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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

End of the Old Year: "Clash of Civilizations"

As the former new year draws to a close and we remember those who have died, let us recall Samuel Huntington and his 15 year old essay "Clash of Civilizations":
WORLD POLITICS IS entering a new phase, and intellectuals have not hesitated to proliferate visions of what it will be -- the end of history, the return of traditional rivalries between nation states, and the decline of the nation state from the conflicting pulls of tribalism and globalism, among others. Each of these visions catches aspects of the emerging reality. Yet they all miss a crucial, indeed a central, aspect of what global politics is likely to be in the coming years.

It is my hypothesis that the fundamental source of conflict in this new world will not be primarily ideological or primarily economic. The great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural. Nation states will remain the most powerful actors in world affairs, but the principal conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilizations. The clash of civilizations will be the battle lines of the future.
On both sides the interaction between Islam and the West is seen as a clash of civilizations. The West's "next confrontation," observes M. J. Akbar, an Indian Muslim author, "is definitely going to come from the Muslim world. It is in the sweep of the Islamic nations from the Meghreb to Pakistan that the struggle for a new world order will begin." Bernard Lewis comes to a regular conclusion:
We are facing a need and a movement far transcending the level of issues and policies and the governments that pursue them. This is no less than a clash of civilizations -- the perhaps irrational but surely historic reaction of an ancient rival against our Judeo-Christian heritage, our secular present, and the worldwide expansion of both.
While you are at it, General Victor Krulak's 1969 speech to the U.S. Naval Institute has some pith to it -“What in the hell has happened to the United States of America?” he asks.
Something is certainly wrong. We're a nation with resources beyond measure and form of government that has brought us to historic eminence. But we're a nation in trouble. What has happened to the United States of America? We see thousands of citizens whose stock in trade is disunity and lawlessness, thousands who preach hatred for our government system and clamor for free speech for themselves, and thousands who insist that their country owes them a living.
What has become of the United States of America?

Men who cry out for black power or white power or brown power, with never a word about truth power or the power of a free nation. Elementary school teachers appear to be far more obsessed with sex education but are quite willing to send on youngsters who don't know the difference between the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution or the Bill of Rights and who don't care.
National legislators, professors and students who condemn our forces fighting for their lives in combat for fighting too hard; who insist that the route to greatness is somehow to be found in surrender; who are prepared to risk our Nation's destiny on the Utopian gamble that by weakening ourselves we can somehow enhance the likelihood of peace around the world.
...What is wrong with the United States of America?

Let me give you my judgment. I believe it has to do with . . . a passive unwillingness on the part of the vast bulk of our people to stand up and be counted; to fight for what is right and to correct what is wrong.
. . .Today we see an extraordinary lack of purpose and an even greater lack of resolution in our people. While the majority of Americans remain silent, we find vocal minorities of our people exerting inordinate - and often dangerous - influence on our country's affairs.

Having no visible frontiers to conquer, they grope around for emotional causes. They find satisfaction in deprecating our own progress, ignoring our own strength, attacking our own institutions, while giving inordinate respect to the philosophy and conduct of our potential enemies. And they are being allowed to get away with it by a passive majority.

The fact is, this is a great country. Our system . . . is a good system. It's the success story of the modern age. Nowhere, in all the nooks and crannies of history, is there a record of anything better. anything as good, let alone better.
What is needed - what is needed desperately today - is for the great mass of silent America to come out of its shell and acknowledge publicly and openly what they already know - that ours is a great, a dynamic and a successful country, that the ragings of those who condemn our system are just plain false.

Now, above all, is no time for people whose work has brought our country to greatness to be silent or uncertain.

Over a generation ago, Calvin Coolidge said, "Doubters do not achieve, skeptics do not contribute, cynics do no create."

The 20th century is certainly a battlefield. Of this there can be no doubt. And to win the battle of the 20th century, our country can afford no doubters, can afford no skeptics, and no cynics.
While in his speech, General Krulak was referring to the threat posed by totalitarian states and he had not seen yet the fall of the Soviet Union nor China's "new way", his call to defend American/Western values sounds the same warning bell that Professor Huntington was ringing.
And the same warning perhaps urged by Burke,
"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."

Pirate Attack Photos - M/V BISCAGLIA

Fred's got your latest pirate photos posted at Fred Fry International: Pirate Attack Photos - M/V BISCAGLIA


Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Somali Pirates: China Joins the Grownups

From an opinion piece by Rory Medcalf titled "Deeper logic to China's gunboat diplomacy"
Last Friday, two destroyers and a supply vessel departed on China's first long-range naval expedition since 1433. The decision to join the global armada in the pirate-plagued waters off Somalia is a momentous step in China's rise as a world power.
China has long been a free rider on the ocean highways. It has enjoyed the benefits of maritime trade and energy routes, so vital to its economic boom, while other countries' navies have kept them open.

Yet with growing wealth, pride and ambition come expectations that Beijing will contribute to the safety of an interdependent world. It was only a matter of time before China, along with the other awakening giant India, joined the club of maritime security providers, using their fleets simultaneously for self-interest and the common good, whether fighting piracy, interdicting smuggling or delivering disaster relief.
The Somali piracy crisis makes the ideal platform for China's debut on the high seas. It gives Beijing every justification for easing its doctrine of non- intervention: Chinese lives and interests are in danger, the United Nations has blessed action in Somali waters, almost everyone else is in the game, and what passes for the Somali government has invited China in. And in times of economic pain, a show of military strength can be a politically smart distraction.

There is also a deeper logic to China's experiment in gunboat diplomacy. China's strategists worry at the vulnerability of their economy to maritime corridors, such as the Strait of Malacca, which they think America's superior navy could choke at will.

The primary mission of the People's Liberation Army Navy remains stopping Taiwan from declaring independence, as well as keeping US forces at bay in any ensuing war. But some new or projected capabilities are meant to give Beijing wider options, whether thwarting energy blockades, deterring other powers, or protecting Chinese nationals and interests far away.
China has as much right as any trading nation to guard itself in the lawless waters off the Horn of Africa. Warships from European Union nations, the US, India, Russia and even Malaysia are already on patrol; there is talk of South Korea and Japan joining in.

It was inconceivable that China would forever outsource its maritime security to the United States or India.

The challenge now is to forge operational cohesion in a motley multinational flotilla. The Chinese presence is a critical opportunity for China, the US, India and others to shape the rules and habits of cooperation and communication at sea that could be crucial to future peace. As things stand, these navies lack even a basic agreement to stop accidental clashes, like the treaty that helped keep the Cold War cold.
Lot of ocean out there, but lots of chokepoints for China to worry over. Cooperation makes it easier to avoid misunderstandings and the consequences that can follow. Nice to have the Chinese moving up to the grownup table of sea lane protection.

Somali Pirates: Russian Navy Destroyer Escorts Over 50 Ships

Reported as Russian frigate escorted over 50 ships on anti-piracy mission:
"During its mission in the Gulf of Aden, the Russian combat vessel escorted 13 convoys, totaling 51 ships, through the dangerous waters [off the Somali coast]," Capt. 1st Rank Igor Dygalo said.

Dygalo said the frigate would continue its mission until mid-January and would be replaced by another Russian combat ship.
Good. This is a way to contain the Somali pirates.

UPDATE: In a semi-related story, the negotiation process over the captured Ukrainian ship carrying tanks and other weapons is nearing its 100th day as reported here.

Shipping Industry Hits Skids

An investment adviser points out that the world-wide shipping industry is taking an economic pounding here:
If the end of 2008 is a predictor of business in 2009, the shipping industry is in for one heck of a nightmare. On June 5, 2008, it cost $233,988 per day to charter a Capsize tanker, the largest ocean-going cargo vessel available for shipping dry bulk commodities. Six months later that same tanker charters for $2,773 per day, down 98.8% in less than half-a-year. To put that in perspective, imagine paying $15.00 for a cab ride home and six months later the same cab driver charges you $0.18. This is a problem shipping companies will continue to face in the coming months as demand for these tankers has fallen off a cliff.
The effect of lower shipping costs has been dramatic, as set out here:
Ocean shipping costs have plunged to 22-year lows, skewing global grain-trading patterns to the point where hog farmers in the United States are importing wheat from Britain and Japan has shunned American corn in favor of supplies from Ukraine.

In some countries, it is now less costly to ship grain thousands of kilometers across the ocean rather than move supplies hundreds of kilometers by barge or railroad cars. But the phenomenon should be short-lived and the United States should remain the world's top exporter of corn, wheat and soybeans, according to specialists in the sector.

"It has opened up opportunities that perhaps wouldn't have been conceivable before and one-off trades may well happen, but it is not really changing the grain flows," said David Doyle, head of wheat at Openfield, a farmers' cooperative in England.

Ocean freight rates reached a record high in May and have since fallen more than 90 percent in a few months to as little as $10 a ton to most destinations.

"Ocean shipping costs are so low that it would be cheaper for south Indian buyers to import Russian wheat than move wheat from north India by train," said one European trader who was not authorized to speak to the news media.
"Ship owners are giving away bulk carriers at operating costs just to generate cash flow and to pay crews' wages," said another European trader who was also not authorized to speak to the news media. "This will expand the selling range of U.S., Argentine and Australian wheat in the Middle East market if they can compete against the Russians on prices."
The shipping container business is also way down, as reported here:
According to the Transpacific Stabilization Agreement, which represents 15 ocean carriers in the Pacific, Asia to U.S. container cargos dropped 6.9% in the first half of 2008 and could end the year down as much as 8% from last year.

And officials from TSA are not predicting a rebound in cargo demand until the second half of 2009. "Clearly we're in a slowdown right now, but just as clearly, the current freezing up of the global credit system is unsustainable," said TSA chairman Ronald Widdows in a statement. "We expect to see an orderly de-leveraging of the financial markets over the next year that will begin to restore confidence with year-on-year cargo demand growth resuming in late 2009."
And with demand down, ocean container shipping rates have so dramatically in the past quarter, some shipping lines are reportedly refusing what cargo there is because the going rates are below operating costs—meaning the carrier would lose money by taking the business in certain lanes. Reuters reports that A.P. Moller-Maersk's Maersk Line is removing 7,600 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU) per week from its Asia-North Europe lanes because, "The current Asia-Europe market is characterized by unsustainable rate levels," according to Maersk officials.

The Maersk move came only days after Neptune Orient Lines said its container shipping business APL will reduce capacity in transpacific trade by around 20% and reduce capacity in Asia-Europe trade by around 25% by suspending certain service offerings.
UPDATE: JOC reports up to 200 container ships could be laid up here:
Over 200 container ships likely will be laid up in the New Year as charter ship owners and ocean carriers adjust to weakening cargo demand, plunging freight and vessel hire rates, and an influx of new ships onto key liner trade routes.

Some 165 container vessels totalling 430,000 TEUs capacity were idle just before Dec. 25, up from 300,000 TEUs two weeks earlier, according to the latest estimates from AXS Alphaliner, the Paris-based consultant.

This represents 3.5 percent of the world fleet in TEUs, equivalent in relative terms, to the laid-up figure during the lowest point of the 2002 slump, AXS says. The list of unemployed tonnage includes six ships of between 7,500 and 10,000 TEUs, and 19 between 5,000 and 7,500 TEUs.
Charter ship owners have taken the biggest hit from the market slump accounting for 105 of the 165 idled vessels, a figure that’s set to rise sharply in the coming weeks as scores of vessels are due to come off hire with little prospect of re-employment.

If it can find work, a 2,750-TEU sub-Panamax ship will earn around $10,500 a day compared with $19,500 in September and around $30,000 at the beginning of 2008.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Why we must fight terrorists

What Salamander writes here.

What this terrorist bomber does here:

Kids. Not soldiers. Kids.

Next time you are in a line to pick up your kids streaming out of school, remember this.

U.S. Maritime Administration's Horn of Africa Piracy Info Site

With a hat tip to Holland and Knight, a link to the Maritime Administration's Horn of Africa Piracy info website.

Monday Reading

Fred Fry's Maritime Monday 142 over at Fed's got photos of a Tahitian ship plying its trade and enough sea related news to while away the slow days between the end of the Christmas weekend and the New Years holiday. Enjoy!

CDR Salamander goes after the NYTimes editorial on defence budget cuts here. The NYT comes off second best and would be lower except there are only two players.

Galrahn notes the Navy has settled the stupid anti-sonar lawsuits here. Maybe now we can train sailors to fight something other than injunctions. Update: A little background.

Somali Pirates: Insurance issues

Reported in the Times Online "Piracy insurance hinges on number of raiders":
The surge in piracy off the coast of Somalia could trigger legal disputes between marine and war risk insurers, a leading QC has warned.

Jonathan Gilman, QC, said that piracy could be covered by either type of policy - depending on the number of pirates involved. If 12 or more pirates are involved in an attack, according to Mr Gilman, the incident is likely be classified under the Public Order Act 1986 as a riot. These are covered by war risk insurers rather than by marine insurers. However, if the attack involves fewer than a dozen pirates, the incident would typically be covered by marine insurance.

Mr Gilman - editor of Arnould's Law of Marine Insurance, published by Sweet & Maxwell - said that because it was often very difficult to verify accurately the number of pirates involved in an attack, it could lead to legal conflicts. He said: “Piracy is normally covered by marine insurers, the exception being where the incident is legally a riot. There have been House of Lords decisions where it was held the word ‘riot' in insurance policies is to be given its strict criminal law meaning, so that the critical question is likely to be whether the number of pirates is 12 or more. It may be very difficult to assess accurately the exact number of pirates involved in any particular incident, which may result in disputes between marine and war risk insurers.
You gotta love this stuff.

Somali Pirates: Attention Getters

A spate of articles on the pirates of Somalia offered up over the weekend including a summary piece titled Pirates of Aden:
This year, Somalian pirates hogged the news with their derring-do in the Gulf of Aden but shipowners were not amused as they reportedly had to pay millions to secure the release of their vessels and crew.

The Gulf of Aden, located between Somalia and Yemen, was the focal point of pirate activities.

Taking advantage of a country without a stable government, the pirates attacked more than 90 vessels this year, seizing almost 40, and raked in some US$30mil (RM95mil) in ransom.
One titled "The year Somali pirates challenged the world:
Over the past year, Somali pirates have hijacked everything from luxury yachts to oil tankers, defying foreign navies and holding the world to ransom over one of the planet's busiest trade routes.

What was once a group of disgruntled fishermen has turned into a fearsome organisation which has attacked more than 100 ships this year alone and raked in an estimated 120 million dollars in ransom money.

Somali pirates captured the world's attention when they hijacked a Ukrainian cargo carrying combat tanks in September and a Saudi-owned super-tanker fully laden with two million barrels of crude two months later.
Armed with rifles, grenade-launchers and grapnel hooks, the pirates have wreaked havoc in the Gulf of Aden, where thousands of merchant vessels bottle-neck into the Red Sea each year.

The cost of ransoms, delays and insurance premiums has hit the shipping industry hard, prompting some companies to opt for the longer but safer route around the Cape of Good Hope.

"This unprecedented rise in piracy is threatening the very freedom and safety of maritime trade routes, affecting not only Somalia and the region, but also a large percentage of world trade," the top UN envoy to Somalia, Ahmedou Ould Abdallah, said recently.
One noting the benefits to the local Somali economy by the influx of pirate money:
Somalia's increasingly brazen pirates are building sprawling stone houses, cruising in luxury cars, marrying beautiful women -- even hiring caterers to prepare western-style food for their hostages.

And in an impoverished country where every public institution has crumbled, they have become heroes in the steamy coastal dens they operate from because they are the only real business in town.

"The pirates depend on us, and we benefit from them," said Sahra Sheik Dahir, a shop owner in Haradhere, the nearest village to where a hijacked Saudi supertanker carrying two million barrels of crude was anchored last week.

These boomtowns are all the more shocking in light of Somalia's violence and poverty: Radical groups control most of the country's south, meting out lashings and stonings for accused criminals. There has been no effective central government in nearly 20 years, plunging this arid African country into chaos.

But in northern coastal towns like Haradhere, Eyl and Bossaso, the pirate economy is thriving thanks to the money pouring in from pirate ransoms that have reached C$37 million this year alone.
See also "A pirate’s life is flashy in Somalia."

Articles noting the departure of a Chinese force naval force for the Somalia ares like this one:
A Chinese naval fleet - armed with special forces, guided missiles and helicopters - set sail on Friday for anti-piracy duty off Somalia, the first time the country has sent ships on a mission that could involve fighting beyond its territorial waters.

Decorated with colored ribbons and flowers, the three warships - two destroyers and a supply vessel from the People's Liberation Army Navy - were unmoored at the military port by crew members in white naval uniforms.

The fleet will carry about 800 crew members, including 70 soldiers from the navy's special force.

The current expedition aims to guard civilian ships from attacks by Somali pirates.
Articles noting the limits imposed on civilized countries by law, such as this one:
On December 25th, a German frigate off the coast of Somalia, sent its helicopter to interrupt a pirate attack on an Egyptian merchant ship. One member of the Egyptian crew had already been wounded by gunfire, but the German helicopter stopped the attack. German sailors then captured and disarmed six of the pirates. The pirates were then set free. This is because German law only allows the prosecution of pirates who are attacking Germans (or German property.) The Egyptian ship was carrying a cargo of wheat from Ukraine to South Korea.
Business as usual for the pirates.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Sunday Ship History: Zig- Zagging Convoys of World War I

The use of convoys to protect merchant ships from pirates and privateers probably dates back to the earliest days of sending goods from one place to another by ship. The use of convoys in modern times dates back to 1917 - when the British Royal Navy realized it needed to do something to stop the German navy from starving England into submission during WWI.

A convoy has been defined as "one or more merchant ships sailing under the protection of one or more warships." A convoy can consist of a number of unescorted ships, too.

In its history perhaps no country has been as dependent on the free flow of materials to its shores as England and no country in more danger of having that lifeline cut:
Early in the Seventeenth Century, while confined to the Tower of London, Sir Walter Raleigh wrote: ‘There are two ways in which England may be afflicted. The one by invasion ... the other by impeachment of our Trades’. On this Sir Julian Corbett has commented: ‘Herein lies the raison d’ĂȘtre for British sea power throughout the ages. Trade protection and security from invasion both depended on sea power’. As will become apparent in the ensuing account, in the last two World Wars, through insufficient attention to trade protection, Britain was nearly defeated even though she was the dominant naval power and under no serious risk of invasion.
The English use of convoys to protect its trade was already 400 or more years old as World War I broke, but at the start of World War I, however, there was reluctance on the part of the British Royal Navy to institute a convoy system for its merchant fleet. See the discussion in this article titled "Losing the Initiative in Mercantile Warfare: Great Britain's Surprising Failure to Anticipate Maritime Challenges to Her Global Trading Network in the First World War".

One school of thought is that reluctance was because of new fast, powerful battleships, as set out here:
In the early 20th century, the dreadnought changed the balance of power in convoy battles. Steaming faster than merchant ships and firing at long ranges, a single battleship could destroy many ships in a convoy before the others could scatter over the horizon. To protect a convoy against a capital ship required providing it with an escort of another capital ship; a very high cost.

Battleships were the main reason that the British Admiralty did not adopt convoy tactics at the start of the first Battle of the Atlantic in World War I. But by the end of 1914, German capital ships had largely been cleared from the oceans and the main threat to shipping came from U-boats. From a tactical point of view, World War I-era submarines were similar to privateers in the age of sail: only a little faster than the merchant ships they were attacking, and capable of sinking only a small number of vessels in a convoy because of their limited supply of torpedoes and shells. The Admiralty took a long time to respond to this change in the tactical position, and only in 1917 . . . did they institute a convoy system. Losses to U-boats dropped to a small fraction of their former level.
Another analysis points to three other reasons:
At the outbreak of World War I the Admiralty was prompt to introduce the convoy system for troop transports. But while convoys were instituted for troop transports, storeships and other special ships, and while the Grand Fleet never left harbour without an extensive anti-submarine, anti-torpedo-boat screen of escorting destroyers, not until May 1917 was any attempt made to protect the bulk of Britain’s extensive ocean-going merchant shipping through the traditional means of convoy and escort. How does one explain this curious paradox in the light of past history?

It stemmed from three misconceptions at the Admiralty which were shared to a greater or lesser extent by the Government of the day at the outbreak of the war.

Firstly, there was an obsession with the ‘decisive battle’ concept, the conviction that the main function of the Navy was not home defence or trade protection (which were essentially ‘defensive’ measures), but to seek out and destroy the enemy’s fleet (which was ‘offensive’). This thinking persisted right through into 1918 even though as early as 23 September 1916 the Admiralty was writing to the Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Fleet: ‘The British Fleet is vital to the success of the Allied cause. The German Fleet is of secondary importance; its loss would not vitally affect the cause of the Central Powers ...’

Secondly, there was the notion that as the dominant naval power Britain had nothing to fear from a weaker naval power which resorted to the guerre de course, or commerce raiding. But there was a fallacy in this argument. The guerre de course had never been attempted against a power so vulnerable to it as Britain now was. Britain imported nearly two-thirds of her food supplies, all her oil, most of her iron ore and other minerals and metals except coal.

Thirdly, while it was generally recognised in 1914 that the submarine posed a distinct threat to warships, with the notable exception of Admiral of the Fleet Lord Fisher, a former First Sea Lord, there was a complete failure to recognize its possibilities as a commerce raider. Here Admiralty thinking was in accord with that of the German Secretary of State for the Navy, Admiral von Tirpitz. He saw the submarine only as a defensive weapon for German harbours and their approaches. The early war successes of the U-boats surprised him.

The possibility of German submarines sinking merchantmen without warning was discarded in the pre-war Royal Navy as ‘impossible and unthinkable’. Churchill, on 1 January 1914, stated that he did not believe ‘this would ever be done by a civilised Power’. He was not alone in this error.

On the other hand, Lord Fisher, in a memorandum to Churchill in January 1914, was remarkably prescient. He pointed out that the submarine ‘cannot capture the merchant ship; she has no spare hands to put a prize crew on board; little or nothing would be gained by disabling her engines or propeller; she cannot convoy her into harbour; and, in fact, it is impossible for the submarine to deal with commerce in the light and provisions of international law ... There is nothing else the submarine can do except sink her capture’.
The truth of the matter was that naval thought was focused too exclusively on battle and too little on the protection of shipping. In spite of Jellicoe’s memorandum to Balfour of 29 October 1916, it was still not appreciated that lack of shipping could lose the war without a single major engagement at sea.
Finally, however, with the resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare by the Germans in 1917 the need for merchant convoys became very apparent and their establishment directed by the Admiralty.

In addition to setting up a convoy system, these convoys were directed, under certain conditions to weave their way from their point of origin to destination instead of traveling in a predictable straight course. The idea of the weave was to make it harder for the German submarines to predict exact convoy routes even if the time for the transit of the convoy was increased by the time spent moving back and forth across a base course.

This weaving pattern became known as "zigzagging":
Zig-Zagging amounts to the main body of the convoy simultaneously steering predetermined courses for various lengths of time, which would prevent a submarine captain from easily determining the true course of the convoy. Changes in course were made at specific intervals on the clock thus eliminating any visual or electronic signal, which might alert the submarine captain to an impending change. Each convoy has one ship as a Guide-on. That ship is responsible for precise execution of the zig-zag plan and all other ships in the main body must also execute precisely the same zig-zag maneuver to insure maintaining the formation. The Guide-on was generally one of the foremost ships in the main body. Several standard Zig-Zag plans were available for use and they usually were changed daily or as needed.
Make no mistake, the zigzag of WWI was meant to evade or avoid attack:
The primary objective of anti-submarine tactics is to destroy the enemy submarines. But, since it is easier and wiser for the larger vessels, transports, and merchantmen to evade the attack, every effort should be made by them to practise tactics of evasion to supplement tactics to destroy. In convoy the latter can much better be conducted by the escorting destroyers.

Zig-zag tactics make attack difficult. Also, a quick manoeuvre the instant a periscope or torpedo is sighted will often save the ship. Alert seamanship is, therefore, a main reliance of capital ships in avoiding submarine attack.
As the Americans entered the war, they joined in the newly established convoy system (see here for the U.S. Navy publication "Remarks on Submarine Tactics Against Convoys" - a 1917 reprint of a British publication):
To a submarine approaching a convoy, zigzagging has a very confusing effect.
If she decides for the flank attack, she has almost the same difficulties to contend with as when attacking a single ship zigzagging. If attacking the centre, it is much more difficult to decide how the columns are disposed and the intervals between them. When close to the leading ships, she can only afford to show her periscope at fairly long intervals, and must always have the uncomfortable feeling that, owing to an alteration of course, she may find herself right ahead of a ship when she looks again (vide "Hearing Power," Section IV).

As long as there is sufficient light for the submarine to make out the position of the several ships nearest him, whether by night or in thick weather, zigzagging adds greatly to the difficulties of attack and consequently forms a valuable defence.
Another description of the process sets out the odd beauty of the formation zigzag:
This mighty collection of vessels, occupying ten or twelve square miles on the ocean, skillfully maintaining it formation, was really a beautiful and inspiring sight. When the destroyers had gained their designated positions...the splendid cavalcade sailed boldly into the area which formed the favourite hunting grounds for the submarine.

As soon as this danger zone was reached the whole aggregation, destroyers and merchant ships, began to zigzag. The commodore on the flagship hoisted the signal "Zig-zag A," and instantaneously the whole thirty-two ships began to turn twenty-five degrees to starboard. The great ships, usually cumbersome, made this simultaneous turn with all the deftness, and even with all the grace of schoool of fish into which one has suddenly cast a stone. All the way across the Atlantic they had been practicing such an evolution; most of them has already sailed through the danger zone more than once, so that the manoeuvre was by this time an old story. For ten or fifteen minutes they proceeded along this course, when immediately, like one vessel, the convoy turned twenty degrees to port, and started in a new direction. And so on for hours, now a few minutes to the right, now again straight ahead . . . This zigzagging was carried out according to comprehensive plans which enabled the convoy to zigzag for hours at a time without signals, the courses and the time on each course being designated in the particular plan ordered, all ships' clocks being set exactly alike by time signal.
In a zigzagging convoy, every ship ship must be on the same page as all the other ships in the convoy and the execution must be simultaneous to prevent collisions among the convoy ships. As set out here:
"The ship escaped the torpedo by zig-zagging." How many times that sentence has appeared in the newspapers! Yet how few persons realize all that that meant! A ship steaming along by herself can change her course at irregular intervals without bothering anyone or without interfering with the plans of anyone unless it be the plan of a submarine commander. However, make up a convoy of a number of ships of different nationalities. On one trip when the George Washington was flagship of the convoy, there were thirteen vessels with over thirty-five thousand men on board to be landed in France. There were vessels representing six different nationalities—there were "native-born" American vessels, "naturalized" ex-Germans, both merchant ships and a former raider, a Hollander, all under the Stars and Stripes, and there was a British vessel, a Russian manned by the British, and an Italian,—the last three chartered to help carry our men over. The British and Italian were under their own flags and officers, and with two American naval officers and a signal force and perhaps guns' crews furnished by Uncle Sam, so that there was always a naval representative to see the convoy orders carried out.

When passing through dangerous waters, or even when approaching possibly dangerous waters the zig-zag was continuous so long as there was light to see a certain distance, for even a darkened ship looms up a long distance, on a night that is not cloudy and overcast.

Imagine five ships in line and 800 yards apart, also a ship 800 yards astern of each of the first line, and then three more ships astern of the middle of the second line similarly spaced. Imagine these three lines of ships with about forty-two thousand souls in all on board going through submarine waters, and each ship zig-zagging. The changes of course must be made simultaneously. A special clock known as the "zig-zag clock" on each ship had to agree to the second with the zig-zag clock on every other ship. Each ship must put the rudder over on time to the second;—each ship must make her turn of twenty or thirty or forty degrees at and in the same time interval or a collision may result. The zig-zag must be begun as dawn breaks or the moon rises, and must continue until darkness is established. It is not dark on a cloudless night. The "Northern Lights" may be, and on some occasions were, as bright as moonlight. The glow of a cigarette may be seen half a mile at night at sea.

How was all this allowed for? What care had to be taken in the preliminary plans to ensure mutual understanding of the plans of the convoy commander? How were the other vessels to know when to start or to stop zig-zag? Suppose one ship broke down? What should be done in case of attack by a raider or by a submarine? No lights could be shown at night, even for signaling. The use of the radio was restricted, even of the "toy" sets that could not carry over five miles. What do in case of an alarm in any direction?

The Commander Cruiser and Transport Force, Rear (now Vice-) Admiral Albert Gleaves, provided for many contingencies in his "Orders in Convoy," but realizing that the man-on-the-spot should not be hampered by too many cast iron orders left much to the initiative of the convoy commander. The results, he has been kind enough to say, have justified his confidence in his commanding officers.

Even now, it would probably not be wise to go too deeply into all the details of the conferences of commanding officers that were held before the convoys sailed. This was discussed, and that was discussed, and the final results were embodied in the orders issued to each ship. The convoy group sailed from New York; at a certain time a ship from Philadelphia dropped into place; at a later time a number of ships from Newport News followed suit; their places were known before they sailed. Dangerous waters were near; "Jig No. 3" was shown by flag signals. Al l ships repeated it; down came the first signal, and at the order from the Officer of the Deck on each ship, the group of ships simultaneously began the first (?) leg of a certain "zig", which each ship followed almost automatically" and to the second until further orders, or until an alarm when each ship—did something else, —and each ship knew what to do! It became foggy, so thick it was difficult to see the ship next to you in formation,—a pre-arranged signal by whistle or by "buzzer" and each ship steered a straight course until the weather cleared. A heavy rain,—the same thing happened. One night while in particularly dangerous waters—ships had been reported as torpedoed there the day before—the group was zig-zagging when the weather became thick. If the zig-zag was stopped the group would make land (or rocks) before daylight; speed was reduced there was more danger from the submarines; in any case the destroyers on escort duty were in danger. It can readily be imagined how each captain kept peering first at the place where one ship should be to see if it was still there, and then on the other side to see if the other one was also in position. If his vessel was not the "guide" a change of a revolution or two on the engines kept that vessel in place. And all this time at certain intervals the vessels of the group would turn simultaneously onto a new leg of the zig-zag. Very frequently a heavier bit of rain or a thicker mist and hardly the bow of your own ship could be seen, yet the zig-zag continued whether the other ships were in sight or not. Yet when it lighted a bit, there was that dark mass with a white wave at her bow, and a white wake astern, just where it should be. The officers on deck did their part, whfle those in the engine room saw that the revolutions of the engines did not vary one-tenth of one per cent from the speed ordered. Team Work! And all the time there was that constant vigil by nearly a hundred lookouts for that little white "feather" that a periscope makes. Eternal Vigilance is The Price of Safety.

And so through the long night. There may have been a few more gray hairs when dawn broke on the heads of the captains, but there was a feeling of relief when the ships anchored in harbor in France in the forenoon. One more trip "with the goods", i. e., Yankee soldiers, was behind.

At the Flag Office where the captains reported later for orders, one was asked the question,—"What sort of a trip?" "Oh, pretty fair." "Zig-zag last night?" "Sure. When do we start back?" and so the game went on.You might have noticed in the discussions above mention of the "zig-zag clock" - the purpose of which was to ensure that precision in the time of changing course demanded in a close formation. An example of such a clock from WWII is shown nearby. These clocks functioned as follows:
To confuse U-boats, convoy clocks were used in both World Wars to coordinate the simultaneous zig-zag maneuvering of large groups of vessels, often out of sight, signal or radio contact with each other.

The clock was wound by hand every six to eight days; the batteries powered a signal bell or buzzer that was mounted elsewhere. The single hand swept by the moveable indicators mounted around the rim, arranged to the convoy's pre-determined turn intervals, thereby connecting the circuit to the signal to let the bridge know when to alter course onto the new leg of the zigzag.
One question that needs to be asked is whether zigzagging actually worked to reduce attacks or to interfere with U-boat targeting. While a later post will discuss the mathematics of convoys, the short answer seems to be that given WWI submarine technology, there may have been some advantage gained by the zig-zag in that it took away the ability of a sub to get out front of a convoy as wait for the convoy to bear down on the sub. In addition, given the relatively short range of the torpedoes of the day, it may have interfered with targeting solutions. On the other hand, if, on occasion you "zig" away from trouble, there will be occasions when you "zag" into trouble.

A U.S. Navy "Analysis of the Advantage of Speed and Changes of Course in Avoiding Attack by Submarine" can be found here. It makes some interesting points:
81. Considering all the points covered in the discussion of speed, changes of course, and weather and visibility conditions, the following conclusions are reached: (a) Every endeavor should be made to increase the speed of all vessels when passing through the danger zone. (b) The most important increase in speed is that at about the submerged speed of the submarine; i.e., 7 to 9 knots. (c) Zigzagging is in some respects disadvantageous, in that the chances of being sighted are increased and the danger areas increased. (d) The advantages of zigzagging, due to the interference with the submarine's calculations for reaching position desired for the attack and for firing, outweigh the disadvantages. (e) In zigzagging large changes of course are disadvantageous as by making such the danger area is increased and the time within the danger zone increased. (f) That changes of course should be made at irregular time intervals, which should not be much less than the time required for a direct attack from ahead or much more than the time required for the normal attack from the limiting position. For speed of ship 12, and submerged speed of submarine, these times are, minimum 10 minutes, maximum 20 minutes. (g) That the changes of course must be sufficiently large to cause a material error in the calculations of the submarine's commander. The angle required should not be less than 20° or over 40°, except that if changes are made, at intervals of time not greater than one-half the maximum time interval for the speed in use, 10° changes may be made. (h) That in view of the possibility that a
submarine may be able to predict changes in courses and to determine the base course from a series of several observations when the zigzag is duplicated each hour, this practice should be abolished and the zigzag so constructed that no two successive hours are similar.
(i) In order to make the determination of the base course impossible, the zigzag should extend over a period of at least half a day, the apparent base course being changed at intervals varying from 40 minutes to 1 hour 20 minutes. (j) In constructing zigzag diagrams, possible conditions of sun glare, prevailing wind, and position of light areas during twilight should be considered, and the zigzag selected so as to afford the greatest advantage with regard to light, wind, and sea conditions.

Painting: A Convoy in the First World War - A painting by Herbert Barnard John Everett illustrated in Bernard Ireland's "The War At Sea 1914-1945"

Update: Added some more art.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Somali Pirates: German Navy Ship Intervenes - Prevents Egyptian Ship Capture

A German naval vessel intervened in an attempted Somali ship capture and chased the pirates off, as reported here:
A German military helicopter chased away pirates on Thursday (25 Dec) who were trying to board an Egyptian ship off the coast of Somalia. One of the ship's crew was shot in the attack.

The bulk carrier with 31 crew was passing through the Gulf of Aden on its way to Asia when gun-toting pirates in a speedboat began pursuing it, said Noel Choong of the International Maritime Bureau's piracy reporting center.

A passing ship alerted the Kuala Lumpur-based bureau, which asked a multinational naval coalition force in the area to help, said Choong.

In response, the German navy frigate Karlsruhe dispatched a helicopter, a military spokesman said on condition of anonymity, citing policy.

The pirates fled as the chopper reached the vessel, according to a statement from the German military, but not before shooting and injuring one the ship's crew.

A second helicopter, carrying a medical team, retrieved the injured crew, who is now receiving treatment on the Karlsruhe, the statement said.
More on Bremen class frigates here.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Luke 2:1-20

1 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled. 2 This was the first enrollment, when Quirin'i-us was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be enrolled, each to his own city.4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered. 7 And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

8 And in that region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. 10 And the angel said to them, "Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; 11 for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger." 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!"

15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us." 16 And they went with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it they made known the saying which had been told them concerning this child; 18 and all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Menu - Christmas Dinner, U.S.S. Kalinin Bay, Saturday, December 25, 1943.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Coast Guard's Top 10 of 2008

The "best" Coast Guard video clips of 2008 as selected by the Coasties at Coast Guard's Top 10 of 2008. As they put it:
Videos of Search and Rescue, law enforcement and more! Real video of helicopters, rescue swimmers, surf boats, boarding teams, small boats and cutters are right here.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Week Reading

I saved linking to Fred Fry's Maritime Monday 141 until Tuesday so that you would have something to read in addition to the "Night Before Christmas" - Fred's got Norwegian Barent Sea area photos and a rare look at a Norwegian intelligence ship. You know it kinda up there near Santa's place.

Weekly Piracy Reports

First, the ICC Commercial Crime Services IMB Weekly Piracy Report (to 22 Dec 08), from here. Highlights (all of which previously reported in this blog):
* 17.12.2008: 0424 UTC: Posn: 14:28N - 051:36E: Gulf of Aden. Nine pirates in two speed boats chased and successfully boarded a heavy lift ship. The pirates were on the main deck and could not enter the accommodation. Ship sent a distress message to the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre which was immediately relayed to coalition naval forces to render assistance. A Malaysian warship, in the vicinity, sent a helicopter, which arrived on the scene and opened fire on the pirates. Coalition naval forces informed that the warship was on its way to assist the ship. The pirates disembarked from the ship into a speed boat. Crew and ship are safe and proceeding to destination port.

* 16.12.2008: 0715 LT: Posn: 13:54N – 049:39E: Gulf of Aden. Pirates boarded and hijacked the tug towing an un laden barge enroute to Port Klang Malaysia. Pirates are now sailing the vessel to undisclosed location in Somalia.

* 16.12.2008: 0904 UTC: Posn: 13:20.82N - 047:57.63E, Gulf of Aden. Pirates, in two speedboats armed with automatic weapons and RPG attacked and opened fire on a general cargo ship underway. Master transmitted mayday messages and took evasive manoeuvres. Pirates managed to board and hijack the ship. Eleven crewmembers have been taken hostage. Further information is awaited.
Now, highlights from the Office of Naval Intelligence Worldwide Threats to Shipping Report (to 19 Dec 08) which can be found in test format here:
1. GULF OF ADEN: Indian Navy arrests 23 suspected pirates in the Gulf of Aden, 13 Dec 08 reporting. Pirates on two speed boats had surrounded the general cargo ship (GIBE) at approximately noon local time, when the Indian warship (INS MYSORE) intervened and warded off the attack, according to an Indian Navy spokesperson. The (GIBE) reported two boats were firing small arms at it when it sent out a rescue call. The Indian warship, which was sailing nearby, moved its Marine Commandos on a helicopter to help the cargo ship. Upon seeing the helicopter and the (MYSORE) closing in, the attackers broke off and tried to flee, according to Indian officials. The warship caught up to the boats, the larger which was described as a 24 to 30 foot dhow bearing the name (SALAHADDIN) and towing a small skiff. Indian sailors boarded the dhow and the 23 suspects surrendered peacefully. Upon boarding, they seized seven AK-47 assault rifles, two other rifles, a grenade launcher, and 13 fully loaded magazines of
ammunition from the 12 Somali and 11 Yemeni suspects. The (GIBE) was later escorted to safety. All 23 suspects were later handed over to Yemeni authorities (AP, CNN, BBC, IMB, LM:
5. ONI SPECIAL ADVISORY: SRI LANKA: Sri Lankan government troops captured the strategic northern town of Pooneryn on 15 Nov 08, the last remaining stronghold of the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) on the island’s north-west coast. The fall of Pooneryn is considered a significant blow to the LTTE, which has held the town and surrounding areas since 1997. This capture by the Sri Lankan government further isolates the rebel forces from their sea supplies and constrains their territory. ONI Comment: When government forces have scored significant gains ashore in the past, LTTE has often counterattacked with terror tactics in ports in the Island's south and east, particularly at Trincomalee. All maritime interests are advised to maintain increased security vigilance in and near Sri Lanka waters (UPI, ONI).
1. GULF OF ADEN: General cargo ship fired upon 12 Dec 08 at 1212 local time while underway in position 13:32N – 048:37E. Eight pirates armed with machine guns and RPGs in a blue colored speed boat doing 17 knots fired upon the vessel and attempted to board twice using a ladder. The crew managed to detach the ladder even though the pirates were firing at the ship. The pirates aborted the attempted attack. Coalition forces were notified. The speedboat then moved toward a tanker that was transiting in the vicinity. The speedboat approached the tanker
from the port side at approximately 50 meters distance and began preparing the ladder in an attempt to board. The tanker began conducting evasive maneuvers and the speedboat aborted the attack, but then headed toward another tanker transiting westbound. The second tanker increased speed to 16.5 kts before the speed boat eventually aborted the chase. UKMTO Comment: All three vessels were within 4 NM of each other. After attacking the first vessel, the speedboat closed in on the second vessel and made an approach. Weapons were observed but no shots were fired and no attempt to board was made. The second vessel reported that the speed boat
made its way to the third vessel, where an approach was made. Coalition warships were informed and a helicopter and surface asset was dispatched (Operator, UKMTO).
2. GULF OF ADEN: General cargo ship (GIBE) fired upon 13 Dec 08 at 0300 UTC while underway in position 13:19N – 047:58E. The (GIBE) reported two boats were firing small arms at it when it sent out a rescue call. An Indian warship, which was sailing nearby, intervened, causing the attackers to abort their attack and flee. The pirates were later apprehended by the Indian Navy (AP, IMB, CNN).
3. GULF OF ADEN: Vessel reported suspicious approach 13 Dec 08 at 0519 UTC while underway in position 14:33N – 050:16E. Six or seven speed boats going approximately 20 kts with about six or seven persons onboard each boat approached the vessel and attempted to board. Some of the men onboard were armed. The crew mustered on deck. The master increased speed and conducted evasive maneuvers with fire hoses activated. Coalition warships were contacted via VHF Ch. 16 (Operator, UKMTO).
4. GULF OF ADEN: Container ship fired upon 13 Dec 08 at 1145 UTC while underway in position 13:43N – 048:17E. One wooden speed boat with five to six persons armed with automatic weapons and RPGs chased and opened fire on the vessel. They attempted to board with a ladder. The master took evasive maneuvers and contacted coalition warships for assistance. A naval helicopter arrived at location. Upon seeing the helicopter, the speed boat aborted the attack (IMB).
5. GULF OF ADEN: Tug (MASINDRA 7) and barge hijacked 16 Dec 08 at 0715 local time while underway in position 13:54N – 049:39E. Owners confirmed that pirates have hijacked the tug with barge in tow. There are 11 crewmembers onboard (IMB).
6. GULF OF ADEN: General cargo ship (BOSPHORUS PRODIGY) hijacked 16 Dec 08 at 0904 UTC while underway in position 13:20N – 047:57E. Ten pirates in two speed boats armed with automatic weapons and RPGs boarded the vessel. Three Turkish and eight Ukrainian crewmembers are onboard (Operator, IMB).

Monday, December 22, 2008

UN says: "Yemen Primary Supplier of Weapons to Somalia" (and to pirates, too!)

As Jane posts here, the UN reports that "Yemen Primary Supplier of Weapons to Somalia". Nice. Got a major trade route between the hammer and an anvil, as it were, 'twixt Yemen and Somalia.

What sorts of weapons? You can read the report your very own self here (pdf), but Jane has kindly eased your burden:
On 17 August in Hargeisa, the Monitoring Group inspected a shipment of ammunition seized by the Somaliland authorities on 15 April 2008 in Burao. The ammunition came from Yemen and were destined to ONLF in Ethiopia. It consisted of 101 anti-tank mines, 100 hand grenades, 170 rocket-propelled grenade-7 rounds, and 170 boxes of 7.62 mm ammunition, each containing 440 rounds. The anti-tank mines were packed in sacks originally for rice from a company based in Sana’a and an investigation by the Somaliland authorities determined that the weapons had been shipped from Yemen.
262. Despite the haemorrhaging of the Transitional Federal Government security
sector, there remains a steady demand for arms and ammunition from commercial
arms markets, chiefly in Yemen. The inability of the Government of Yemen to stem
the flow of weapons across the Gulf of Aden has long been, and is likely to remain,
a key obstacle to the restoration of peace and security to Somalia.
263. Curbing the flow of Yemeni weapons to Somalia will require a package of robust political pressures and incentives, capacity-building programmes for coast guards around the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, and direct naval action to interdict arms trafficking.
There are other gems to be mined from the report:
122. Piracy in Somali waters has rapidly evolved over the past 12 months from a domestic nuisance, aimed mainly at illegal fishing vessels, into a sophisticated and well-organized industry whose dramatic expansion poses a growing threat to international shipping. The extraordinarily lucrative nature of piracy has transformed rag-tag, ocean-going militias into well-resourced, efficient and heavily armed syndicates employing hundreds of people in north-eastern and central Somalia. Some of these groups now rival or surpass established Somali authorities in terms of their military capabilities and resource bases. The acquisition of arms, ammunition and equipment to sustain the growth of these maritime militias almost certainly involves violations of the arms embargo.

123. International response to the Somali piracy phenomenon include Security
Council resolutions 1816 (2008) and 1838 (2008), which permit States interested in
the security of maritime activities to use all necessary means in the fight against
piracy in Somali waters, the establishment of the Maritime Security Patrol Area by
the multinational naval Combined Task Force 150 in the Gulf of Aden, and the
European Union NAVCO anti-piracy initiative. The Monitoring Group believes that
some leading figures in piracy syndicates are responsible for arms embargo
violations and should be considered for targeted sanctions imposed by Security
Council resolution 1844 of 20 November 2008.

124. Piracy and robbery at sea are not new to Somali waters, but they have acquired
unprecedented dimensions in 2008. From just a few dozen pirates in 2006, their
total numbers are now estimated at between 1,000 and 1,500, with approximately 60
small boats at their disposal.17 The phenomenal growth of this criminal enterprise
merits close examination.

125. The most prominent pirate militias today have their roots in the fishing
communities of the Somali coast, especially in north-eastern and central Somalia.
Over the past 18 years of conflict and absence of effective central Government, the
ecology and economy of these areas have been adversely affected by years of illicit
overfishing by foreign vessels and the dumping of toxic waste into Somali territorial
waters. Genuine economic hardship, whether directly related to these factors or not,
and a sense of grievance against foreign exploitation of Somalia’s maritime
resources, not only inspire many pirates, but also serve to legitimize their activities in the eyes of their communities.

126. Targets for piracy are not lacking. The Horn of Africa straddles an important
sea route for vessels of all kinds, from the Mediterranean Sea, via the Suez Canal
and the Red Sea, and through the Gulf of Aden to the Indian Ocean. The narrowness
of the Gulf of Aden, which separates Somalia and Yemen by 170 nautical miles at its
widest point and as narrow as 100 nautical miles at other points, mean that all traffic must pass within striking distance of the Somali coast, and many attacks by Somali pirates actually take place in Yemeni waters. An estimated 30,000 vessels pass through these sea lanes every year.

127. The high rewards for piracy — ransom payments are often in the millions of
dollars — and the lack of accountability have also contributed to its rapid growth.
Puntland’s security sector is weak and central Somalia has no capacity for law
enforcement at all. The total Puntland budget for 2008 is only about 20 per cent of
projected piracy revenues for over the same period, suggesting a seriously unequal
contest. Most foreign Governments are unable to arrest and prosecute pirates
because of jurisdictional barriers. In sum, it has become a low-risk activity with
high returns.

128. The costs of piracy for Somalia and the international community have been
significant. Lloyd’s List, the maritime industry newspaper, forecasts that ransom
payments this year will exceed $50 million, and insurance premiums for commercial
shipping in the Gulf of Aden have increased tenfold over the course of the past year.

129. As a result, the activities of Somalia’s maritime militias threaten the delivery
of humanitarian assistance at a time when an estimated 2.5 million Somalis require
food aid, and are driving up the costs of commercial imports of foodstuffs and other

130. The situation has become so serious that major shipping companies are
currently negotiating with charterers to avoid transiting the Gulf of Aden and the
Red Sea/Suez Canal altogether and instead redirecting their ships via the Cape of
Good Hope. Such measures may provide only temporary respite: according to
Robert Davies, a kidnap and ransom underwriter at Hiscox Insurance Company
Limited (Lloyd’s insurer), “the success of the pirates off Somalia is also a key factor behind the rise in attacks elsewhere, in areas such as Nigeria and South America”.18
131. Somalia maritime militias are profoundly anchored in the coastal communities
of north-eastern and central Somalia, and their organization reflects Somali clan-based social structure. In contrast to media reports that portray the pirates as
professional, tightly organized and well-trained organizations, they are for the most
part loosely organized and poorly trained, and their membership is fluid. Their
strengths are the depth of their motivation, and their adherence to a common code of
conduct, or xeer.

132. Broadly speaking, there are currently two main networks: one based in
Puntland (north-eastern Somalia) comprising mainly members of the Majerteen
clan, and one based in central Somalia, consisting primarily of members of the
Habar Gidir clan. The most important pirate group in Puntland is based in Eyl
district, which is inhabited mainly by the Isse Mohamud sub-clan, but other groups
also operate from Bossaso, Aluula, Haafun, Bayla, Qandala, Bargaal and Gara’ad.19
The central Somalia piracy network operates from Harardheere district, as it is
dominated by the Saleebaan sub-clan of the Habar Gidir. Involvement in piracy
activities, however, extends far beyond these sub-clans. To a certain extent the two
networks overlap and cooperate.

133. The NATO Shipping Centre describes piracy operations in the following
(a) The Gulf of Aden and Mogadishu Pirate Attack Zones (PAZ): Over 60
vessels have been attacked in these two areas in 2008. These zones are served by
“mother ships” based in Bossaso and Mogadishu in Somalia, and Al Mukallah and
Al Shishr in Yemen;
(b) The Eyl and Hobyo Ransom Area (RA): ships seized in the Gulf of Aden
and Indian Ocean are anchored near Eyl and Hobyo. Onshore support networks keep
the pirates and hostages supplied with food, water and qaad, pending ransom
payment and release;
(c) The Harardheere Pirate Base: this base is largely under the control of the
Suleiman/Habar clan linked to piracy and also contains landing points notorious for
arms smuggling activities;
(d) Aluula Pirate Refuge Port: Aluula is sometimes a first port of call and
refuge for pirates with vessels seized from the Gulf of Aden. Pirates heading for the
main pirate home port bases in Eyl, Hobyo and Harardheere use this port for
resupply. Smaller yachts are brought here and the crews taken ashore to be held for
ransom. Aluula is one of the few coastal villages in this area with a relatively good
flat dirt airstrip.

134. The evolution of the Puntland and central Somalia piracy networks owes much
to the relationships between a small number of key figures. The Monitoring Group
has already described the involvement in piracy of Garaad Mohamud Mohamed and
Mohamed Abdi Hassan “Afweyne”, both leaders of the central Somalia network
based in Harardheere.20 Information received by the Monitoring Group indicates
that they were joined in 2005 by Farah Hirsi Kulan “Boyah”, a long-term
acquaintance, and perpetrated several acts of piracy together.

135. Their activities were interrupted in 2007 by a clash between their respective
militias, which resulted in a number of deaths, and Boyah’s group returned to
Puntland, where it established a separate network. In early 2008 the two groups
were reconciled and resumed their partnership, with Eyl as the main base of
operations. Monitoring Group sources, as well as NGO reports, identify Boyah as a
principal organizer and financier of pirate activities.

136. In many respects, the organization of piracy operations is guided more by the
principles of private enterprise than military strategy and planning. Financiers,
including Boyah and a number of other prominent business and political figures
with fisheries assets, advance the seed money for the maritime militias to function.
Typically they provide the boats, fuel, arms and ammunition, communications
equipment and the salaries of the pirates, in order that they scout and seize vessels.Increasingly, these advance teams appear to be benefiting from intelligence provided by contacts who monitor major ports in neighbouring countries.

137. Pirates are also increasingly resorting to the use of “mother ships” in order to
extend the range and endurance of their operations. Some vessels (particularly
fishing vessels) have been hijacked with the sole intention of being used as mother
ships. For instance, the attack on the French luxury yacht, Le Ponant on 4 April
2008, was preceded by the hijacking of the Russian made trawler, FV Burum Ocean,
some 57 nautical miles south of the Yemen coast. The trawler was reportedly taken
to Aluula Puntland, refuelled and used as a mother ship to attack the Le Ponant and
later abandoned. In other cases, such as the MT Yenegoa Ocean, hijacked on
4 August 2008, vessels whose owners are unable to meet ransom demands are used
as mother ships until ransom is paid. According to the NATO Shipping Centre’s
description of piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden, mother ship supply ports exist
at Al Mukallah and Al Shishr, Sayhut, Nishtun and Al Ghaydah on the Yemeni coast
and Bossaso, Aluula and Mogadishu on the Somali coast.

138. Whether from mother ships or from the shore, attacks are usually conducted
with three or four fibreglass speedboats equipped with powerful outboard engines,
each carrying four to eight pirates. Arms seized by the Danish naval ship Absalom
on 19 September 2008 provide a typical sample of the weapons employed by pirate
teams: Kalashnikov assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenade-7V launchers and extra
grenades, Tokarev TT-33/7.62 mm pistols, a French LRAC F1/89 mm anti-tank
rocket launcher, M76 rifles, and extra magazines. The pirates were also in
possession of mobile phones, a GPS, and extra fuel tanks. Other equipment
routinely carried by pirates include small boat radars that help them to detect
targets, particularly at night, and to keep track of the vessel traffic around them,
high-power binoculars, grappling hooks and telescopic aluminium ladders.

139. The successful seizure of a vessel marks a new phase in a piracy operation.
The first pirate to physically board the ship may “claim” it in the name of his
(usually clan-based) militia group, and is rewarded with a special share of the
ransom or — in some cases — a Land Cruiser. If they have not done so already, the
financier must identify a sponsor (or team of sponsors) who will underwrite the
costs of the operation in exchange for a share of the ransom. Once this is achieved,
the financier directs the captured vessel to a “refuge” port, where his ground team
can ensure provisions and local protection pending payment of ransom. The team
may also include negotiators with foreign language skills, local officials and elders. Eventually, a host of other actors also become associated with the operation: senior government officials who provide political cover and protection, money launderers who help to transfer ransom payments or exchange unwanted currency notes (i.e. pre-2000 series United States dollars), and other entrepreneurs seeking to cash in on a windfall.21

140. Ransom payments are now commonly delivered directly to the pirates on
board the captured ship. Accounts of the distribution formula vary, but a source
close to the Eyl network informed the Monitoring Group that the breakdown is
typically as follows:
Typical distribution of ransom payments:
Maritime militia 30 per cent Distributed equally between all members,
although the first pirate to board a ship receives a double share or a vehicle. Pirates who fight other pirates must pay a fine. Compensation is paid to the family of any pirate killed during the operation.

Ground militia 10 per cent

Local community 10 per cent Elders, local officials, visitors, and for
hospitality for guests and associates of the pirates

Financier 20 per cent The financier usually shares his earnings with
other financiers and political allies.

Sponsor 30 per cent

141. Allegations of complicity in piracy activities by members of the Puntland
administration are commonplace and well substantiated. Puntland President Adde
Musa told the Monitoring Group that he has sacked several officials, including
Mohamed Haji Aden, a Deputy Chief of Police, for involvement in piracy. On
14 October 2008, in an interview with a local radio station, the Mayor of Eyl,
Abdullahi Said Aw-Yusuf (an official with extensive first-hand knowledge of pirate
operations) alleged that ministers and senior police officials of the Puntland administration were complicit in the surge in piracy. The Monitoring Group has independently received credible allegations concerning the involvement of a number of key figures in the Puntland administration, including several ministers, which it is continuing to investigate.

142. In late 2008, the Puntland authorities appeared to be taking more aggressive steps to deal with piracy. President Adde Musa has told the Monitoring Group that he is actively seeking assistance in building the capacity of the Puntland Coast Guard. The Puntland security forces have conducted at least two operations in recent months to free hijacked ships. On 18 September 2008, two pirates were arrested on a hijacked yacht off Las Qoray, which had weapons and equipment used to hijack vessels, and on 14 October 2008, Puntland forces again succeeded in freeing MV Awail. But the determination of the Puntland administration to confront pirates
appears to be selective, and the Monitoring Group remains convinced that a number of senior officials, including prominent Ministers, have been corrupted.

143. Not surprisingly, there appears to be an intersection between piracy and other
criminal activities, such as arms trafficking and human trafficking, both of which
involve the movement of small craft across the Gulf of Aden. One sub-group of the
Puntland network, based in the Bari region, allegedly uses the same boats employed
for piracy to move refugees and economic migrants from Somalia to Yemen,
bringing arms and ammunition on the return journey.

144. Likewise, members of the Harardheere group have been linked to trafficking
of arms from Yemen to Harardheere and Hobyo, which have long been two of the
main points of entry for arms shipments destined for armed opposition groups in
both Somalia and Ethiopia. Numerous reports received by the Monitoring Group
link Yusuf Mohamed Siyaad “Indha’adde”, military chief of the ARS/Asmara
faction, to the activities of the central Somalia pirate network, to arms imports
through Hobyo and Harardheere, and to the kidnapping of foreigners for ransom
(see paras. 145-147 below).

Somali Pirates: China sending 3 ships fo anti-pirate patrol

Reported as China joins anti-piracy patrols off Somalia:
A CHINESE navy squadron of two destroyers and a supply ship will leave a naval base in southern China on December 26 on the country’s first major overseas combat deployment and will join coalition forces on anti-piracy patrols off Somalia.

The long-anticipated move was confirmed by defence ministry spokesman Hu Changming, who said the People’s Liberation Army Navy would deploy destroyers, 169 Wuhan and 171 Haikou, and the supply ship 87 Weisanhu, for three months.
One of the PLAN destroyers, 171, is Aegis-like, see here.

The other destroyer 169 is PLAN 052B type, more conventional but with stealth characteristics. It is the sister ship to the one pictured nearby #168.

PLAN supply ship 87 Weisanhu is pictured nearby and provides fuel and other sustainment provisions for the destroyers. In the photo she is shown during operations with the British navy from a couple of years ago.

China's motivation is not surprising, if the following is accurate:
Somali pirates have attacked more than 300 vessels in some of the world's most critical shipping lanes, capturing 40 of them and collecting $40 million in ransom. They are still holding 14, including a supertanker and a ship loaded with weapons, and more than 25 crew members.

The Chinese government said 1,265 of its ships traversed those shipping lanes last year and that 20 percent of them were attacked.