitoring Group on Somalia.

He estimates that pirates have collected well over one million dollars in ransom during the past few months, and says that factional leaders are coordinating the effort.

Commander Kelley describes to VOA one transaction that took place in April in Kenya's port city of Mombasa to rescue a merchant vessel called Feisty Gas.

He says a Hong Kong shipping company wired $318,000 to a bank in Mombasa. A local shipping agent withdrew the money in three installments, he says, and at different times and locations in Mombasa, handed the money over to a man who appeared to be Somali.

"As soon as this guy got the money, the ship was let go," he said. "It has gone to the warlords who had captured the ship. The warlords are keeping in the background. Their agents go out and arrest the ship. The warlords condemn this to get the world opinion behind them. They say, this is wrong, it is an international crime, but they facilitate their agents to capture these ships.

Commander Kelley says he and his colleagues strongly suspect the ransom is being used to purchase arms.
I suspect that, too, and also expect that the money for things like "Mother Ships" also comes from the same source. And, of course, as their organization and capabilities grow, they are able to increase their range and threaten a larger number of vessels.

Italy: Algerian suspects planned to kill 10,000 with a "ship attack"

Reported here:
The three Algerians detained on Tuesday in the Italian cities of Brescia and Naples were planning a massive terror attack - "on a ship as big as the Titanic, packed with explosives" - that aimed to kill "at least 10,000 people", as well as an attack on "Italian citizens and interests" in Tunisia, according phone conversations between the three men, which Italian anti-terror police say they intercepted after al-Qaeda's deadly 7 July attacks on London and on the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh.

In their tapped phone conversations, Yamine Bouhrama, Mohamed Larbi and Khaled Serai described the 7 July London subway and bus bombings that killed over 50 and injured 700, and the 23 July Sharm El-Sheikh terror attacks that killed 90 people and injured over 150 as "highdays and holidays", according to police. The three also spoke of having "documents ready", "war on the infidel", and "a bigger party" than the London attacks.
They are suspected of being members of the al-Qaeda-linked Algerian militant formation, the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC). Investigators allege they were not just in Italy to provide logistical support such as false passports and residency permits, but were actually "potential operatives" who were "ready to attack".

Serai and Larbi are being detained in Brescia, where they were living when arrested, while Bouhrama is being held in Naples, where he was living at the time of his arrest. three were detained on suspicion of association with the aim of international terrorism, a charge introduced in Italy following the September 11, 2001 attacks in America. Italy's interior minister, Giuseppe Pisanu on Friday played down the case, saying "too much fuss" was being made about it. However, he said that Italy remains on "high alert" over possible terrorist attacks....
...The men's arrest in Brescia and Naples came as they were allegedly about to flee Italy and followed a complex three-year surveillance operation of a GSPC cell by the Italian intelligence service SISMI. The three were flush with cash, and moved around constantly between the northern cities of Brescia and Vicenza, the Italian capital, Rome, and the southern city of Naples, police allege. They were also in contact with other terror cells in the northern cities of Venice, Cesena and Milan, as well as the central Italian city of Florence, according to the investigators. They say they also have evidence of the three men being in contact with extremist groups in Norway, France and Britain.

Bourhama is thought to have undergone training at terrorist camps in Chechnya and Georgia and may be capable of making explosive belts used by suicide bombers. He allegedly had in his possession a bottle of "perfume" containing toxic substances, police said.

Pirate attack off Nigeria

Info here:
A Greek registered vessel, M. V. MEDIA K, was on Sunday, raided by privates who stormed the vessel at the outside bar, some 15 nautical miles outside the Lagos Port Complex, Daily Sun has learnt. The vessel which was chartered by Messrs Yinka Folawiyo and Sons Limited, was loaded with bulk cement from Europe for Lagos but was delayed at the sea for some days, owing to the port congestion being experienced in Nigeria now.

Reliable sources told Daily Sun on Monday that the vessel which loaded 14,100 metric tones of bulk cement was low enough in the waters, which made it easy for the pirates to climb on board with hooked ladder ropes.
The Group Managing Director of Yinka Folawiyo and Sons Limited, Captain S. Kadiri, conformed the attack but could not give any details.
He said “the vessel arrived outside bar on Saturday and moved some 15 nautical miles away from the Lagos harbour...
...Although no life was lost during the raid, Daily Sun learnt that the marauders collected reasonable ransome from the vessel.

Coast Guard security in Hawaii

From here:
"Our teams are designed to go out and intercept ships and vessles coming in to Hawaii waters," says Coast Guard Maritime Safety and Security team member Kekoa Dobrowolsky.

"A ship comes in laden with explosives, crashes into the pier, killing people at ATM. Possible detonating a dirty bomb. Radioactive material going into the air."

Speedboats that can turn on a dime will race them to any maritime threat.

"If we think the vessle has a terrorist vessle or has terroists aboard, we can be delivered by aircraft and fast-rope down to the deck," says Dobrowolsky.

"We think of it as the first line of defense. If something were to go down we're there to intercept it," says the Coast Guard's Steve Mosk.

MSST also protects cruise ships in harbor.

Dobrowolsky says the job is especially dangerous because he believes the next major terror threat will come from the ocean.

"Ships come into Hawaii waters or the waters of the US on a continuous basis. It's impossible to check every one of them."

But day after day, he and his teammates risk their lives to prevent it.
Yes, they do.

Piracy: Yachts and more

Reported here:
It isn't just major shippers who are at risk, said Klaus Hympendahl, a German yachtsman who maintains a piracy information clearinghouse on the Web and has written a book chronicling attacks on private yachts.

When he sailed around the world in 1986, Hympendahl's only worry was the weather. Now he cautions yachters to check the security situation along their route before they set out.

"The situation has changed completely," he said, blaming in part an increase in the number of wealthy people setting out to sea. Their well-equipped boats attract pirates looking for cash and gear.

Navy tries sea-based missile defense- it works

Here's an important defense note:
The Navy intercepted and destroyed a warhead as it separated from its booster rocket during a test Thursday off Hawaii -- the first time a ship at sea has shot down a multi-stage missile.

The guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Erie fired an interceptor missile and knocked out the rocket's warhead about 100 miles (160 kilometers) above the Pacific, the Missile Defense Agency said in a statement.
More info on the SM-3 system here.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Embarked Security Teams for Maritime Security in Gulf

Reported here:
Embarked Security Teams (EST) based at Naval Support Activity (NSA) Bahrain continue to make up one of the most critical elements of maritime security in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operation.

Created in June 2004 under the umbrella of Operation Vigilant Mariner (OVM), the 11 12-man teams provide protection for Military Sealift Command (MSC) ships and their civilian crews as they ferry food, equipment and other supplies to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A typical EST escort consists of meeting an MSC ship in the Mediterranean Sea, embarking for the remainder of the ship's transit, and disembarking in the Persian Gulf or remaining with the ship as it returns to the Mediterranean Sea.

Lt. Edward Young, force protection operations officer for Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT), and OVM program manager, said ESTs provide protection not only to MSC ships, but also to maritime prepositioning ships, fast combat support ships and bulk fuel carriers.
It reminds me that in proposing responses to the pirates of Somlia, several people have been suggesting the use of "Q-ships" as a tool for combating the pirates of the Somali coast ((some of these comments have come from submariners, which I find surprising, given the somewhat unsuccessful career of Q-ships against submarines. See this Wikipedia Q-ship history for details). A Q-ship, if you are unfamiliar with them, is bascially a merchant or trawler hull that appears to be a harmless commercial vessel, but which, in fact, is a well-armed war ship. By use of deception, a "bad guy" is lured into attacking an apparently defenseless ships and, in return, gets a a stream of gunfire.

Some of you may recall in the movie Master and Commander that Captain Aubrey manages to disguise HMS Surprise as a whaler and -uh- surprise his French opponent (who had a superior ship in the Acheron) with an onslaught of fire power and carry the day. Such ruses were not uncommon in the age of sail and the use of "false flags" was a part of the tactics of the times.

It was also not uncommon in such times that merchant ships were themselves armed, and if not capable of defeating a stout pirate vessel, were capable of providing some self-defense capability. This tradition of armed merchant ships continued into World War ll with the Naval Armed Guard:
When officers and enlisted men completed their basic training they were assigned to one of three Armed Guard Centers. These were located at Brooklyn (Atlantic), New Orleans (Gulf), and Treasure Island (Pacific). From the Centers the men were assigned to ships. The final complement for a ship armed with a 5"/38 dual purpose stern gun, a 3"/50 AA gun, and eight 20mm machine guns was set at one officer and 24 gunners, plus normally about three communications men for a total of 28 Armed Guards. This armament was accepted as standard for ships which were going to combat zones in World War II. It goes without saying that many ships went out in the early days with less than the armament desired and with smaller Armed Guard crews. Shortages in officers and men were met by rapid increases in the training program and at times by sending petty officers out in charge of the smaller gun crews on ships operating in the less dangerous areas. Not until early 1945 was the shortage in guns entirely overcome. But the Navy made every effort to give every ship the best possible protection...
...Figures complied by the Maritime Commission and by the Arming Merchant Ship Section in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations give a comprehensive picture of the importance of the Armed Guard in World War II. When the war began the United States had only about 1,340 cargo ships and tankers. When the war ended the fleet of merchant ships controlled by the War Shipping Administration numbered 4,221 with a deadweight tonnage of 44,940,000 tons. Up to VJ day 733 merchant ships of over 1000 gross tons were lost, according to figures of the Maritime Commission. The Navy armed 6,236 to the end of World War II. Of this number 4,870 were United States flag ships; 244 were United States owned but under foreign flag; the rest were foreign owned and foreign flag ships. Armed Guards were placed aboard nearly all of the 5,114 United States owned and United States flag ships. They were placed aboard a few allied ships which were foreign flag and foreign owned but only in exceptional circumstances. Of the United States flag or United States owned ships which were armed (and most of which were supplied with an Armed Guard crew) 569 were lost. The total losses of all merchant ships armed with Navy guns ran to 710. These figures are substantially complete as of August 12, 1946. It will be seen that of the ships which were supplied with Armed Guards a little better than ten percent were lost from all causes...
...Armed Guards won glory for themselves on every ocean. Up to the time this was written (August, 1946) 8,033 had received decorations or commendations. This figure includes 5 Navy Crosses, 2 Legions of Merit, 75 Silver Stars, 24 Navy and Marine Corps Medals, 54 Bronze Stars, 563 commendations by the Secretary of the Navy, 2,778 commendations by the Bureau of Naval Personnel, and 4,533 entries in service records. About 36,240 operation and engagement stars have been authorized for Armed Guards to date and this figure may run even higher eventually. In addition, 9,882 men have been authorized to wear the Philippine Liberation Ribbon and 4,031 have been authorized to wear stars on this ribbon...
...The war took a terrible toll of merchant seamen and Armed Guards. But the situation was never as bad as the "Sighted Sub, Glub, Glub" slogan would indicate. The Maritime Commission indicates that 5,638 merchant seamen and officers are dead and missing from World War II and that 581 were made prisoners. Armed Guard dead and missing out of 144,970 in the service numbered 1,810, of which 1,683 were definitely killed and 127 were missing. Prisoners of war numbered 27, of which 14 were recovered.
I suppose that, considering the threats they are facing, the Embarked Security Teams are the Naval Armed Guards of our time. They carry on proud tradition.

Some details on the nuisance rocket attack on US ships in August

Details of the failed rocket attack on US war ships in Jordan earlier this year are contained in this Early Warning by William M. Arkin:
Jordanian authorities determined, according to U.S. intelligence reports, that three Iraqis entered Jordan on or about Aug. 6 from Iraq, linking up with a Syrian national already present in the country. The three Iraqis drove a seemingly standard oil tanker truck (Iraq, even under Saddam Hussein, provided Jordan with much of its oil) into the country; investigators later discovered that the fuel tank had been modified to accommodate at least seven Katyusha rockets, the standard in the Iraqi (and Syrian) armies.
Seems like a lot of trouble to go to for an unguided rocket system that is notorious for its inaccuracy. I also doubt that the Katyusha is the "standard" of any modern military. The fact that Zarqawi claimed credit for such a feeble attack (and for the recent suicide bombings of a wedding) does not seem to me to indicate that he is operating out of a position of strength.


I respect the guy, but I think he is wrong.
Known to shun publicity, Murtha said he was standing up because he had a constitutional and moral obligation to speak for the troops.
The vast majority of the troops, howver, do not feel as he does.

I think he is, understandably, letting his emotions from visiting the wounded cloud his perception of the war.

Update: I think Sen. McCain is right on this (though I don't agree with him on everything, either):
Tweaking Democrats and Mr. Bush, Mr. McCain last week called for increasing troops in Iraq. Yesterday, he criticized the Republican leadership in the Senate for proposing an amendment that, he said, focused more on withdrawal than on victory. Senator Graham, a Republican of South Carolina whose name has surfaced as a possible running mate for Mr. McCain, also voted against the Levin amendment.

Mr. McCain's call for a stronger commitment on Iraq from Republicans and Democrats establishes him as the most hawkish member of the Senate. And it sets him up for a presidential campaign rooted in a hard-nosed defense policy. Mr. McCain, 69, is a Vietnam veteran and former prisoner of war.
I am in favor of victory.

UPDATE2: Greyhawk looks at numbers used by Rep Murtha and finds them ...misleading.

Latest ICC Commercial Crime Services Weekly Piracy Report (to 14 November 05)

For latest ICC Commercial Crime Services Weekly Piracy Report, go here. Highlights: This

Somalia - NE and Eastern Coast

Thirty two incidents have been reported since 15.03.05. Heavily armed pirates are now attacking ships further away from the coast. Ships not making scheduled calls at Somali ports are advised to keep at least 200 nm from the Somali coast.
and this report:
07.11.2005 at 0600 UTC in position 04:28N - 048:01E, east coast of Somalia.
Pirates hijacked a general cargo ship underway. They have demanded ransom for the release of the vessel. This is the fourth incident off Somalia since 05.11.2004 in this area. Ships are again advised to keep at least 200 nm off the Somali coast.

Kenya: Somali piracy is raising shipping costs

Kenya, Somalia's southern neighbor is noticing some effects from the Somali pirate activity, including increased shipping costs.
Kenya's port regulator said on Thursday the rise in piracy cases off the coast of Somalia was increasing shipping costs by forcing boats to sail farther away from the coast to avoid attack...
...Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) said this had greatly increased voyage times and freight costs for ships coming into the east African nation's main port, Mombasa.
"For vessels which are coming into the port of Mombasa, to stay over 200 miles (320 km) from the coast of Somalia, it means that they also are going to spend more time at sea," said Twalib Khamis, harbour master and chief operating manager at KPA.
"That will have an impact on the freight rate of the cargo which is coming to Kenya," he told a news conference...
...The Indian Ocean port of Mombasa is a major shipment point for coffee and tea exports for Kenya -- two of the biggest foreign exchange earners.
It is also a key gateway for imports and exports to Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, eastern Congo, southern Sudan and Ethiopia.
I would expect that Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, eastern Congo, southern Sudan, and Ethiopia will experience a "ripple effect" of increasing costs.

Kenya is also experiencing a potential loss of business from cruise ships which are deciding to avoid the area. See here for Kenyan anti-pirate activity and concern.

UPDATE: Strategy Page notices Somali Pirates Out of Control:
It’s also believed that the pirates have maritime radios, so that they can listen in to ships in the area, and plan attacks based on where these ships are expected to be. Kenya, whose economy depends on cargo vessels moving north, past Somalia, is calling for an international task force to patrol the Somali coast, and clear out the pirates. The U.S., Germany and France already have warships north of Somalia, guarding the Djibouti coast and the Gulf of Aden.

UPDATE2: I have to question the timing of this.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

ESG-1 Conducts Maritime Security Operations in Arabian Sea

Martime Security Operations? Got 'em right here:
Members of Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 1 are currently leading a group of six coalition ships conducting maritime security operations (MSO) in the North Arabian Sea and Gulf of Oman.

The strike group’s flagship, USS Tarawa (LHA 1) and the amphibious transport dock USS Cleveland (LPD 7) are joined by the guided-missile destroyer USS Oscar Austin (DDG 79). The French ships Var (FS 608) and Lafayette (FS 710), and the Pakistani frigate Badr (PNS 181) round out the coalition task group.

MSO are part of ESG-1’s regularly scheduled deployment to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations. The ships, currently assigned to Task Force 150, led by French Vice Adm. Jacques Mazars, seek to preserve the free and secure use of the world’s oceans by legitimate mariners and prevent terrorists from attempting to use the maritime environment as a venue for attack or as a medium to transport personnel, weapons or other illicit material.

“The focus is on gathering information that links to the global war on terrorism,” said Australian navy Lt. Cmdr. Darren Rushworth, future operations planner for Amphibious Squadron (CPR) 1, the task group commander. “The illegal smuggling means that funds are being created. Where does that money go? That is the link. There is also a link in terms of people smuggling, and we can find out where they are going and what they are doing."
More here and here. USS Tarawa website here has more on ESG-1.

FBI Anti-terrorist Divers

Okay. Time for the terrorist diver story of the month: Underwater With FBI Divers
Since September 11, 2001, the FBI has created scuba teams in Los Angeles, Miami and Washington, D.C. following the model of New York's team, the FBI's oldest. And fighting terrorism below the surface has led to a change in emergency preparedness.

"Harness is on, bc's on," says one of the FBI's scuba divers as he prepares to search for a gun in upstate New York's Lake Minnewaska. "Ed's pressure is 2500 pounds."

“Commence search," says team leader Michael Tyms.

In 2002, the FBI issued an alert on how terrorists might be setting their sights underwater, stating, "various terrorist elements have sought to develop an offensive scuba diver capability."

The work of the FBI's elite team of divers has remained in the shadows, until now.
Gotta love it.

In memoriam: Adm. Arthur Cebrowski

I note with sadness the death from cancer of Adm. Arthur Cebrowski as reported here.

A revolutionary thinker.

Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,
But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.

Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;

For though from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crossed the bar.
Tennyson (music)

Somalia, piracy and "illegal" fishing - another side of the story

Interesting piece here on some other forms of unlawful activity taking place off Somalia. But this time, it's foreigners who are the bad actors:
Questions are being asked as to why a sealane only a decade ago was relatively untroubled has suddenly become one of the most risky in the world for shipping lines.

For many Somalis, especially marine experts and costal dwellers, it all began when foreign fishing boats started invading the country's fishing grounds after the fall of the Somali government in the early 1990s. When the various rebel groups that had toppled the government failed to fill the vacuum and instead turned on each other, an opportunity arose for foreign vessels to invade the country's territorial waters and marine economic zone to fish for diverse species.

The unscrupulous foreigners were simply taking advantage of the confusion created by the civil war to catch whatever they wanted. Their vessels were widely reportedly to be using universally prohibited fishing equipment, including nets with very small mesh sizes and sophisticated underwater lighting systems to lure fish to their traps.

Somali coastal dwellers have been crying for help to stop this fishing for nearly a decade, but nothing has been done.

"The trawlers began to come closer to the coast - looking for lucrative fish species - triggering direct confrontation between the foreign vessels and Somali inshore fishermen," Omar Abdulle Hayle, a Mogadishu based fishery expert says....
...The local fishing community's resentment led to a quest for revenge. Eventually, some youth tried to chase away the foreign trawlers using speedboats and guns. The intruders promptly changed their tactics in the face of this challenge. They reportedly sought licenses to fish along the coast from local warlords who readily supplied them with "permits."

This gave the trawlers a new lease of life as they could continue operating without fear of the local youth. Lately, the youth's attempt to scare the trawlers away, whether "permitted" or not, have met stiff resistance with the intruders responding with firearms and even pressurised hoses to capsize the smaller boats.

"Our boys lost hope when they realised that the trawlers' licensees supplied them with armed militias to overpower opponents," said Mr Bakari.

It is widely believed that the local youths' frustration was eventually turned from the foreign fishing vessels to commercial boats. Armed with speedboats and an array of weapons, the youth realised cargo ships were soft targets. Until eight months ago, the occasional capture of a ship was their only success story. Even then, they simply released it after securing some small payments as ransom. Lately, however, the youth's random requests have grown from a few thousand dollars to hundreds of thousands...
..."It is a pure act of hypocrisy by the IMB, IMO and others to issue a warning on piracy along the Somali coast and suggest strong action while they remained silent when foreign vessels were exploiting Somali fish resources illegally and even dumping toxic waste in the country."

East and Southern African countries, including Somalia's new Transitional Federal Government have called for a stop to the piracy. Their concern is justified because piracy along the Somali coast can directly affect their imports, exports and even tourism.
How many wrongs make a right again?

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

More UN silliness: "Keep News On Hijacked Ships Private, Says UN"

What are the idiots at the UN thinking? Well, here it says:
Information on ships and crews who are detained by pirates in Somalia should not be made public, the United Nations has warned.

The coordinator of the Seafarers Assistance Programme, Mr Andrew Mwangura, who has been negotiating the release of the ships and their crew said: "The UN wants that the authorities to be contacted in the hijacking saga are the ships' owners or the embassies of countries concerned."

Currently, there are four ships held by the pirates, including Kenya's Mv Torgelow, which has a crew of 10. Others are Mv San Carlo and Mv Panagia.

The UN warning is seen as aimed at seeking a secretive way of handling negotiations to free the ships and their crew.

The global organisation is also believed to be gathering information on the movement and operations of the pirates for possible action.
Perhaps someone smarter than I can explain the logic? And the UN taking action? With what? A resolution?

War at sea: the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal

An excellent and timely post by CDR Salamander on war at sea honoring the 63rd anniversary of the naval battle off Guadalcanal at Four bells and all's hell.

The "fog of war" comes to the fore in the narrative he links to.*

Having navigated the "Slot" (that stretch of water surrounded by the Solomon Islands) in a destroyer (we paid homage to our lost shipmates during the trip), I am familiar with the waters and still wonder at the courage of the men involved on both sides in the fights that took place there. Running some of the straits at night took some serious navigation skills.

From Sea Power (2nd) (p.308):
Under a moonless but starry nght, the Japanese and American forces entered Ironbottom Sound from opposite directions. Callaghan, belatedly warned by radar that the was ona collision course with the enemy, turned too late, and the Japanese and American ships intermingled. There followed a half-hour melee, which for confusion and fury is scarcely paralleled in naval history. Both formations broke, and the engagement became a series of individual ship duels with each side from time to time firing on its own vessels. The American ships were saved from annihilation only by the fact that the Japanese 14-inch guns were provided with bombardment rather than armor-piercing shells."
"Iron Bottom Sound" Wreck image from here.

Special Warning Message 11 Nov 2005

The National Geospatial-Intelleigence Agency has issued a "Special Warning" Numbered 123 for Somalia. (To find it, go here and click on "Broadcast Warning Messages" then "Special Warnings" then select "All In-Force Special Warnings" and click on "search"):
(111941Z NOV 2005)
Any questions?

Austin Bay on modern pirates

Austin Bay has some words on 21st century pirates over at Strategy Page and offers up this:
The spike in media interest may give Jack Gottschalk and Brian Flanagan a belated bestseller. Their "Jolly Roger With an Uzi: The Rise and Threat of Modern Piracy," published by the Naval Institute Press in 2000, documented the rise of "new piracy," to include smuggling and maritime scams, as well as terrorists operating at sea.

Gottschalk and Flanagan identify three "requirements" for piracy, which apply to Viking pirate raiders as well as contemporary Somali sea thieves: 1) Pirates prowl waterways where the targets are lucrative. 2) "The geographic area where pirates prey must be one in which the risk level of detection is acceptable." 3) If possible, pirates have "safe havens" where they can "hide, seek repairs and obtain supplies."

Combating piracy takes good intelligence. The authors also offer this warning: Piracy "has never been reduced through any process of negotiation." Historically, only armed force suppresses pirates.
The increasing cooperation among the litoral states of the Strait of Malacca are changing those conditions in the Strait. Whereas before the pirates could rely on international law to stop pursuit at their home country's territorial waters, joint patrols allow for hot pursuit across borders. For background on the territorial waters issue, see this post.

Somalia, of course, is a different matter. The distinction with the Barbary pirates is that those pirates were virtually state-sponsored. As Max Boot puts it in The Savage Wars of Peace,
To finance their governments they would routinely declare war on a European state and set either naval vessels or privateers to seize enemy shipping.
The Somali pirates certainly have no state backing and by capturing ships carrying food for their fellow Somalis are not acting in the best interests of anyone save themselves.

Colonel Bay also discusses concerns expressed about a large vessel being captured in the Malacca Strait. We've mentioned this before. For info on an attempted attack on a large tanker and some possible ramifications, see here (looks as if Blogger may somehow have eaten the comments, which is a shame as there were some good ones...). And see here and here. On "Asymmetric Warfare: Terrorists, Small Boats, Explosives and Unarmed, Unescorted Ships" see here. And an amendment to the law of the sea that may help here.

UPDATE: Modern cruise ship security discussed here: Leo
But the captain of the SuperStar Leo, one of the fastest liners afloat, was confident in his ship's ability to "repel boarders" in this pirate hotspot.

For a start, he had 14 tough-as-teak Gurkhas on board who acted as ship's security. These ex-British Army fighters, among the most feared troops in the world, have become security-for-hire on many passenger ships.

Then the captain produced a portable control console, with toggles remarkably similar to a child's electronic game, to demonstrate the operation of the four water cannons attached to the ship's side.

If anyone was silly enough to try to board, we were told, the force of the water was enough to splinter a timber vessel.

Looking down the towering, sheer sides of the ship to the sea, where white water surged violently as it was tossed aside, it was hard to imagine any small boat surviving alongside, let alone a man being able to attach a grappling hook and climb to the deck...
...In a new book, Cruise Touring, to be released in February, Professor Ross Dowling, head of the tourism faculty at Western Australia's Edith Cowan University, lists measures undertaken by cruise companies to maintain security.

These include Automated Personnel Assisted Screening (A-Pass), which identifies and monitors the movements of passengers and crew on board; the use of anti-piracy screens along lower decks; lighting; radar to reveal small, approaching craft; high-pressure water hoses; and discreet emergency alarms to alert maritime authorities.
Hmmm. People have been busy...

Monday, November 14, 2005

Latest ONI World Wide Threat to Shipping (9 November))

For latest Office of Naval Intelligence World Wide Threat to Shipping message, go here and click on the date. Highlights:
Between 05 Nov and 07 Nov, pirates off the coast of Somalia
attempted to hijack several vessels, including the cruise ship
(SEABOURN SPIRIT) before successfully hijacking a Thai-flagged
general cargo ship per 10 Nov reporting. These string of attacks
demonstrate Somali pirate’s ability to conduct at sea hijackings from
as far south as Kismayo (02 deg South lat) to as far north as Eyl
(08 deg North lat) and out to a distance of 170 NM. All vessels
are advised to remain at least 200 NM from the east coast of
Somalia. All merchant vessels transiting the coast of
Somalia, no matter how far offshore, should increase anti-piracy
precautions and maintain a heightened state of vigilance. Pirates
are reported to have used previously hijacked ships as bases for
further attacks. Another reported pirate tactic has been to issue
a false distress call to lure a ship close inshore. Therefore,
caution should be taken when responding to distress calls keeping
in mind it may be a tactic to lure a vessel into a trap.
Victimized vessels report two to three 6 to 9 meter speedboats
with 3 to 6 armed men per vessel armed with AK-47s and shoulder
launched rockets, opening fire on their vessels in broad daylight
in order to intimidate them into stopping. To date, vessels that
increase speed and take evasive maneuvers avoid boarding while
those that slow down are boarded, taken to the Somali coastline,
and released after successful ransom payment, often after
protracted negotiations of as much as 11 weeks (ONI)...
... 3. SOMALIA: An unidentified Thai-flagged general cargo
ship was hijacked 07 Nov at 0600 UTC while underway off the east
coast of Somalia. Once hijacked, the captors forced the ship to
anchor 04:28N, 048.01E near the Somali coastline, Pirates have
since demanded a large ransom for the release of the ship. ONI
Comment: This anchorage location is not far from where the recently
released UN World Food Program M/V SEMLOW was reportedly held
(near Haradheere) for over three months (see ONI World Wide Threat
to Shipping report 28 Sep 05 Para 5.H.3) and are likely the same
perpetrators of the attack on C/S SEABOURN PRINCESS (NB Eagle1: should be Seabourn Spirit) on 05 Nov and
the attack on the unidentified RORO on 06 Nov (LL, ONI).
4. SOMALIA: An unidentified RORO came under attack 06 Nov while
underway in position 02:29.3N 048:28.2E off the east coast of Somalia.
Pirates armed with machine guns and rocket launchers fired upon the ship.
The master took evasive maneuvers, increased speed and the pirates’ boats
fell behind. No injuries were reported (IMB).

5. SOMALIA: M/V (GREAT MORNING ) reported being chased by a
suspicious craft for two hours on 05 Nov at 1200 UTC while underway
in position 04:26N 054:14E, 320 NM off the east coast of Somalia.
When the ship approached the craft, it suddenly increased speed and
chased the bulk carrier. The master took evasive maneuvers,
increased speed and moved away from the coast. Craft continued to
the chase until 1400 UTC before moving away. Suspicious craft had
one derrick and master suspects this may be a mother ship to launch
speedboats who attack ships. ONI Comment: Given the distance from
shore and description provided by the master, this may have been a
pelagic purse seiner (fishing vessel with a boom to handle large
nets and smaller support craft) engaged in legitimate operations.
The increasing number of hijackings at greater distances off the
Somali coastline requires taking the evasive actions, demonstrated
by the alert crew, necessary at all distances off the Somali coastline
None of these are new reports, but there is some additional information that may be of interest.

UPDATE (15 Nov 05): More recent piracy/terrorism posts here and here.