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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Missile Defense: Focus on Defense - Not Retaliation

Missile defense ought to be in the forefront of national defense.

The threat is not from the traditional major powers. Nor is missile defense a means of defending against retaliatory strikes after a first strike.

Instead the threat is the "one off" missile filed by a rogue state or a stateless entity like al Qaeda. A retaliatory strike capability is pointless if there is no one to retaliate against. Against the rogue state or stateless actor the best alternative to be able to thwart the attack.

Now comes a compelling argument by Claremont Institute's Vice President and Fellow in American Studies, Larry Greenfield, for missile defense systems here:
Modern missile technology, in the hands of terror states and their proxies, threatens.

The next level of national security advocacy has therefore arrived as well.

It is the public campaign for funding and deployment of missile defense systems against rogue states and terror groups who are not deterrable by the threat of counterstrike or mutually assured destruction.
Put more broadly, can Western democracies, including the United States, preempt or defend attacks before a crisis develops, rather than merely planning and preparing to retaliate while meekly surviving post-disaster as a destroyed nation?
Test after successful test of anti-missile missiles shows that President Ronald Reagan’s original vision of missile defense — not the immoral and limited option of massive retaliation — has become attractive both in the United States and Europe. Poland and the Czech Republic are logical sites for radar and system deployments. However, President Barack Obama’s recent European tour did not give our friends confidence that he would continue our path to defend Europe.
Several important developing
U.S. missile defense projects all face looming budget cuts, including the Airborne Laser, a “boost phase” defense, which counters North Korean or Iranian long-range missiles; the Ground Based Interceptor program (our only operational system capable of destroying a Taepodong-2 missile approaching the U.S. mainland); the Multiple Kill Vehicle, designed to destroy multiple missile stages and warheads in space; and the Space Tracking and Surveillance System, which discriminates between real warheads and decoys in space, thereby defeating an enemy’s ability to overwhelm our missile defense system with countermeasures.

Missile threats are real and missile defense science is solid. The funding costs are actually quite low and the moral case is overwhelming. Political obstacles must be overcome, including the left’s rejection that the U.S. would be strong or independent in the world and the military establishment’s repeated bureaucratic resistance to using funds for projects that aren’t their own.

Some argue that missile defense money spent is money wasted, for example Missile Defense: 'Longest Running Scam' Exposed:
Dr. Stephen Flynn, Senior Fellow for National Security Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and a retired Coast Guard Commander, testified that the "non-missile risk" - smuggling a weapon of mass destruction into the US by ship, train, truck, or private jet - is "far greater than the ballistic missile threat...." He noted that smuggling is the only realistic option for a terrorist group like al Qaeda; it offers anonymity to any attacking nation and therefore protection from retaliation; seaports, borders, and overseas flights "provide a rich menu of non-missile options"; and it has greater potential to "generate cascading economic consequences by disrupting global supply chains."

Despite these risks, Flynn said, "The combined budgets for funding all the domestic and international port of entry interdiction efforts... is equal to roughly one-half of the annual budget for developing missile defense. Nowhere in the US government has there been or is there now an evaluation of whether that represents an appropriate balance....The amount of resources we dedicate to the [more serious threat of cargo delivery] is miniscule compared to the kinds of resources we invest in dealing with the ballistic missile threat. That's the kind of disconnect we're operating in."
Gee, maybe there can be more than one kind of threat. And there has been recent evidence of North Korea and Iran building up their missile systems. While they may be crude, they still work. Sort of like the AK-47.

A while ago I did a post on the potential threat from the sea based missiles which is worth a look:
Now that's a real threat -- one we should take seriously.
This concept has been covered before- at The CounterTerrorismBlog here:
Reader Timothy Thompson, who is always able to provide keen insight into weapons systems, comments on the missile purchase:

[The BM-25 missiles that Iran purchased] can easily be launched from [a] freighter modified with launch tubes and blast channels. They give Iran a projection of force capability far beyond the 2000-3000 km range of the missiles. It is possible -- though not confirmed -- that Iran may not use the BM-25's but only bought them to get the R-27 rocket motors for a missile of their own design.
Other relevant links here ("Iran's New Missiles"), here ("Iran's Cruise Missile Threat and Merchant Ships") and all the links therein. And remember that SecDef has mentioned this scenario before:
Mr. Rumsfeld also was asked about the danger of terrorists or rogue states attacking the United States by putting a short-range Scud-type missile on a freighter and firing it close to U.S. shores.

He said one Middle East nation already has “launched a ballistic missile from a cargo vessel.”

“They had taken a short-range, probably Scud missile, put it on a transporter-erector launcher, lowered it in, taken the vessel out into the water, peeled back the top, erected it, fired it, lowered it, covered it up. And the ship that they used was using a radar and electronic equipment that was no different than 50, 60, 100 other ships operating in the immediate area.”

Other U.S. officials have said the nation was Iran, which tested a freighter-launched missile in the Caspian Sea in the late 1990s.

“It is true that the big distinction we make between intercontinental, medium-range and shorter-range ballistic missiles doesn’t make a lot of sense if you’re going to move the missile closer to the target,” he said. (source)
As long as I'm repeating things, go visit at the Claremont Institute and enjoy their movies of a merchant ship launch here (big) or here (smaller) to see how it would work.
The U.S. Navy is now standing up the Air and Missile Defense Center (NAMDC) as described by Steeljaw Scribe:
On Thursday, 30 April 2009, the Navy’s newest Center of Excellence (COE), the Navy Air and Missile Defense Center, was opened for business onboard the Naval Weapons Development Center, Dahlgren Virginia. RADM Brad Hicks, who is also the Aegis BMD program director, will serve as the Center’s first commander until a permanent flag is assigned later this year. The ceremony’s keynote speaker, ADM Robert “Rat” Willard, Commander U.S. Pacific Fleet spared no words in underscoring the importance of this particular COE in the context of recent events to include the recent North Korean launch.
The challenge ahead of the center will be the role it plays in Navy’s quest to equally field a national missile defense to shield the homeland, a regional defense for friends and allies and theater systems for protection of forward deployed forces while still accounting for the multi-mission nature of platforms like the Aegis-equipped cruisers and destroyers currently deployed. And the center’s efforts won’t end there, for the threat includes ever-increasingly proliferated cruise missiles and a host of other airborne threats.
This was a much needed step in beginning to restore balance to a force that has, frankly, become very power projection-centric. Along with other warfare areas, such as blue-water ASW, it seemed in the post-Cold War environment that integrated air and missile defense was increasingly pushed to the back even while threats like those posed by new generations of low-observable, fast cruise missiles were widely proliferated. However, the emerging area denial capabilities of countries like China and Iran, not to mention the requirements levied by the Maritime Strategy (and, one presumes, the NOC when it ever is released) clearly demand the establishment of an organization to oversee the disparate parts of the air defense picture.
Call your Congress person and ask for more money for these programs.

Latest ONI Worldwide Threats to Shipping Report (to 29 April 09)

The latest ONI Worldwide Threats to Shipping Report (to 29 April 09) can be found here. Highlights:
1.  NIGERIA:  Chemical tanker robbed, crew members kidnapped 20 Apr 09 at 2030
local time while underway in position 04:00N – 006:07E, approximately 50NM
southwest of Onne. Eight pirates in a speed boat wearing masks and
armed with guns fired upon the vessel and boarded it.
They shut down the INMARSAT system and took hostage the chief officer.
The main engine was stopped under armed threat and another boat came alongside
with two more gunmen. Their intention was to get the ship’s cash and not to harm any of the crew.
The captain gave all the cash to the gunmen. They kidnapped the captain and the engineer
and escaped with the cash and personal belongings. The two kidnapped crew members
were released two days later (IMB).

2. NIGERIA: Bulk carrier robbed 19 Apr 09 at 0245 local time while
at berth in Tin Can Islands, Lagos. Two motor boats with eleven robbers
armed with long knives boarded the vessel by using hooks and ropes.
They broke into the store room and stole ship’s stores.
The duty officer raised the alarm, crew mustered and rushed to the location.
On sighting the crew, the robbers threatened with long knives and escaped
in their boats (IMB).
1. GULF OF ADEN: Vessel fired upon 28 Apr 09 at 0630 UTC while underway
in position 12:31N – 046:07E. One blue colored speed boat with six armed men
onboard approached the vessel and opened fire with automatic weapons.
The vessel conducted evasive maneuvers and used rocket flares to
boarding. Nearby coalition warships were contacted.
The speed boat aborted the attempt approximately 30 minutes later.
No injuries to the crew or damage to the vessel was reported (Operator, IMB).

2. GULF OF ADEN: Tanker (GNA) hijacked 26 Apr 09 at 1130 UTC while
underway in position 13:25N – 047:24E.
The vessel was attacked and hijacked by approximately 14 pirates.
The tanker was later taken back by Yemeni forces (AFP, IMB).

3. GULF OF ADEN: General cargo ship fired upon 25 Apr 09 at 0600 local time
while underway in position 14:00N – 051:31E. Two small speed boats with five
persons armed with guns approached the vessel. When they were approximately
three cables away from the vessel, they opened fire using automatic weapons.
The master enforced anti-piracy measures and prevented the boarding (IMB).

4. GULF OF ADEN: Bulk carrier (PATRIOT) hijacked 25 Apr 09 at 0335 local
time while underway in position 14:01N – 051:34E. Pirates in skiffs armed
with guns attacked and hijacked the vessel. Seventeen crew members are onboard
(Reuters, IMB).
23. INDIAN OCEAN: Vessel fired upon 29 Apr 09 at 1550 local time while
underway in position 01:40S – 047:12E, approximately 280NM southeast of Barawe,
Somalia. Five men armed with automatic weapons in a white colored speed boat
approached the vessel from the starboard quarter and began opening fire.
The captain increased speed and conducted evasive maneuvers while activating
fire hoses. After 15 minutes, the speed boat aborted the attack (Operator, IMB).

24. INDIAN OCEAN: Vessel fired upon 28 Apr 09 at 0704 UTC while underway in
position 13:49N – 056:30E, approximately 380NM northeast of Caluula, Somalia.
Two skiffs were launched from a mother ship and fired two RPGs at the bridge
and missed. Automatic weapons were fired and struck the vessel on the starboard
side. No injuries were reported(Operator, IMB).

25. INDIAN OCEAN: Tanker (NS COMMANDER) fired upon 27 Apr 09 at 1050 UTC
while underway in position 13:10N – 056:37E, approximately 320NM east of Caluula,
Somalia. One speed boat with three armed men approached the vessel and ordered
it to stop. The captain conducted evasive maneuvers, and the gunmen opened fire.
After 30 minutes, two speed boats with four to five men in each boat approached
and opened fire on the vessel. The master continued to carry out evasive
maneuvers and succeeded in preventing the men from boarding
(IMB, LM: RIA Novosti).

26. INDIAN OCEAN: Passenger ship (MELODY) fired upon 26 Apr 09 at 1942 UTC
while underway in position 01:17S – 055:40E, approximately 480NM east of Hobyo,
Somalia. Six men in a small white speed boat attacked and fired upon the ship.
An armed security onboard the cruise ship returned fire and sprayed them with
water hoses, forcing the pirates to retreat. The pirates reportedly linked to
the failed attack were later captured by Spanish naval forces (AP, BBC, IMB).
4. SOUTH CHINA SEA: Container ship robbed 22 Apr 09 at 2145 local time while
underway in position 03:10N – 105:28E, approximately 30NM west of the
Anambas Islands. Five pirates armed with long knives in a boat boarded
the vessel. They attacked the captain and stole cash from the vessel and
escaped. No injuries to the crew were reported (IMB).

5. SOUTH CHINA SEA: Tanker robbed 20 Apr 09 at 1841 UTC in position 03:24N –
105:29E, approximately 30NM northwest of the Anambas Islands.
Eight pirates armed with knives boarded the vessel and stole cash
before escaping (IMB).
2009 Piracy activity off the east coast of Somalia:

In the Gulf of Aden:

Southeast Asia:

Off Nigeria:

Maps from IMB Live Piracy Map 2009.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Somali Pirates: Italian Ro-Ro Evades Capture

Pirates keep trying, most ships keep evading, as in the case of the Italian Ro-Ro (roll on - roll off) Jolly Smeraldo:
An Italian merchant ship on Wednesday escaped an attack by suspected Somali pirates, five days after an Italian cruise ship also avoided being hijacked.

The Jolly Smeraldo was 300 miles south-east of Mogadishu when a small boat with seven pirates aboard approached it, according to reports.

The pirates fired at the vessel but none of the 24 crew - including 15 Italians - were harmed and the ship was able to make diversionary manoeuvres to escape.

The Jolly Smeraldo left Mombasa in Kenya on Tuesday and is headed for Jeddah in Saudi Arabia before returning to Genoa.
UPDATE: Apparently there were a couple of attacks:
Somali pirates attacked the Italian merchant ship the Jolly Smeraldo on Thursday for a second day in a row but it managed to escape, the Italian coastguard said.

"The ship was attacked twice, first at around 0600 (0400 GMT), and then again around two hours later," a media spokesman told AFP. "Several gunshots were fired both times, but without causing any damage, thanks mainly to the skill of the ship's crew."

The first attack on the ship en route to Saudi Arabia occurred some 270 nautical miles from the coast of Somalia. The Jolly Smeraldo also survived a pirate attack Wednesday.
Attacks surged this month as calm seas allowed them to approach their prey more easily and dodge a growing naval presence in the region.

Somali Piates: Some you win . . .

A gathering of reports:

Russian destroyer captures 29 Somali pirates:
A Russian naval destroyer on Tuesday seized 29 suspected pirates off the coast of Somalia, the defence ministry said, according to Russian news agencies. "The Admiral Panteleev (destroyer) captured Tuesday at 1412 GMT a boat carrying pirates. In total, 29 people were arrested," the ministry said in a statement. "Seven Kalachnikov machine-guns, handguns of different calibres, equipment including satellite navigation devices and a large number of empty shells were discovered on board the boat," the ministry said, adding that an investigation has been opened.
I don't think being "armed at sea" is a surprise in the area off Somalia, most arrests are made after observing or preventing an attack . . .

Somali "vigilantes" take on pirates? Yes, according to this:
Somalis are fed up with pirates clogging up their ports – and they’re not taking it anymore. At least some of them.

Somali vigilantes captured 12 armed pirates in two boats after regional leaders in the coastal towns of Alula and Bargaal in Somalia’s northern Puntland region told the BBC that they have formed a militia of fishermen to catch the modern-day swashbucklers.
More on the vigilante forces here. Hope the Russians are not picking up the "vigilantes."

A lawsuit filed against the Maersk shipping owner by a crew member from the pirate attacked Maersk Alabama here for ... unsafe working conditions or something . . . I guess he's not like the cook in Under Siege. "Nah. I'm just a cook. " UPDATE: gCaptain has more.

Self-defense by passengers on MSC Melody? Reported here:
An orchestra on the top deck continued to play, until a woman burst in and said pirates were attacking the ship.

"We heard pop-pop-pop-pop-pop again and this woman came screaming through the deck," Ms Murtagh said.

"She was out on the back deck and saw the Somalians try to get their ropes up onto the ship, so she was throwing the plastic deck tables at them. And then another man raced onto the deck and he was throwing the plastic chairs at them to keep them off the ship.

"(The pirates) tried to get their ropes, or their hooks, onto the boat, and they did start to climb up, but this woman threw the tables onto them and pushed them back."
Now, let the lawsuits begin . . .

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Somali Pirates: Stolt Strength

A report that a ship recently released by Somali pirates nearly was the victim of another hijacking but that attempt was thwarted by the Chinese Navy here:
The Chinese Navy, escorting a Philippine-flagged chemical tanker recently released by Somali pirates, foiled an attempt yesterday by armed brigands to recapture the ship on its way to safe waters, a Philippine official said today.

Elena Bautista, Philippine Maritime Industry Authority Administrator, said a group of pirates on two vessels were able to close in on the MT Stolt Strength with 23 all-Filipino crewmen, but the Chinese frigate Huangshan thwarted the attack when it deployed helicopters to encircle the area.

"There was a mother ship and another vessel. They were able to reach the Stolt Strength's flanks but because of the decisive act of the Chinese, they drove the pirates away after immediately deploying choppers," Bautista said.
Before that incident, the Stolt Strength ran out of fuel and had to be refueled by the U.S. Navy, as set out a here:
The MT Stolt Strength, which was stranded in the western part of the Indian Ocean, has started moving after being replenished with fuel on Saturday, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) reported.

"The MT Stolt Strength is now on the way to its next port of call," the DFA said in a statement.

It said the fuel and other provisions were delivered to the Philippine flag registered cargo vessel by a US navy vessel.

"We wish to extend our gratitude to our partners for the immediate provisioning of and round the clock security protection to the Stolt Strength, notably Germany, the US, China, NATO and many others," the DFA said.
A German ship provided food and other aid.

Somali Pirates: Cruise Ship Attackers Caught by Spanish Navy?

Suspected pirates, found in the vicinity of the recent attack on a cruise ship off the Seychelles have been swept up by a Spanish frigate, as reported here:
A Spanish warship has intercepted a skiff carrying nine suspected Somali pirates believed to have attacked an Italian cruise ship at the weekend, the defence ministry said Monday.

The Numancia frigate "intercepted a skiff with nine occupants who could be connected to the hijacking attempt of the Italian cruise ship which was eventually repelled by the boat," it said in a statement.

The cruise liner Melody, carrying more than 1,500 people, was attacked on Saturday but Israeli security guards on board the ship responded to the pirates' gunfire and were able to repel them.

After the hijacking attempt The Numancia, along with patrol planes from France and the Seychelles and an Indian navy ship, launched a high-seas hunt for the assailants.

During the search, the naval mission found "two small boats with nine suspects on board very close to the scene of the attack against the cruise," the Spanish defence ministry said.

The suspects abandoned one the boats and were later caught in the skiff. The Spanish navy handed over the suspects to a Seychelles ship since they were captured in the island nation's waters in the Indian Ocean.

A commander of the pirates who attacked the cruise ship described the bandits' attempt to seize the boat in an interview with AFP earlier Monday.

"Unfortunately, for technical reasons, we could not seize the ship," Mohamed Muse told AFP by phone from the pirate lair of Eyl, in the northern Somali breakaway state of Puntland.

"We were aware that hijacking such a big ship would have been a new landmark in piracy off the coast of Somalia but unfortunately they used good tactics and we were not able to board," he said.

"It was not the first time we went for that kind of ship and this time we came closer to capturing it and we really sprayed it with gunfire," Muse said.

The captain of the cruise liner, Ciro Pinto, said the attack had felt like a war and praised the response of the security guards.

"The ship was very big and there were only a dozen pirates involved in the attack so we eventually ad to decide to back off after chasing it for close to 30 minutes," Muse said.
Muse? Same name as the suspect in the Maersk Alabama case? Hmmm.

The Spanish frigate is based on the U.S. Perry class design. See here for Spanish Navy report on incident, translated (by Google):
Monday, 27 April 2009
The frigate "Numancia" and located a boat allegedly addresses used by hackers to assault the MSC Melody cruise

Intercepted a skiff with new occupants

The frigate 'Numancia,' has now successfully completed a new mission after the interception of a suspected piracy skiff north coast of the Seychelles.

During the morning of Sunday, April 26, received a communication from emergency aboard the "Numancia" for the attempted kidnapping of the Italian flag ship MSC Melody, who was traveling with 991 passengers and 536 crew members of the Indian Ocean waters to the North of Seychelles. Immediately the commander of the Naval Force of the European Union (EUNAVFOR), Captain Juan Garat, ordered the frigate heading to the scene at full speed, while coordinating the intervention with other military forces in the area .

The area where the assault took place more than 300 miles (over 550 km) of the position of the frigate, and the Force Commander requested the collaboration of other international forces in the area. In addition to the Spanish ship and its helicopter, involved two maritime patrol aircraft, one French and one of Seychelles, and the ship of the Navy India 'Nirdeshak', with an embarked helicopter. After a laborious search together, two small boats were located very close to the point of attack on the cruise, with nine suspects on board.

At a certain point, the assumptions of an abandoned pirate ship, which was found empty and investigated by the Indian vessel, while the "Numancia" and sought to reach the other, with the nine occupants on board. Finally, given that the incident took place in the Seychelles Exclusive Economic Zone, a ship that took nationality of the suspects.
UPDATE: The Indian Navy vessel mentioned is an armed "survey" ship:
The INS Nirdeshak, which belongs to the Sandhayak class of survey vessels, is equipped with a Chetak helicopter and interceptor boats that can undertake anti-piracy missions. It also has a heavy 40 mm Bofors gun on board and has made several trips to the island nation in the past to carry out navigational surveys.
It is in the area of the Seychelles at the request of the Seychelles armed forces.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Somali Pirates: Yemen Nabs the Crowd that Grabbed the Yememi Tanker Qana

An email report from
Hot off the press, Yemen Navy deployed several of the Austal 37.5 mtr fast patrol boats that we use for escorts and surrounded the Qana just north of the IRTC, there was a stand off for 1 hour then 11 pirates put their hands up and gave up – The Yemen Navy made it very clear – release or we are storming the ship and you will all die – they gave them 10 minutes to decide.

This is a huge Victory for the Yemen Navy and a positive signal that they will not allow this to happen in their back yard...
This a follow-on to the report of the capture of the Qana contained in this.

News report:
Yemeni special forces Monday freed a Yemeni oil tanker seized by Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden, killing three pirates and capturing at least nine on board, a government official said.

The ship, named Qana, was seized by Somali pirates off Yemen's coast Sunday but was empty of oil cargo. The deaths Monday took to five the number of pirates killed as Yemeni forces battled for two days to take back the vessel.

They were escorting the tanker to the Yemeni port of Aden on the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula.

UPDATE: An ealier Yemeni success. Training for the Yemenis has been provided by the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Coast Guard.

UPDATE: An earlier post on Yemen's Anti-piracy Unit.

Monday Reading

Must have been the weekend to write rants, because CDR Salamander beats up U.S. maritime strategy and the mismatched ship building plans in Maritime Strategy Monday: Influence?. This ought to light some people's hair on fire.

More mission-action mismatching with our national air defense mission as Steeljaw notes here.

UPDATE: Fred Fry's Maritime Monday 159 covers it all, including a nice picture of a new car carrier with some stability issues...

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Death by ACLU

The ACLU has pushed for and now, apparently, gained a "victory" in getting photos of military investigations of alleged prisoner abuse released. Wow. Good for them.

Reactions on the conservative side have a range from something akin to a mild rebuke from the Wall Street Journal editorial page titled The ACLU's Photo Shoot:
The ACLU may think that humiliating the U.S. and indicting the Bush Administration are more important than protecting American interests. American soldiers and diplomats may have a different view.
"Mild," that is, by comparison to Steve Schippert at National Review Online, Obama Administration's Assault on the American Warrior Commences :
The aim of the release is to assault America in the court of public opinion, using the wholly owned media PR subsidiary as the armored assault vehicle. And the administration, through its acquiescence, is at minimum enabling this, choosing consciously to end the public defense of the American warrior class and its very legacy. Perhaps the administration is acting with willful disregard for them by taking direction from the ACLU/Soros/ hard Left in a form of electoral quid pro quo. At worst, the administration is directly aligned with them and acting in concert rather than taking direction from them.

Either way, the principled defense of the warrior is over, by choice of the Obama administration in directing the Pentagon to end the defense short of SCOTUS. It is an outright abdication.

Steve and the WSJ are concerned, as they should be, that the release of photos (made as part of investigations into abuses and not as part of a cover up) will spark ugliness in those easily roused areas where American soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen may bear the brunt of said ugliness while the "winning" ACLU lawyers are drinking wine and toasting their "glorious" victory.

Meanwhile, the Taliban, not being a current threat to the ACLU and it odd ideas of "justice," will continue to kill, murder, maim, stone to death and assassinate all who stand in their way. Al Qaeda does not read victims their "rights" before setting off a bomb in a crowded market.

Too bad the ACLU isn't interested in taking action to stop the Taliban from their torture, their imposition of their religious views on others at the point of a gun or to stop al Qaeda from using car bombs and bomb belts. You know, 'cause I don't think an injunction will cut it. ACLU types might have to go out there and actually do something . . .

But no, the ACLU will go for the low hanging fruit, keeping its dresses clean while letting the hard work be done by others, some of whom do not always react with the cold, clear logic of the ACLU lawyer who knows who the enemy is - George Bush. And that ACLU lawyer knows how to use lawfare not merely to punish the guilty, but to place in harm's way those who had nothing to do with the prisoner abuses but who happen to serve in the military or the Department of State.

"Guilt by association" is not a principle I once would have linked to the ACLU though now it seems to be one of their basic tenants that anyone in the military or serving the U.S. overseas is fair game. I guess it's all part their rush to undo the horrors of the Bush years, when all those ACLU lawyers weren't sent to re-education camps and weren't forced to ... do anything. Except bitch about how bad it was having BushHitler for president.

I used to believe that the ACLU felt "Better ten guilty men go free than one innocent man be punished....". In the new politics of the ACLU, there now seems to be a new ACLU rule that "many innocents may be put at risk to publicize the wrongs of a few." Even if the few are already being punished for those wrongs. And "it's all Bush's fault."

I hope the ACLU lawyers and those who support and foster them can live with the blood of innocents on their hands and on their writs because any death or injury of an American that results from the release of the photos I personally will tie back to the ACLU.

You know, "because freedom can't protect itself." Nope, sometimes it takes more than ACLU lawyers, though. Sometimes, it takes warriors. A lesson the ACLU needs to learn.

UPDATE: A confession that will please the ACLU types, a plea to move on that will be ignored. H/T: The Yankee Sailor.

UPDATE2: Another sharp stick, but, again, reality has nothing to do with this witch hunt.

Whack a Dolt: "The Pirate and the Talk Show Lawyer"

Nice take down of a pirate defense lawyer wannabe at ExportLawBlog in "The Pirate and the Talk Show Lawyer":
Of course, that hasn’t stopped lawyer-turned-radio-host Ron Kuby, who is seeking to defend Muse, from trying to concoct a dubious theory questioning U.S. jurisdiction over Muse.

I think in this particular case, there’s a grave question as to whether America was in violation of principles of truce in warfare on the high seas. This man seemed to come onto the Bainbridge under a flag of truce to negotiate. He was then captured. There is a question whether he is lawfully in American custody and serious questions as to whether he can be prosecuted because of his age.
Presumably this is a reference to Article 32 of the 1907 Hague Convention Respecting the Law and Customs of War on Land (Hague IV), which at least might arguably be said to also state the international law regarding wars at sea. That provision states:

A person is regarded as a parlementaire who has been authorized by one of the belligerents to enter into communication with the other, and who advances bearing a white flag. He has a right to inviolability, as well as the trumpeter, bugler or drummer, the flag-bearer and interpreter who may accompany him.
Even leaving aside the formality of the white flag, and there is no indication that Muse carried one, Hague IV and the international law governing conflicts at sea only applies to nations at war. Historically pirates have been considered hostes humani generis (”enemies of all mankind”) and completely outside protection of maritime law. Conventions relating to the conduct of war by nations have no application to them. Instead, the only protections that pirates have are those set forth in the UNCLOS and the 1958 Convention on the High Seas, both of which give the pirates a right to a trial.
The initial court hearing seems to have taken care of the age issue (here).

Iranian arms ship bound for Gaza sunk?

An interesting report, if true: Egyptian paper: Iranian arms ship bound for Gaza destroyed off Sudan:
An Iranian vessel laden with weapons bound for the Gaza Strip was torpedoed off the coast of Sudan last week, allegedly by Israeli or American forces operating in the area, the Egyptian newspaper El-Aosboa reported yesterday.

Anonymous sources in Khartoum told the newspaper that an unidentified warship bombed the Iranian vessel as it prepared to dock in Sudan before transferring its load for shipment to the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

The sources said they suspect U.S. or Israeli involvement in the attack, but neither Washington nor Jerusalem have released a statement on the matter. The Israel Air Force is suspected of attacking a convoy of Iranian arms that passed through Sudan en route to Gaza in January, according to foreign news reports released in March.
Bombed or torpedoed? Don't trust first reports.

A prior "Iranian arms ship" saga and here.

Sunday Ship History (Bonus Edition): Grand Canal of China

Transportation by water has a lengthy history, some of which has been on man-made waterways, as has been touched on at this site before. See here, here, here.

But long before the Erie Canal, the Suez Canal, the Panama Canal, or the canals of Venice or Holland or the rest of Europe or the Middle East, there was the Grand Canal of China, one of the great, mostly unsung man-made marvels:
The Grand Canal of China is the world's oldest and longest canal, far surpassing the next two grand canals of the world: Suez and Panama Canal.
The canal is 1,795 Km (1,114 miles) long with 24 locks and some 60 bridges.
I don't know about "oldest" because history tells us there were canals being built by others sooner:
Between about 520 and 510 BC the Persian emperor, Darius I, invests heavily in the economy of his newly conquered province of Egypt. He builds a canal linking the Nile and the Red Sea.
It most certainly is the oldest still in use.

The Chinese seem to have gotten started 100 years or so later, but that does nothing to diminish their achievement. While the defensive masterpiece Great Wall gets most of the publicity, people who study logistics and their impact on the spread of civilization will probably be more impressed with the Grand Canal:
The Grand Canal system (or Da Yun He) represents a remarkable achievement of imperial Chinese hydraulic engineering. At its peak during the Ming dynasty (1368-1644 AD), the system totaled about 2,500 kilometers with Beijing at its northernmost extension, Hanghzou at its southernmost point and Luoyang at its easternmost point. It thus connected the political center of the empire in the north (especially from the Song dynasty; 960 AD), with the economic and agricultural centers of central and southern China. This was mainly achieved by linking two of China's most important river basins, the Yellow River (Huang He) and the Yangtze River (Chang Jiang). North of the Yangtze, the canal must ascend a gradual slope to an elevation of more than 40 meters. To insure safe circulation, a system of locks (the Chinese are attributed to the first lock ever built in 983), feeder lakes and lateral canals was constructed. Under such circumstances, the control of an unified China became a possibility and the Grand Canal is acknowledged to be a significant element in the economic and political stability of imperial China, mainly through grain distribution.
What the canals did was to open up the empire:
Over the centuries more and more such canals are constructed. Finally, in the Sui dynasty (7th century AD), vast armies of labourers are marshalled for the task of joining many existing waterways into the famous Grand Canal. Barges can now travel all the way from the Yangtze to the Yellow River, and then on up the Wei to the western capital at Xi'an.

Along this great Chinese thoroughfare the rice harvest of the Yangtze is conveyed to the centres of political power in the north.

From the 13th century there is a new northern capital. Kublai Khan establishes himself at Beijing, which becomes the capital of the Mongol or Y√ľan dynasty. The Mongols extend the Grand Canal all the way north to join Beijing's river at T'ien-ching.
Grain and other goods, raw materials and finished product now have new markets and new value. From a military point of view, the canal system improved the interior lines of communication, see here. From a social point of view, it tied the diverse parts of China together.

In order to get barges up the river and past rapids, the Chinese invented the "lock" system:
The development of the more sophisticated pound lock is traditionally credited to an engineer, Chiao Wei-yo, working on the great Chinese canal system in the 10th century AD.

It is said that Chiao is required to construct two flash locks on the Grand Canal only about 200 yards apart. He realizes that he has created a pool which will be at the upper or lower level of the canal depending on which of the two barriers is open. Moreover the barrier separating patches of level water can be opened without the obstruction of water pressure.

The result is the pound lock, standard on all modern canals. The first in Europe is believed to have been built in the Netherlands in 1373 at Vreeswijk, where a canal from Utrecht joins the river Lek.

At this stage the barrier is a simple sluice gate which has to be raised and lowered like a guillotine. The process is laborious, and the water pressure against the flat surface requires a very strong construction to hold it.
Whatever, it worked. For a few hundred years it worked. More on the "pound lock" here.

Parts of the system are still in place and in use as the old meets new along its path:

China's Grand Canal, Ancient Wonder Still In Use

Pollution control may need to be improved...

The Grand Canal could gain "world cultural heritage status" - see here:
Today, long stretches of the 1,800 kilometre-long waterway are polluted or impassable, but many other parts of the canal are working waterways which annually shift three times more cargo than is moved by rail between Beijing and the Lower Yangtze region.
The Grand Canal was the major cultural and economic arterial system linking north and south China for nearly one and a half millennia. Like the Great Wall, it defines a major cultural landscape in which it is the central engineering monument. Unlike the Great Wall, it was designed to serve as a transport route that provided an economic and cultural conduit through the heartland of the nation.
The last article has some interesting modern updating:
In 1949, the Communist victors in China's civil war inherited the Grand Canal at a time when large-scale engineering projects were regarded as testimonies to social advancement. Chinese engineers looked with enthusiasm to the day when the Grand Canal could be restored after a century of decay and neglect and rank among the world's great waterways–Panama and Suez, the St. Lawrence Seaway and Stalin's canal network that, with rivers, effectively linked the Baltic, White and Black seas. The new Chinese government set about clearing unexploded ordnance from the bridges, locks and dykes, a legacy of the civil war in which Chiang Kai-shek had no compunction in including flooding in his arsenal for warfare. There were many reports in the Chinese press of explosions occurring along the Grand Canal during 1949 and 1950, but by the end of 1950 most landmines and bombs had been cleared away.

In 1958, the Chinese government announced a major plan to dredge and revive the Grand Canal. Transportation and irrigation, as well as flood mitigation and prevention, were all targets within the sights of the project's engineers, and offices to coordinate the massive dredging and construction projects were set up in each province along its length. Farmers, workers, clerks, students and soldiers were all dragooned into voluntary work between 1958 and 1961 to realise this grand plan, part of the Great Leap Forward, an enterprise which must have come at great human cost during this period now acknowledged to have ushered in famine and starvation. Nearly 160 million cubic metres of earth were excavated during these three years, but only 3.7 million cubic metres of this massive amount was shifted by machine.

During this period seven major locks–at Xietai, Liushan, Siyang, Huaiyin, Huai'an, Shaobo and Shiqiao-were completed, and three major coal ports were constructed – at Wanzhai, Shuanglou and Pixian. A large railway bridge spanning the canal was constructed in Xuzhou, as were highway bridges across the canal at Xuzhou, Huaiyin and Yangzhou. In Shandong a large lock was constructed serving the four lakes collectively called Weishan lake. This afforded passage of the canal across the lake's 140 km from north to south. A large bridge also spanning the Grand Canal was constructed in Jining, Shandong province. Many of the achievements of the gargantuan efforts and labours of these years fell again into neglect with the Cultural Revolution and its aftermath.

A revival of the Grand Canal began in 1984, according to Fu Chonglan, who has been a passionate observer of the canal over the past two decades, when state planners sought to revive the neglected and rundown canal with massive planning and investments, again targeting the various tasks the canal was intended to address, ranging from transportation to flood relief. In 1985, this work focused on the stretches of the canal south of the Yellow River from Jining to Yangzhou, and the sections of the canal south of the Yangtze from Zhejiang to Hangzhou. Much of the canal between Tianjin and Dezhou had ceased to flow, and sections of the canal had been cut between Beijing and Tianjin. Grand Canal is basically now only navigable without interruption from Jining southwards to Hangzhou. Unlike many conservators, Fu Chonglan argues that, if the Grand Canal is a central component in the massive project to bring water from southern China to the nation's dry north, best known as the South-North Water Transfer (SNWT) Project, its future is rosy.
Ah, I do love rosy scenarios.

A recent article in the U.S. Naval War College Reviews compares the old "Grand Canal" with China's new "canal' - the sea lines of communication that it needs to thrive:
Over a millennium ago, a waterway known as the Grand Canal, connecting the seaport of Hangzhou with Beijing in the north, became a critical artery for the dynamic growth of Chinese civilization. In the last decade,
the sea lines of communication (SLOCs) connecting China to the Middle East
and Africa have assumed a similarly vital role as a major “center of gravity” for
Chinese economic development. With Chinese oil demand growing rapidly and
seaborne oil imports constituting more than 80 percent of total oil imports,
China’s new “Grand Canal” has also become a vital oil lifeline.
While we ponder modern logistics flow, it's time to tip your hat to the Chinese laborers (of whatever vintage) that put together the older, still amazing man-made waterway known as the Grand Canal.


Interesting thoughts on countering pirates from the Journal of Energy Security in a piece by Chris Brewer.

I like his "fire triangle"-like analysis of piracy causes:
Piracy is a product of three causative factors: motivation for gain, ability to project an armed force with the capability to seize vessels in shipping lanes, and safe havens pirates can use for home bases from which they can market their loot. Remove or interrupt any one of these factors and piracy is eliminated or reduced.
Mr. Brewer goes through some technological deterrents that might thwart pirates including the LRAD and its kin, both acoustic and laser. He also offers up a concept of a "self-deploying escort" (my words, not his):
There are of course two major impediments to employing lethal force in defense of ships at sea and those associated with employing weapons from the deck of large vessels carrying volatile cargo, and the risk of fire and explosion. Second, there are political issues involved in cargo vessels entering foreign ports carrying lethal weapons. Some nations simply will not permit civilians with weapons to enter their ports. There are also inherent issues associated with rules of engagement and legal jurisdictions when lethal force is employed by civilian security forces. All of these issues make the use of lethal force problematic for routine defense of vessels, and should only be used as a last resort.

A possible solution to these issues involves moving the defensive platform off the deck of the ship being defended and taking the fight to the pirates while they are still some distance from the ship. By placing a significant portion of a ship’s defenses on board a smaller vessel that can be launched from the mother ship, any counter fire from the pirates will be directed at that smaller vessel, and not at the initially targeted vessel. Assuming a ship has opted to include lethal force in its list of options, this also allows the mother ship to release an armed security vessel before entering a port of call that would not permit entry of armed vessels into their port. The security vessel could be moved from one ship leaving a hazardous sea lane and passed onto another entering, or it could be picked up by a tender that shuttles the security vessels between ships needing protection.
Another option is to employ Unmanned Surface Vessels (USV) equipped with an array of defensive and offensive devices. The US Navy has tested two small, armed USV’s designed to patrol harbors and defend vessels. One such vessel, the Protector, is a 30 foot USV originally built by BAE systems, Lockheed Martin and the Israeli Defense firm RAFAEL, now marketed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd. The Protector can be remote controlled from approximately ten miles away allowing it to provide a wide perimeter defense for ships it protects. With new satellite based, broadband technology being developed by Tantara Communications LLC to track shipping containers, it is possible that small USV’s of this type could be controlled from port and be limited only by their fuel range and sea conditions.
Another option is the smaller, jet ski sized Sentry manufactured by the British Defense firm Qinetiq. The Sentry has a limited fuel load and operating time, roughly six hours. Its small size makes it practical to quickly launch from cargo vessels encountering hostile small craft a sea. These small craft could be fitted with an array of devices, to include acoustic, microwave, laser and water cannons that would move the active defense well away from the mother ship, delaying or driving off the pirate vessels while the mother ship escapes. The longer range Protector could operate independently at sea to help patrol shipping lanes, with multiple USV’s being tended by one mother ship or a control station at a friendly port in the region.
More on the Rafael Unmanned Surface Vessel (USV) Protector:
Protector is a remote-controlled Unmanned Surface Vehicle (USV) equipped with a stabilized mini-Typhoon weapon system (MK 49 Mod 0), cameras, radar equipment and electro optics. Highly autonomous, the Protector can successfully operate with general guidance from a commander and operator in port, riverine, harbor and coastal waterways - making it an innovative solution for today's critical missions, including force protection, anti-terror, and surveillance and reconnaissance.
Mr. Brewer also mentions disabling nets and slippery substances to disable pirate boats and prevents boardings. He raises some interesting ideas. Most of these ideas are expensive, probably affordable only by the larger cargo, tanker and cruise lines.

My analysis of the ships actually captured by the Somali pirates reveals that, with a couple of exceptions, that the ships captured are smaller, slower vessels not owned by Maersk or other major shipping companies, manned by lower cost crews (including a large numbers of Filipinos). Further, some of the suggestions involve have trained operators at the ready to operate some complicated systems and make difficult decisions involving rules of engagement.

I also wonder about the legal status of an operator sitting at a computer in one country who operating a USV who opens fire on suspected pirates without being in imminent danger himself...

Many of the ideas are not new. But it is a nice presentation and the ideas are well worth further examination.

UPDATE: Added a graphic of the "Piracy Triangle." Remove any leg and piracy collapses. Right now the emphasis is on the "capability" leg - trying to make it too hard for the pirates to capture ships. It could further be argued that diplomatic steps are being taken to eliminate the Somali "safe haven." On the other hand, "low risk, high rewards" and lack of other options makes the "motivation" side tough to take out.

UPDATE2: From an email from Gulf of Aden Group Transits: First, an analysis of a flaw in a single "self deploying escort" if confronted by a pirate "swarm attack" -
Based on all the tactics and knowledge we have of the pirates, the method and process of launching a small rib tender that is armed is very seriously flawed as they will often work in pairs or greater numbers and will easily bait the vessel to launch to be drawn away while others intercept in greater numbers.
Well, hard to argue with that, especially since it is based on actual experience. has another tool which seems promising:
We have now developed a polyproplylene net with stainless steel wire braided into it, that is both lightweight and not able to be sliced with a knife, it can also be hooked up to electrical source to give an added ZAP!!

The net comes in 10 mtr wide by 5 mtr high panels and effectively raises the freeboard of the vessel above 8mtrs – and that is our main aim – raise the freeboard so they can't board – you can never stop them firing at you, but if they have no capability to physically get onboard then you are not going to be hijacked.!!
Another compelling argument with the virtue of simplicity.

Somali Pirate: Several Attacks - Cruise Ship Attack Fails When Ship Fights Back

Cruise ship attack reported as Cruise ship fends off pirate attack with gunfire:
An Italian cruise ship with 1,500 people on board fended off a pirate attack far off the coast of Somalia when its Israeli private security forces exchanged fire with the bandits and drove them away, the commander said Sunday.

Cmdr. Ciro Pinto told Italian state radio that six men in a small white speed boat approached the Msc Melody and opened fire Saturday night, but retreated after the Israeli security officers aboard the cruise ship returned fire.

"It felt like we were in war," Pinto said.
Domenico Pellegrino, head of the Italian cruise line, said Msc Cruises hired the Israelis because they were the best trained security agents, the ANSA news agency reported.

"Six guys in a small boat . . ." We need more escort ships out there as soon as possible. I have previously suggest how that might be done. See here, here, and here for starters.

Another reported attack from the same report:
Separately, the Turkish cruiser Ariva 3, with two British and four Japanese crew aboard, survived a pirate attack near the Yemeni island of Jabal Zuqar early Sunday, said Ali el-Awlaqi, head of the Yemeni El-Awlaqi Marine company said.

"Pirates opened fire at the cruise ship for 15 minutes then stopped for no reason," he said, adding that the cruiser was heading to Aden, Yemen, to fix a broken engine.
Background info on the Ariva 3.

There is also a report of a Yemeni ship being captured:
Somali pirates seized an empty Yemeni oil tanker in the Gulf of Aden on Sunday and two pirates were killed in clashes as the Yemeni coast guard tried to free the vessel, a Yemeni government official said. Skip related content

The official said three pirates and two Yemeni coast guards were also wounded in the exchange.

The tanker, Qana, can carry 3,000 tonnes but was not carrying a cargo when it was seized off the coast of the Arabian Peninsula country, the official told Reuters.

Yemen, across the Gulf of Aden from Somalia, is a small producer of oil and exports 200,000 barrels per day.
This report comes as another report indicates that another Yemeni tanker has been released:
Somali pirates freed a Yemeni-owned tanker, the Sea Princess II, on Sunday, a Kenyan maritime official told Reuters.

"Information shows that the Sea Princess II is free. She is now underway to safe waters," said Andrew Mwangura of the Kenyan-based East African Sea Farers Assistance Programme.

"There must have been a ransom paid but we don't know how much."

The tanker was seized on Jan. 2 and was carrying petroleum products. It had 15 crew members, including eight Indian seamen.

A sea gang released another ship on Saturday. The Greek ship was let free after a $1.9 million ransom payment.

UPDATE: Winds are down off the east Coast of Somalia and near the Seychelles as shown here:
UPDATE: An interesting email about the capture of the Qana from Gulf of Aden Group Transits, point out some pirate tactics:
We are heavily involved with the Yemen Navy and Coastguard and have escorted and placed armed teams on many ships over the last few months.

The Qana was hijacked 11 miles off the Yemen coast in a convoy with 4 tankers enroute to Mukalla, 4 skiffs each with between 4/6 pirates in each swarmed in true tactical formation attacking the front and back of the 3 mile 4 ship convoy at the same time. They were protected by only 1 Yemen coastguard vessel.

There was a firefight and I think you will find more than 2 pirates were killed, however the Qana broke off of the convoy during the attack as she was number 2 and the front 2 skiffs managed to get her – they are still only 30 miles off of the coast with the Yemen Navy in pursuit......... Actions TBC!!

Based on all the tactics and knowledge we have of the pirates, the method and process of launching a small rib tender that is armed is very seriously flawed as they will often work in pairs or greater numbers and will easily bait the vessel to launch to be drawn away while others intercept in greater numbers.
The last paragraph is addressing one of the ideas quoted here which came from here, to wit:
A possible solution to these issues involves moving the defensive platform off the deck of the ship being defended and taking the fight to the pirates while they are still some distance from the ship. By placing a significant portion of a ship’s defenses on board a smaller vessel that can be launched from the mother ship, any counter fire from the pirates will be directed at that smaller vessel, and not at the initially targeted vessel. Assuming a ship has opted to include lethal force in its list of options, this also allows the mother ship to release an armed security vessel before entering a port of call that would not permit entry of armed vessels into their port. The security vessel could be moved from one ship leaving a hazardous sea lane and passed onto another entering, or it could be picked up by a tender that shuttles the security vessels between ships needing protection.
The GOAGT email makes a good point if a ships is being attacked by multiple pirate boats.

Sunday Ship History: Submarine Fire

The are some stories that shape lives. One of these is the saga of the fire on USS Bonefish (SS-582). The background story is the submarine was operating with a carrier and frigate during some training exercises when a fire broke out on the submerged submarine.

For the rest of the story, I link to Navy blogger Xformed at Chaotic Synaptic Activity, where he has a multi-part post titled "A Date with Destiny"-

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

Part VI

Part VII


Saturday, April 25, 2009

Swine Flu

Had a physical yesterday. "Thought about flu shots?" the doctor asked.

Maybe I will, starting now:

Swine Flu News:
MSNBC Reports Outbreak in Mexico, U.S. Tied To New Swine Flu The unique strain of swine flu found in seven people in California and Texas has been connected to the deadly flu that has broken out in Mexico, killing as many as 60 people, NBC News has confirmed.

The strain has never been seen before and is raising fears of a possible pandemic across North America.

The World Health Organization said it was concerned at what it called hundreds of “influenza-like” cases in Mexico, and also about the confirmed outbreak of the new strain of swine flu in the United States.
Pandemics are bad:
The influenza pandemic of 1918-1919 killed more people than the Great War, known today as World War I (WWI), at somewhere between 20 and 40 million people. It has been cited as the most devastating epidemic in recorded world history. More people died of influenza in a single year than in four-years of the Black Death Bubonic Plague from 1347 to 1351. Known as "Spanish Flu" or "La Grippe" the influenza of 1918-1919 was a global disaster.

Latest ONI Worldwide Threats to Shipping Report (to 22 April 09)

The latest ONI Worldwide Threats to Shipping Report (to 22 April 09)can be found
here. Highlights:
1. NIGERIA: Bulk carrier robbed 19 Apr 09 at 0245 local time while at berth in Tin Can Islands, Lagos. Two motor boats with eleven robbers armed with long knives boarded the vessel by using hooks and ropes. They broke into the store room and stole ship’s stores. The duty officer raised the alarm, crew mustered and rushed to the location. On sighting the crew, the robbers threatened with long knives and escaped in their boats (IMB).

2. GULF OF ADEN: Vessel fired upon 20 Apr 09 at 1115 UTC while underway in position 12:43N – 047:48E. Two speed boats with five or six armed men onboard chased the vessel with gun shots being fired. The vessel conducted evasive maneuvers and increased speed. Coalition forces were informed and a helicopter was deployed to the location. Upon sighting the helicopter, the men in the speed boats aborted their attempt (Operator, IMB).
3. GULF OF ADEN: Bulk carrier fired upon 20 Apr 09 at 0520 UTC while underway in position 13:15N – 047:40E. Twelve men armed with automatic weapons in two white speed boats chased and fired upon the vessel. The captain conducted evasive maneuvers and enforced anti-piracy measures to prevent the boarding (IMB).
4. GULF OF ADEN: Tanker (FRONT ARDENNE) reported attempted hijacking 18 Apr 09 at 1530 local time while underway in position 12:18N – 046:29E. Seven armed men in a blue skiff approached the tanker from the starboard quarter. No shots were fired, but the armed men made aggressive maneuvers in an attempt to board. The officer on watch notified nearby coalition warships. The captain increased speed and activated fire hoses. The vessel conducted evasive maneuvers as advised by the warship. A Canadian warship arrived, intercepting the skiff and thwarting the attack (Operator, CNN).
5. GULF OF ADEN: Chemical tanker fired upon 18 Apr 09 at 0745 UTC while underway in position 12:14N – 045:45E. A 20 meter black hull boat with a black sail was spotted. Once the boat was astern, it launched a white hull skiff which proceeded towards the tanker. Men in the skiff prepared a ladder to board the tanker. The tanker increased speed and enforced anti-piracy preventive measures. An RPG was fired at the tanker, which fell on the deck but did not explode. The men in the skiff aborted the attack and returned to the mother ship (IMB).
6. GULF OF ADEN: General cargo ship reported suspicious approach 17 Apr 09 at 0500 UTC while underway in position 12:51N – 048:11E. The vessel detected a speed boat approaching at a distance of 7NM. Warships were contacted and informed of the speed boat and a mother ship nearby. The speed boat approached the vessel on the starboard side at a speed of 15 knots. When the speed boat was about 2NM away, three armed men were sighted. The vessel fired rocket flares, activated fire hoses, and sounded the alarm. The speed boat came as close as 40-50 meters from the vessel before eventually aborting its pursuit and returning to the mother ship (IMB).

Weather and the Somali Pirates

Weather to cut Somali pirate attacks
"The sea is calm now, but it will be terrible to sail especially in the Indian Ocean by May," pirate Farah Hussein told Reuters by telephone. Pirates have made millions of dollars seizing ships and taking crews hostage. After a brief lull earlier this year, gunmen continued their onslaught.

"Once we go into June, the south west monsoons will come in and that affects the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea, and we may see a reduction in attacks," said Pottengal Mukundan, director of the International Maritime Bureau (IMB).

Weather analysts say the June-July-August season has the worst weather for pirates while December-January-February is less extreme, but still bad.
I wonder where they got the idea to look into the weather/pirate link?

Map is of the Seychelles vicinity from here.

Somali Pirates Seize German Ship

Somali Pirates Seize German Ship:
A report out of Kenya says Somali pirates have hijacked a German ship with 24 crew members on board.

Andrew Mwangura, of the Mombasa-based East African Seafarers' Assistance Program, says pirates seized the 20,000 ton container vessel Saturday in the Indian Ocean.

He says the hijacking occurred about 740 kilometers off the coast of Kismayo, between Kenya and the Seychelles.
UPDATE: More info:
Hijackers seized a German-owned ship in the pirate-infested waters between Somalia and Yemen on Saturday, a U.S. Navy spokesman said.

Pirates captured the Maltese-flagged MV Patriot in the Gulf of Aden about 150 nautical miles (280 kilometers) southeast of the Yemeni coastal city of Muqalla, said U.S. Navy 5th Fleet spokesman Lt. Nathan Christensen.

An official from the German Foreign Ministry could not immediately confirm the ship's capture.

UPDATE2: Revised map with circle giving general indication of are of capture.

Photo of M/V Patriot by Marcelo Lopes from and used in accord with its terms of use.