Sunday, May 31, 2009
The red "ship" symbol marks the reported attack.
As far as I know, this is the first reported attack by possible pirates in this area.
(UPDATE: Correction - 3rd in area within 3 months -see UPDATE 4 below)
However, with monsoon weather possibly affecting the Gulf of Aden and waters off the east coast of Somalia, this might be another pirate adaptation.
More to follow.
UPDATE: Report from Nick of Gulf of Aden Group Transits (GOAGT):
Just a heads up that ...[ship] was attacked this morning with RPG & automatic fire – the (pending)... [under] escort from Oman Border to the start of the supposed safe area of red sea at Bab El Mandeb – however this attack happened 50 miles North, after the (pending) had been released from the Navy escort.Photo of (pendng) under escort by Yemeni Navy provided by Gulf of Aden Group Transits, used by permission, all rights reserved.
Vessel has sustained damage to bridge and accommodation block but vessel conducted evasive manouevres and ... contacted Gulf of Aden Group Transits ...[contacted] Yemen Navy resulted in immediate deployment of multiple military vessels and helicopters searching for the Skiff with the 7 pirates onboard.
I owe a debt of gratitude to the Yemen Navy for immediately deploying all available assets in region from Aden, Hodeidah & Mokha
Sounds like a harrowing time for the attacked ship, with good responses by all of the counter pirate forces including GOAGT which was providing guidance to the vessel, the Yemenis and the crew of the (pending)
More to follow.
UPDATE2: You might recall that (pending) was released by Somali pirates on (pending).
UPDATE3: A request to withdraw ship name- I have replaced reported name with (pending) - maintaining "possible" attack status pending further clarification and confirmation. Sorry for any inconvenience.
UPDATE4: IMB reports incident here. IMB's Live Piracy Map correctly shows two prior incidents in area -both occurring in March 2009. In addition, three other incidents in mouth of Bab El Mandeb since February 2009.
UPDATE5: Modified IMB 2009 Piracy Map for Red Sea Area (31 May alleged attack circled in red) showing dates of other attacks in Red Sea and Bab El Mandeb vicinity:
UPDATE6: A clarification- Fairplay reports earlier Red Sea attacks may not have involved weapons firing at vessels.
Friday, May 29, 2009
The Merry Minuet by Sheldon Harnick
They're rioting in Africa. They're starving in Spain. There's hurricanes in Florida, and Texas needs rain.
The whole world is festering with unhappy souls. The French hate the Germans, the Germans hate the Poles.
Italians hate Yugoslavs, South Africans hate the Dutch. And I don't like anybody very much!
But we can be tranquil and thankful and proud, for man's been endowed with a mushroom-shaped cloud.
And we know for certain that some lovely day, someone will set the spark off... and we will all be blown away.
They're rioting in Africa. There's strife in Iran. What nature doesn't do to us... will be done by our fellow man.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
One day after North Korea warned of a possible attack against the South, the United States and South Korea ordered their forces here to their highest alert for three years, increasing surveillance flights and satellite reconnaissance to counter what officials termed a “grave threat.”North Korea, reiterating its assertion made in January that all agreements with South Korea are dead, including the maritime "northern limit line" separating the DPRK (North Korea) waters from the ROK (South Korea) waters. Without an agreed line, international law would recognize a 12 mile limit for the territorial waters. a problem with that limit are the numerous islands that dot the coast of the Korean peninsula, each island extending the 12 mile base line.
Some of the recent threatening North Korean language involves the U.S. threat to lead a group of navies in boarding and searching all North Korean vessels leaving the DPRK:
North Korea intensified its threats against South Korea and the United States on Wednesday with warnings of a “powerful military strike” if any North Korean ships were stopped or searched as part of an American-led operation to intercept vessels suspected of carrying unconventional weapons.Diplomatic efforts are underway at the UN to bolster existing snactions:
Diplomats said American and Japanese officials were drafting a Security Council resolution that would concentrate on five or six ways to flesh out existing sanctions against North Korea that had never been enforced. Although China supports the idea of sanctions, it wants to work slowly and to bolster measures first passed in 2006 rather than creating new ones, they said.Technically a state of war currently exists between the ROK, its allies and the DPRK. An extended armistice has been in place for 55 years, but the unilateral renunciation by one side to the agreement ought to have some meaning - in this case, that the war is back on and that DPRK ships are fair game for seizure, boarding and attack by ROK and UN forces.
According to this the North Koreans say the "truce" is over:
South Korea and the United States raised the military alert level for the peninsula on Thursday after the communist North warned the truce ending the Korean War was dead and it was ready to attack.With the DPRK asserting that the truce is dead, there would seem to be no limits to any allied activity regarding DPRK shipping. The question being who will send ships to enforce the Proliferation Security Agreement, previous "deals" with the DPRK and war at sea.
UPDATE: More on the PSI and the DPRK from here:
South Korea, still divided from the North by a heavily fortified border, had responded to the nuclear test by joining the Proliferation Security Initiative, a U.S.-led movement to stop ships from transporting banned nuclear goods.North Korea, as is its wont, blames the U.S.:
Pyongyang lashed out at both the U.S. and South Korea, calling Seoul's move to join the PSI tantamount to a declaration of war and a violation of the truce keeping the peace between the two Koreas.
"Full participation in the PSI by a side on the Korean Peninsula where the state of military confrontation is growing acute and there is constant danger of military conflict itself means igniting a war," North Korea's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea said in a statement carried on state media.
The regime warned that it would "deal a decisive and merciless retaliatory blow" to anyone trying to inspect its vessels.
North Korea's army said it would be "illogical" to honor the 1953 armistice between the two Koreas, given the violations by the U.S. and South Korea, and said it could no longer promise the safety of U.S. and South Korean warships and civilian vessels in the waters near the maritime border.
An official newspaper of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) on Tuesday urged the United States to apologize for its infringement on the DRPK's autonomy.If it were me, I'd "apologize" by moving a couple of more carriers toward the area and a bevy of smaller ships for interdiction purposes.
Rodong Simun said the Barack Obama administration was taking a both hard and placatory line toward the DPRK. They held an "olive branch" in one hand and an "arrow" in another hand, but the emphasis of the tactic was "arrow." The so-called "talks" alleged by the United States were only favorable conditions that Washington created for shooting the "arrow."
It said the Obama administration responded to the DPRK's satellite launch by imposing sanctions, totally destroying the mood of the "talks." The Obama administration did not admit his fault, but smeared the DPRK as a tyranny or rogue nation.
No matter what others say, the DPRK would do things in its own way, especially regarding the Korean Peninsula's nuclear issue and the DPRK-U.S. relationship, the newspaper noted.
The North Koreans have now proven that they can make a viable nuclear weapon. They are believed to have enough fissile material to make several weapons, a couple of years ago, the estimate was 12 weapons.
In addition, the DPRK is believed to have large stocks of chemical weapons. See here:
... in 1997, the U.S. State Department, in response to questions posed by U.S. Senator Thad Cochran, stated that North Korea was, in fact, "believed to have a sizable stockpile of chemical weapons." The MND has been more specific. It claimed in 2003 that North Korea had produced "over ten kinds of lethal chemicals that include nerve, blister, and blood agents" and had a stockpile of "some 2,500 to 5,000 tons of these chemical agents."UPDATE: Wikipedia reports on the forward deployed warhships of the U.S. Navy:
U.S. Fleet Activities Yokosuka, JapanThe U.S. Pacific Air Forces include about 375 air craft located in South Korea, Japan, Guam and Alaska. In addition to George Washington, the Navy lists two other carriers as operating in the Pacific. Japan has a substantial Maritime Self Defense Force (100 ships), as does South Korea (150 ships). Good source of Asian navy info: Maritime Asia.
* USS George Washington (CVN-73)
* USS Blue Ridge (LCC-19)
* USS Cowpens (CG-63)
* USS Shiloh (CG-67)
* USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG-54)
* USS John S. McCain (DDG-56)
* USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62)
* USS Stethem (DDG-63)
* USS Lassen (DDG-82)
* USS McCampbell (DDG-85)
* USS Mustin (DDG-89)
U.S. Fleet Activities Sasebo, Japan
* USS Essex (LHD-2)
* USS Denver (LPD-9)
* USS Harpers Ferry (LSD-49)
* USS Tortuga (LSD-46)
* USS Guardian (MCM-5)
* USS Patriot (MCM-7)
Apra Harbor, Guam
* USS Frank Cable (AS-40)
* USS City of Corpus Christi (SSN-705)
* USS Houston (SSN-713)
* USS Buffalo (SSN-715)
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Two Yemeni fishermen were killed and one was injured while the fate of a fourth one is still unknown after their boat came under an aggressive assault by one of the international naval ships patrolling the Red Sea near Sudan on Tuesday.Hmm.
A source at the Coast Guard said Abdu Marwani and Muhammad Naj'e were killed immediately after their boat was totally destroyed by a missile which some suspect was an air strike.
Sources at Yemen's navy said it probably came from sea.
While the third fisherman made it to Sudanese coast and is now in critical condition.
The fishermen came from the Midy area, Hajjah before their boat was hit near Sudan's waters.
A coordinated investigation by Yemen and Sudan is underway to explore reasons for the attack.
Meanwhile, director of the Midy district Abdul Majeed Al-Himyari dismissed reports a Yemeni boat was attacked in Yemen's territorial waters, saying the incident took place while the boat was in Sudan's territorial waters.
He told the media the survivor is being investigated by Sudan.
Tuesday's attack comes in a series of attacks against Yemeni fishing boats by international forces patrolling the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean.
Remember the alleged destruction of an alleged Iranian arms ship off Sudan? See here.
Jane notes there is a lively trade in smuggling diesel fuel from Yemen to Sudan and others have noted that some Yemenis have been arms merchants (see here and here).
Jane correctly points out that maintaining situational awareness is vital throughout the region:
The much bigger issue is the exploding fishing boat. Its unclear that any missile hit it at this point, its could have been laden with explosives and blew up accidentally. Its important for the international fleet to remain vigilant about the danger of maritime terror attacks in the Gulf of Aden.It was not in Somali waters that the Cole was attacked, nor the oil tanker Limburg.
The rules of engagement should not allow hapless lost Yemeni fishermen to approach military vessels...
A statement from al Qaeda Central called for naval jihad (April 2008?), the October one by a Yemeni forecast a major event around Somalia. The links between AQAP in Yemen and al Shabab go back to the ICU and before. Its a predictable scenario that AQAP would attempt to outdo the Cole bombing when the waters are full of such tempting targets...
About a year ago, though, al Qaeda was yapping about Chokepoint Terrorism:
Finally, the article stresses that the seas off the coast of Yemen, namely the Gulf of Aden, the Bab Al-Mandeb strait and the Red Sea are of supreme strategic importance in the campaign to expel the enemy from key locations. If the enemy loses these key areas, it explains, "he will not be able to defend himself on land and [to protect] his naval bases from the mujahideens' attack."Keep a sea eye open on this.
Daniel's regular website is here.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
He and his colleagues have hijacked nearly 30 vessels this year, meaning 2009 is on course to be even worse than last year, when pirates from the Horn of Africa nation seized 42 ships.Just in time for bad weather, another 200 pirates claim to have given up piracy, as set out here:
But the crime wave has prompted a hurried deployment in the region by foreign navies, thwarting several attacks -- and now the weather is turning too, making the seas rougher and the pirates' prey harder to hunt.
"My biggest fear is that the piracy business will have to stop. The weather will be terrible in the coming days and the warships have increased in number," Said told Reuters in Eyl.
But the last few weeks have not been so successful. He knows he was lucky to get off scot-free after being captured once.
"I recently went to sea ... but all of my last three attempts have been in vain. I was even caught by a Portuguese warship, but fortunately they released me and my friends."
Around 200 Somali pirates are reported to have renounced piracy at a meeting in northern Somalia.I don't see amnesty forthcoming, unless the pirates surrender themselves along with the captured ships. And I suspect the pirate plan does not include the "former pirates" remaining in Somalia. The south of France, however, is nice...
Members of the group met local leaders and Somali expatriates in Eyl, in the autonomous region of Puntland, and promised to halt their activities.
Pirate representative Abshir Abdullah told the BBC he urged other groups to free ships in return for amnesty.
Speaking of weather, the monsoon (see here) seems to be kicking up:
Higher winds, heavier seas - not much for a pirate in a small open boat to enjoy.
Expect, in addition to further promises of pirate reform, a couple of months of slowed pirate activity.
Iran has chosen this perod to send 6 (?) warships to the area to participate in international anti-pirate measures, as set out here:
Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari announced on Monday that Iran has sent 6 warships and logistic vessels to the Gulf of Aden and the surrounding international waters.Might be a slow deployment for the Iranians, since the pirates seem to be standing down for weather. Not that the effort isn't appreciated.
Sayyari, who made the remarks while visiting the development projects and installations of the Iranian Navy here in Tehran, described the measure as "unprecedented in the history of the Iranian Navy", and added, "This important move indicates the country's high military capability in confronting any kind of foreign threat along the coasts of the country."
UPDATE: Having staked out a position for a slowdown, I now report two unsuccessful attacks in the Gulf of Aden, which I have tried to depict on the image nearby:
Atttack 1: At 0130 UTC a merchant vessel was under attack by 2 skiffs in position 1305N 04858E.and
The ship is safe now.
Attack 2: At 242120Z a merchant vessel was under attack by pirates in position 13 11N 049 18E.And a report of a Swedish warship capturing some suspected pirates, loaded with normal fishing equipment, here:
The vessel is safe now
Early this morning suspected pirates attacked a Greek Bulk Carrier in the Gulf of Aden. The pirates fired upon the ship with small arms and RPG (Rocket Propelled Grenade). A distress call was picked up by the EU NAVFOR Swedish warship HMS MALMO which immediatelly proceeded to the area.
MALMO then got visual contact with the attacking skiff and fired warning shots and flares. The skiff stopped after pursuit and was boarded by a VPD (Vessel Protection Detachment) sent out from MALMO. On board the skiff some weapons, GPS equipment, grappling hooks and barrels of fuel were found. 7 suspected pirates were captured and are at present being held on board HMS MALMO for further investigation.
Tip of the hat to Bryan for the info.
If history is any guide, Kim's strategy is to keep escalating with tests and proliferation until he extorts another round of money, aid and global recognition. This time in particular he's testing President Barack Obama and his vow to "engage" the world's rogues.What's the compromise position for someone who wants you dead? Not all disagreements can be resolved with mediation.
By early accounts, yesterday's underground test outside the northeastern city of Kilju was successful. If the initial reports of a 10 to 20 kiloton blast are true, then the North's scientists have come a long way since their first test in October 2006. That blast registered less than a kiloton and was widely considered a failure abroad, if not in the North, where Kim used it to bolster his prestige.
In response to that test, the Bush Administration and China at first increased sanctions and diplomatic pressure. But they quickly turned to strike a deal offering Pyongyang aid and recognition in return for the North's promise to dismantle its nuclear programs.
Kim is now going back to his familiar playbook with Mr. Obama in the White House, and he can't be displeased with the reaction. After the North launched a long-range ballistic missile over Japan in April, Mr. Obama declared that "Rules must be binding. Violations must be punished. Words must mean something. The world must stand together to prevent the spread of these weapons. Now is the time for a strong international response." But the U.S. couldn't even get a Security Council resolution at the U.N. and had to settle for a nonbinding "presidential statement" of rebuke.
The stakes here go beyond the ambitions of one nasty regime. North Korea has shown in the past it is willing to sell its missile and other technology around the world, not least to Iran and Syria. The mullahs in Tehran and other rogues are also carefully watching the response of the new American President as they contemplate the costs of their own WMD ambitions. Mr. Obama won the White House while promising that his brand of kinder, gentler diplomacy would better rally the world against bad actors. Now is the time to prove it.
Consider the North's goals. First and foremost, Chairman Kim wants the international community to recognize his nation as a nuclear-weapons state. Second, the regime seeks to destabilize the South Korean government of President Lee Myung-bak, who has taken a much tougher approach to Pyongyang than his two predecessors, Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun. Third, Great Leader Kim -- he has been trying to elevate his status from "Dear Leader" -- undoubtedly wants additional assistance from international donors to alleviate the hardship caused by the four-year downturn in the North Korean economy. And as always, Pyongyang's ruler hopes to bolster the popularity of his regime among hungry North Koreans -- and the senior generals whose backing he needs to continue his increasingly tenuous rule and to pass power to one of his ill-prepared sons.UPDATE: Some thoughts at One Free Korea in Nuclear Groundhog Day in North Korea. And at DPRK Studies: "Why North Korea Conducted a Second Nuclear Test":
Yet Kim had one more objective in mind when he set off the nuclear device in Kilju yesterday. And that reason alone should be sufficient to put North Korea at the top of the foreign-policy inbox for the next several years. The official Korean Central News Agency said this immediately after the detonation: "The results of the test helped satisfactorily settle the scientific and technological problems arising in further increasing the power of nuclear weapons and steadily developing nuclear technology." Ominously, this does not look like idle propaganda. This is sales talk. North Korea appears set to go into high gear and merchandise its nuclear arsenal.
North Korea's last nuclear test, in October 2006, was by all accounts a dud. The North Koreans were too ambitious in their designs, used unsuitable plutonium, or had not mastered the intricacies of the triggering device. In any event, the yield was less than a kiloton, well below the four kilotons they had predicted when they gave the Chinese a warning of the test. To get over the embarrassment of the "fizzle," Kim's technicians had to detonate another device to validate their designs and demonstrate the power of their weapon. The Iranians who witnessed the event three years ago could not have been overly impressed with the low yield. And Tehran is an important customer to the North Koreans, because the Islamic Republic has, in all probability, funded at least one acquirer of Kim's nuclear technology.
That acquirer would be Syria, which was building what looked like a reactor of North Korean design in their desert. The Israelis destroyed that secret facility in September 2007 in a daring air raid. We do not know at this moment if Damascus has abandoned its nuclear ambitions, but it is clear the Iranians have not. They are somewhere between one to three years to a working nuclear device of their own. Undoubtedly, we will hear in the next few months reports that Tehran's technicians were again witnesses to yesterday's test.
There is no greater threat to the United States than the proliferation of nuclear weapons to dangerous and hostile regimes. The Bush administration, however, never made North Korea pay any price for crossing the "red line" of selling nuclear technology. In fact, Bush policy in later years centered on providing benefits to Pyongyang for its continued participation in denuclearization talks. The American failure to impose consequences on the North apparently led Kim to think he could continue to design, test and even spread weapons technology.
We could be at one of the most consequential moments of our times. North Korea is taking on the world, and we have no choice but to respond.
What it’s not about: Finally, Pyongyang did not conduct this second nuclear test because it felt ignored or wanted more attention from the Obama administration. It’s a reason that gets attached to many North Korean actions as sometimes North Korean acts of brinkmanship are indeed meant to get America’s attention, but not this time I think. After the April TD-2 test, North Korea threatened to escalate – what we’re seeing now – if the UN even discussed the TD-2 issue. A ridiculous and absurd demand, since the UN Security Council was practically guaranteed to make some sort of watered down statement. North Korea likely had a nuclear test planned before April and only the most unrealistic of responses from the U.S. would have prevented it.
Sunday, May 24, 2009
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.No Sunday Ship History this weekend. This post is the same as I ran last year, but let me add this: Gettysburg has been followed by a thousand other battlefields in North Africa, the North Atlantic, the South Pacific, the North Pacific, the sky over Germany, Japan, the Marianas, Vietnam, Iraq, and on Europe's soil and hundreds of mile at sea. The "government of the people" still stands.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met here on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of it as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But in a larger sense we can not dedicate - we can not consecrate - we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled, here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but can never forget what they did here. It is for us, the living, rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they have, thus far, so nobly carried on. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us - that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion - that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom; and that this government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. - Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address
UPDATE: A reminder from a reader that it's not just the warriors we should remember:
Standing nearby is a replica of Sydney’s hull serving as a stele or grave marker and looking out to sea is the bronze figure of a waiting woman (holding her hat against the sea breeze), representing the women who were left behind, waiting in vain for those who would never return. Through her, visitors can feel the pain of the loss felt by so many.
Status of the Navy:
Particular attention should be paid to James Clad's presentation starting about 30 minutes in. And Aaron Friedberg's comments following. The theme is the long term effects of a decline in U.S. maritime capability in the Indian and Western Pacific Oceans. The post presentation Q&A discusses the "surprise" we are experiencing with China's rapid increase in potential power. And the perceived lack of U.S. Navy presence in the area. Has China already limited our access to the Strait of Taiwan and the South China Sea?Retired admiral and current U.S. Rep Sestak (D. PA) presentation on the status of the Navy:
Capability vs. numbers of units. Interesting discussion re maneuverable ballistic anti-ship missiles and ABM Aegis ships about 43 minutes in. He likes the LCS about 47 minutes in. Except there is a problem with module shifting. And he does peg the Navy's pending lack of heavy lift helos when the H-53s go bye-bye. The H-60 cannot replace the lift that the H-3 and H-53s had.Former SecNav John Lehman here at the same event:
"We should look like we know what we're doing." Telling the U.S. merchant fleet that it's not the Navy's job to provide freedom of the sea, even against Somali pirates in small skiffs, isn't sending the right message. The Chinese don't believe we can project sufficient force, perhaps with some reason. And we are not managing procurement well.My thoughts:
- Capability based solely on models is a dangerous path;
- Hard to send one ship, no matter how capable to 2 different locations at the same time;
- Numbers do matter;
- When the nation is involved in land wars, the Navy needs to continually speak up loudly about the importance of the U.S. being a maritime nation.
I was also interested to hear the Chief of Naval Operations state yesterday, at the Full Committee hearing, that the Navy still intends to maintain a minimum of 313 ships. It had begun to sound as if the Secretary of Defense, in his Foreign Affairs article, and the Navy, in its budget roll out, were beginning to back away from that number. It was not clear to me how the Navy planned to implement the joint Maritime Strategy, with its emphasis on forward presence, if the Navy intended to accept fewer ships. A ship can only be in one place at once and today’s fleet is the smallest it has been for nearly one hundred years.
Saturday, May 23, 2009
Mohammed says he gets something out of the relationship, too. He doesn't see himself as a pirate. He says he agreed to negotiate for pirates so he could learn enough about their business to start his own.That's one thing to keep in mind - for the pirate food chain, this is a business, shades of the Barbary Coast.
"If I become an expert on piracy and try to milk that, I think it is a legit business," he says. "The news media and global news media will need someone who is going to be an authority, to report from the inner feelings of a pirate, and to report whether pirates are going to stay around for a long time or not, and how to eliminate piracy."
Gullestrup sounds satisfied with that arrangement. "We tried to help him by giving him credentials as an expert in piracy locally, and he's trying to establish himself as a piracy consultant. It's a quid pro quo," he says. "It's not like we're bosom buddies. It's a business relationship."
In the gulf of Aden, on board the Canadian warship Winnipeg Friday morning, the first calls came into the bridge from the cargo ship Maria K, reports CBS News correspondent Sheila MacVicar.Maersk Virginia escapes the attack, too.
"They are still shooting with rocket-propelled grenades," the Maria K radioed.
"This is clearly an act of piracy," the commander of the HMCS Winnipeg Craig Baines told MacVicar. "The merchant seamen said they saw rocket propelled grenades being fired at them."
The pirates move fast. To prevent a hijacking there is very little time for action. Within minutes three naval helicopters were in the air.
"The pirate skiff is breaking off," a crewman radioed. "They're heading north."
Suddenly, the pirates break off their pursuit of the Maria K and head for an American ship. It's the Maersk Virginia - sister ship to the Maersk Alabama, hijacked last month.
Watch CBS Videos Online
A little overly dramatic for my taste, and I doubt the pirates in the skiffs connected the Maersk ships, but an interesting report. Good job, Canadians and Italians.
Another report on the Maersk Virginia attack.
Maria K photo Ivan Meshkov from ShipSpotting.com and used in accord with the terms there.
UPDATE: Nine suspected pirates nabbed by the Italian Navy in the incident.
Friday, May 22, 2009
The names of the five Helicopter Anti-submarine Squadron (HS) 6 aircrew involved in the crash of a Navy HH-60 Seahawk helicopter the evening of May 19 were released May 21.It is not just our grandfathers and fathers we honor this weekend. Nor is it just this crew.
- Lt. Cmdr. Eric J. Purvis, 37, of Poway, Calif.
- Lt. Allison M. Oubre, 27, of Slidell, La.
- Naval Air Crewman 1st Class (AW/NAC) Samuel "Grant" Kerslake, 41, of Hot Springs, Ark.
- Naval Air Crewman 2nd Class (AW/NAC) Aaron L. Clingman, 25, of Bend, Ore.
- Naval Air Crewman 3rd Class (AW/NAC) Sean M. Ward, 20, of Lovelock, Nev.
Our friends, our classmates, our children, our grandchildren . . .
Say a little prayer, will you, sometime this weekend?
A Somali man arrested after a US captain was kidnapped has pleaded not guilty to 10 charges in a New York court, including piracy.I dunno, maybe khat withdrawal? Usually drug use is used to attempt to excuse the crime ...
Abde Wale Abdul Kadhir Muse was also charged with holding a hostage for ransom and armed hijacking.
He spoke through a translator during the brief appearance. His next hearing was set for 17 September.
His lawyers said they had difficulty communicating with him, and that he was "confused" about the situation.
Defence lawyer Phil Weinstein also said "they are giving him medications that he doesn't understand", AFP news agency reported.
It was unclear what the medication was for.
This kid is lucky only his compatriots died in the affair for which he is standing trial.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
From a U.S. Navy meteorological tutorial:
Over the Gulf of Aden the Southwest Monsoon usually sets in towards the end of May or early in June, shortly after it has become fully established over the western Arabian Sea. Once established, conditions persist throughout June, July and August. Near the eastern entrance SSW winds prevail and the wind speed increases very rapidly as the entrance is approached from the west. In July typical conditions are: 11-16 kt over the Gulf and eastward to about 52E, becoming 22-27 kt in the area of 52-54E, and further increasing to 28-33 kt in the vicinity of 56-60E. While gale force winds are infrequent in the Gulf, gales of 34 to 40 kt are experienced on about 11 days per month in the 52-54E zone. A marked increase in wave and swell heights are also experienced as one passes eastward out of the Gulf of Aden into the western Arabian Sea.SST=Sea Surface Temperature. LST= Local Standard Time
The region in which the Southwest Monsoon winds are strongest is in a belt running northeastward from about 7N on the African coast, passing close to the eastward of Ras Hafun and Socatra and onward to about 16-18N, 60E. During July in this area winds average 22-33 kt and are greater than 34 kt about 20% of the time. This belt of persistent strong southwesterly flow is referred to as the Somalia Low Level Jet (LLJ). Over the open water of the southwestern Arabian Sea there is very little diurnal variation in winds.
Fog and mist occur frequently along coastal Somalia and Oman during the Southwest Monsoon and may extend some 200 nm offshore. This weather condition is in response to the persistent along shore low level jet southwesterly winds, the induced Ekman Spiral offshore water transport, resulting upwelled subsurface cool water, lowered SST's and, marine boundary layer saturation and fog/stratus development. This pattern of wind, upwelling, cold SST's and low clouds and fog is similar to that found off the west coast of the US during the summer season when the dominant eastern Pacific high results in persistent northwesterly winds along that coast.
Opposite the mouth of the Gulf of Aden there are some minor diurnal wind variations. To the north of Ras Asir, including the Socotra Island area, the maximum is at midnight and the minimum is in the early afternoon, while to the east and south of Socotra there is a maximum in the early afternoon and minimum in the early morning. As is typical over the open seas, the speed range of the diurnal variation is relatively small being on the order of 5 kt or less.
The diurnal variation of wind speed over the open Gulf of Aden is similar in timing to that east of Socotra, but the speed range is larger. The midday maximum tends to more than double the 2000 LST (1700Z) minimum. The diurnal variation is larger yet on both the northern and southern shores and over the near coastal waters.
SOMALI LOW-LEVEL JET
The "Somali Jet" is a relatively narrow wind stream along the East African Coast and
is part of the larger Southwest Monsoon circulation pattern. The Somali Jet is one of the strongest and most sustained low-level wind systems on earth. It is normally strongest in July and August when core maximum speeds up to 100 kt have been observed. The core is usually centered at an elevation of about 5000 ft. Figure 1 shows a typical July cloud pattern over the Arabian Sea during a moderately strong Southwest Monsoon situation. A relatively intense Somali Jet would be expected under this situation. The low-level wind speed maximum just east of Socotra Island usually appears as a nearly cloud free area bounded on the north and east by diverging cloud lines. Figure 2 shows a monthly mean airflow chart at 3500 ft for July. Notice the three local speed maxima, north of Madagasgar, off the coast of Kenya, and to the east of Socotra Island. These are semi- permanent low-level wind features during the Southwest Monsoon.
***Criminal defense counsel will probably be using variations on the theme announced by one of the defense counsel in the Dutch courts - "Poverty made my client do it" -
The appearance of five suspected Somali pirates in court in the Netherlands this week and the scheduled court hearing of a Somali teenager in New York on Thursday have focused attention once more on the legal challenges posed by 21st-century piracy.
Reports that some of the suspects were enjoying their stay in Dutch prison cells and were considering eventually claiming asylum, were met with disdain by the country's foreign minister who was quoted as saying he would prefer it if they were being tried in Kenya under UN auspices.
But, as Cyrus Mody from the International Maritime Bureau points out, the length of time taken bringing some of these cases to trial indicates the complexities involved.
The logistical and legal burdens involved in transporting pirate suspects to Western countries can be daunting, he says.
"It is difficult getting the pieces together, the evidence, the witnesses. Who's going to pay for it all?
"And if a prosecution fails, the burden lies with that country. There is always the prospect the suspected pirate might then claim asylum," he told the BBC.
Because of such difficulties, countries are reluctant to conduct their own trials.
Geoffrey Till, professor of Maritime Studies at Kings College in London, told the anti-piracy conference that some navies were wary of bringing suspects back for trial because of European Union human rights laws, which guarantee all people, including pirates, respect for their basic rights.
Piracy is defined by UN conventions as a universal crime and each country may arrest pirates at sea and prosecute them at home.
But whether a country can prosecute arrested pirates depends on its own laws. Several countries do not know how to incorporate the convention into their domestic jurisdiction.
A lawyer for one of five suspected Somali pirates being prosecuted in the Netherlands described his client Monday as a modern-day Robin Hood driven by poverty to hijack ships.This isn't too surprising, since the pirates have long insisted they are de facto coast guard units, protecting the Somali coast from foreign exploiters and that the exploitation has ruined the Somali fishing grounds, forcing the former fishermen to seek other ways to earn money. Other ways including hijacking ships carrying free food for other Somalis and threatening to kill innocent crew members of ships that have had nothing to do with Somalia at all.
But I digress.
A federal grand jury has now indicted the only Somali pirate in U.S. custody. He was captured as part of the Maersk Alabama attempted seizure. Reported here:
Now, a common lawyer saying is that a grand jury is so much under the prosecutor's sway that a prosecutor could "indict a ham sandwich" if he wanted, though there would seem to be plenty of evidence available in the Muse case. And the money to fly in witnesses, etc.
A Somali teenager whose role in the commandeering of an American cargo ship thrust him into the international spotlight has been indicted on multiple piracy charges, authorities said Tuesday.
Abdiwali Abdiqadir Muse — the only pirate to survive the siege — has been jailed in Manhattan since he was captured on April 12 and flown to the United States to face what's believed to be the first U.S. piracy prosecution in more than a century.
Muse, 18, was expected to enter a plea later this week on 10 counts, including piracy under the law of nations, conspiracy, hostage-taking, kidnapping and possession of a machine gun while seizing a ship by force.
If I were Muse, I would ask to see a menu of the educational opportunities available in federal prison and see if I could get a head start on that GED and college prep. And ask for a green suit with a nifty hat with a feather in it.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Iran says it has successfully test launched a mid-range surface-to-surface missile, state media has reported.Hmmm. Solid fuel.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the Sajjil-2 missile used "advanced technology" and had "landed exactly" on the unspecified target.
He said the missile used solid fuel and was "able to go beyond the atmosphere then come back and hit its target".
UPDATE: Steeljaw has a relevant post here linking to the new Missile Defense Agency publication Foreign Ballistic Missile Capabilities, which contains the following on Iran:
Iran does not yet have the technical capability to produce an ICBM, but it is believed theyAn SLV is a Space Launch Vehicle. Apparently Iran is moving along on it "solid-propellant MRBM.
may develop one by 2015. Iran has continued research and development on its longer
range ballistic missile programs and has publicly reiterated its commitment to developing
SLVs, which contain most of the key building blocks for an ICBM. Iran launched its Safir
SLV on 17 August 2008 in a failed attempt to orbit its indigenously produced Omid satellite.
On 2 February 2009 Iran again launched a Safir SLV, successfully inserting the Omid satellite
into orbit. This success shows progress in some technologies relevant to ICBMs.
Iran has also indicated it has a solid-propellant MRBM in development, and it may seek to develop additional longer-range MRBMs and IRBMs. This includes a variant of the North Korean new IRBM which reportedly has been sold to Iran. (footnotes omitted)
Potential ranges of Iranian missiles:
Since the Iranians assert the range of the Sajjil-2 is 2000 km, the red line gives you an idea on the range potential, not that Iranian leaders have ever vowed to wipe Russia, Ukraine, Bulgaria or Greece off the map. Israel is not impressed:
Israel said that the new missile test should also be a source of concern for European countries which would also now be in range.Blackmail by missile. Coming soon to a town near you.
"In terms of strategic importance, this new missile test doesn't change anything for us since the Iranians already tested a missile with a range of 1,500 kilometres (nearly 950 miles), but it should worry the Europeans," Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said.
"The Iranians are also trying to develop a ballistic missile with a range of 10,000 kilometres (6,250 miles) that could reach the coast of the United States," Ayalon told public radio.
Cutting defense budgets in missile defense? Have you called your Congresspersons?
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
The European Union may expand its naval anti-piracy operations to cover the Seychelles islands, 1,500 kilometres from the Somali coastline, Germany's defence minister said Monday.
The Seychelles, an archipelago of more than 100 islands, has been the scene of several recent attacks.
"We see that the pirates are extending their activities into the Indian Ocean, so the area around the Seychelles should be included in the operation," German Defence Minister Franz Josef Jung said before a meeting of the European Union's foreign and defence ministers.
Wind and waves not looking good for pirate action off eastern Somalia or near the Seychelles. Winds increasing in Gulf of Aden, but waves still under/about 1 meter. Monsoon weather expected in about 10 days, with a subsequent decrease in piracy.
Monday, May 18, 2009
Originally begun by EU Naval Forces, the Gulf of Aden Group Transits (GOAGT) scheme is now the primary method for merchant vessels transiting the area to deter acts of piracy. GOA GT is endorsed by the general maritime community and supported by all navies involved in the regional counter piracy mission. This includes naval forces from the EU, US, Coalition Maritime Forces, NATO, China, Japan, Korea, and regional countries. Based on old anti-submarine tactics, the GOA Group Transit is simple. Pirate attacks rarely happen at night, thus merchant ships should transit “high risk” areas of the IRTC at night. Dawn and dusk are when most pirate attacks occur, thus that these “high risk” times are when naval warships should be present. Merchant ships are grouped by speed, with staggered starting points.This allows each group to transit the “high risk” areas at night, and allows the groups to reach the same point at the same time. Upon arrival at this point,at either dawn or dusk, the groups are protected by naval assets who have “sanitized” the area. As a result of the GOA GT, merchant ships transit “high risk” areas at night, and are protected by naval assets at the most “high risk”times. Additionally, the grouping of ships by speed allows close monitoring and quicker response by the nearest naval asset in case of emergency. Merchant activity in the corridor is separated, with westbound traffic to the north and Eastbound traffic to the south. Compared to convoys and escorts, the GOAGT is the most effective use of limited military assets to protect the maximum number of ships.UPDATE: GOAGT is careful to point out, as a correction to the MARLO Newsletter item, that Military Security Centre (Horn of Africa) (MSC(HOA) "actually run the system." GOAGT states that it offers a different level of service than does MSC(HOA)... "the vessels that do register with us, GoAGT, get a bridge call every 3 hours and acknowledgement and threat assessment and pirate weather forecast for the trip."
The Gulf of Aden Group Transits website is here and is currently under construction.
MARLO Bahrain website is here. It offers up some useful advice if trying to avoid pirates:
* If the Master has exercised his right to turn off the Automatic Identification System (AIS), this should be turned on once the ship comes under pirate attack. * Sound emergency alarm and make ‘Pirate Attack’ PA announcement in accordance with the ship’s emergency plan. * Make ‘Mayday’ call on VHF Ch 16 (and backup Ch 08, which is monitored by naval units). Send a distress message via the DSC (Digital Selective Calling) system and Inmarsat-C as applicable * Maximize ship speed. In the Gulf of Aden, evidence to date from failed attacks is that the pirates will give up if unable to board within 30 45 minutes. If you can buy time until the military forces can arrive, this often leads the pirates to abort their attack. * Prevent skiffs from closing by altering course and increasing speed where possible. Pirates have great difficulty boarding a ship that is: o Making way at over 15 knots. o Maneuvering - Consider increasing the pirates’ exposure to wind/waves and using bow wave and stern wash to restrict pirate craft coming alongside. Aggressive maneuvering, such as small zigzagging, should be attempted when skiffs are close to ships side (within 10-20 meters). Try to keep pirate skiffs in the positive pressure zones and out of the negative pressure zone. After skiffs have hauled off, vessel should straighten up and try to regain speed. * Activate fire pump defensive measures. * Muster all remaining crew in defined safe muster area/citadel * DO NOT STOP.Gulf of Aden Transit Route map by Ken Adams.
Two Australian warships have rushed to the aid of a freighter under attack in the Gulf of Aden from pirates firing rocket propelled grenades and attempting to board the vessel by force.
HMAS Sydney and HMAS Ballarat responded to a distress call from the merchant vessel, MV Dubai Princess, at about 6pm Australian time on Sunday.
Upon receiving the distress call, the Sydney closed in on the merchant vessel and launched a helicopter to assess the situation, while the Ballarat went to action stations.
As the situation developed, another merchant vessel, MV MSC Stella, was also harassed by small vessels in the same area.
The head of the Australian Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, said the measured response by the two Australian ships provided security to the merchant vessels and stabilised the situation.
"Sydney closed in on the merchant vessel and launched her embarked Sea Hawk helicopter to gain an appraisal of the situation," Air Chief Marshal Houston said in a statement.
"About the same time, Ballarat went to action stations and joined the response. She was instrumental in supporting MV MSC Stella."
The pirates fled the area after the two frigates and the helicopter appeared. The action is believed to have taken place about 170km south of Yemen.
"It appears the situation de-escalated once Sydney and Ballarat asserted their presence at the scene and from the reports we have, no injuries were suffered by merchant sailors."
Sunday, May 17, 2009
If you have not had the opportunity of reading the books written by Ferrol Sams, you have missed one of life's little pleasures. The final book of the triology that began with Run with the Horsemen is When All the World Was Young. The book, set in the days before and during WWII, is a coming of age tale featuring a former medical student's adventures in the Army as he learns about himself and his place in the world.
One of the things he learns is that the military has the same proportion of geniuses and fools as does the civilian world and that the distribution is evenly spaced through the ranks. Which he also learns, thus making it all the more fun for him to outwit some of the gaggle of fools who happen to rank above him and who further assume their exalted status is due to some sort of divine right.
Making the occasional jerk you work for suffer from his or her own foolishness is, after all, is one of the secrets of a good soldier or sailor. Not that I am admitting that I know that from practical experience, you understand...
But it might help, to explain the fascination in some circles with the legendary substance known as "torpedo juice." After all, "torpedo juice" is really about "sticking it to the man" - maybe even one man.
Before we get to that man, we need to remember some facts about the United States Navy. First, taking traditions from our English brethren, the American Navy used to provide its sailors with grog, first in the form of rum and then as whiskey or "Bob Smith." See here for that story.
Starting in about 1862, during the American Civil War, orders were given to limit the presence of distilled spirits on Navy ships:
1862 Spirit ration was discontinued by act of Congress on 14 July. "Distilled spirituous liquors" were also banned from all naval vessels "except as medical stores and upon the order and under the control of the medical officers of such vessels." Those who are entitled to the spirit ration will receive a commutation payment of 5 cents per day (in addition to their regular pay) beginning 1 September.In 1893, the officer corps worked to be allowed to establish their own private wine messes.
1862 General Order issued by Gideon Welles on 16 September, required captains of naval vessels to remove all distilled liquors from their ships except those that serve as medical stores. "Ale, beer, wine, and other liquors not distilled" were exempted from the provisions of the act of 14 July 1862.
1864 Welles' General Order 29 of 1 February, stated that beer, ale, wine, "and other liquors not prohibited by law on board vessels of the Navy" were to "be regarded as private stores" and were "not [to] be brought on board without the sanction of the commanding officer."
In 1914, along comes Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels, who, among his many other flaws, decided it was in the best interest of the U.S. Navy to ban alcohol of any form under General Order 99:
"The use or introduction for drinking purposes of alcoholic liquors on board any naval vessel, or within any navy yard or station, is strictly prohibited, and commanding officers will be held directly responsible for the enforcement of this order."It should be noted that Daniels seemed to have a thing about anyone having any fun near the Navy. He also attempted a ban on prostitution:
In 1917, Secretary Daniels determined that no prostitution would be permitted within a five-mile radius of naval installations.As you might gather, the shore side bans never really worked. Sailors on the beach had to travel further for drink and frolic, but the bar and brothel business never slowed.
Even during Prohibition, Americans who wanted a drink managed to find one when needed. American sailors were no different.
After Prohibition ended, officers clubs were allowed to serve alcohol. However, the restriction on alcohol on ships continued.
In the early days of American torpedoes, the torpedoes were powered by steam, generated by burning a combination of fuel and air. The fuel consisted of alcohol.
It's a short step from knowing that to being willing and able to divert some of the fuel to - personal use. Except of course, that the Navy was not stupid. It modified the alcohol with an additive - some suggest it was something called "pink lady" and other say it was croton oil. Croton oil is not nice.
The sailor in need of a drink, however, is not easily denied. According to this site, reports that the additive could be filtered out of the fuel by straining it through a compressed loaf of bread is a myth. In the book, Find 'em, chase 'em, sink 'em by Mike Ostlund, the removal technique involves setting up a still, boiling off the alcohol and re-condensing it without the additive. Nearly everyone agrees the alcohol was mixed with fruit juice to render it palatable.
In some cases, it appears that some crews over indulged:
On 5 December 1943, an intrepid group of THORN shipmates decided to hold an early Christmas celebration in the after crews quarters. As a result of these "hi-jinks", HIRAM W. JONES, JR., JOSEPH W. KISER, ERVIN MABRY, JAMES M. NEALE and JOSE A. PENALVER were charged with "under the influence of intoxicating liquor", and other offenses.They were punished.
Marines on the beach in Guadalcanal partook:
The torpedoes ran on alcohol and they used to put what they called pink lady in it, to make you sick if you drank it. If the planes didn't use the torpedoes, we were supposed to dump the liquid out. We dumped it out, but not back in the barrel. We made torpedo juice instead. We had copper tubing and guys from Tennessee. They knew what to do. At night in the foxholes, we'd run the stuff through a still and get the pink lady out of it.On at least one occasion, the "torpedo juice" came in handy - when a submarine pharmacist mate had to perform a emergency appendectomy on a submerged submarine:
Rubber gloves dipped in torpedo alcohol were drawn upon the youthful "Doc's" hands.So, where did the croton free alcohol come from?
American sailor ingenuity, you can be sure.
I never sampled "torpedo juice" - but I do recall the days when we worked in the cold rain and the skipper would tell the doc to provide the crew with some medicinal alcohol (0ddly enough it was in the form of those airline mini bottles) and "splice the main brace."
I hear sailors now sometimes get beer on special occasions.
Somewhere Josephus Daniels rolls over in his grave.
Torpedo cutaway from here.
UPDATE: The torpedo cutaway, as you will find by following the above link, leads to one page of a remarkable collection of information concerning the U.S. Navy at the site of Gene Slover GENE SLOVER'S US NAVY PAGES which is well worth a tour.
A link directly to the media player here.
Very well done, Gwen Thompkins!
And another voice. An interview conducted by Professor Claude Berube of the U.S. Naval Academy for As Maine Goes.
Shipping Industry dismisses reports of targeted Somali pirate attacks:
The ICC International Maritime Bureau (IMB), in consultation with the International Chamber of Shipping, INTERTANKO and BIMCO, today dismissed a number of recent press reports claiming that pirates off the Somali coast target vessels in advance, allegedly making use of a network of international contacts.That's not to say pirates are getting info on general ship movements or even on the location of military escort ships, but ....
Vessels attacked so far have included a range of vessel types from fishing boats and coastal dhows to bulk carriers and a supertanker. The vessels have been of many diverse flags, crewed by different nationalities, with various cargoes on board destined for a wide range of ports.
Pirates have even attempted to attack naval units mistakenly believing them to be merchant vessels. Pirates target vessels that are easy to board and in their vicinity. If an attack is successfully repelled they move on to another vessel. All the evidence indicates that these are primarily opportunistic crimes. The suggestion that vessels are targeted in advance using shore based intelligence is spurious.
Friday, May 15, 2009
Ships from Combined Task Force (CTF) 151 prevented a piracy attack in the Gulf of Aden, which resulted in the apprehension of more than a dozen suspected pirates aboard an alleged “mothership” yesterday.Video of VBSS team:
At approximately 3:30 p.m., the Republic of Korea Destroyer, ROKS Munmu the Great (DDG 976) and guided missile cruiser USS Gettysburg (CG 64) responded to a distress call from the Egyptian-flagged Motor Vessel Amira, which reported being attacked approximately 75 nautical miles south of Al Mukalla, Yemen.
Several assault rifle rounds and one rocket propelled grenade round struck M/V Amira resulting in little to no damage to the ship. A rope was thrown from the skiff in an attempt to board but the attempt failed and the suspected pirates abandoned their attack.
Gettysburg and Munmu the Great launched their embarked helicopters which flew immediately to Amira’s location. During its flight, the SH-60B helicopter assigned to Helicopter Anti-submarine Squadron Light (HSL) 46 located a dhow suspected of serving as a pirate “mothership” with approximately 17 people onboard.
A Gettysburg visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) team boarded the suspected “mothership” along with members of U.S. Coast Guard Legal Detachment (LEDET) 409 and apprehended the suspected pirates after finding eight assault rifles, a rocket-propelled grenade launcher and one rocket-propelled grenade. All 17 of the passengers were brought on board Gettysburg for further questioning.