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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Fearless Navy Bloggers Take to the Air: Midrats Episode 69 The Intellectual Education of Combat Leaders 05/01 by Midrats | Blog Talk Radio

Please join us Sunday at 5pm Eastern as we bring on a couple of interesting guests for a discussion of the education of combat leaders in Episode 69 The Intellectual Education of Combat Leaders 05/01 featuring VADM Miller, Superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy and Dr. Victor Davis Hanson, farmer, professor and author.

VADM Miller
How do you intellectually prepare combat leaders? If you are given a young man or woman at 18, how do you best educate that person so they have the cultural, ethical, technical, and historical knowledge to make the right decisions for the right reasons, and lead others to do the same?

What are unchanged, timeless fundamentals, and what new things are coming over the horizon that today's Ensigns and Second Lieutenants need to have inculcated in to their intelect so they have the best foundation to become this nation's Admirals and Generals for the mid-21st Century?

Join milbloggers Sal from "CDR Salamander" and EagleOne from "Eaglespeak" and their two guests this Sunday to discuss this critically important subject.

Victor Davis Hanson
Their guest for the first half of the hour will be Vice Admiral Michael H. Miller, USN, the 61st Superintendent of the United States Naval Academy.

For the second half of the hour we will have Dr. Victor Davis Hanson, PhD, author, professor, nationally syndicated columnist, and the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Residence in Classics and Military History at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.
You can join us by clicking on
Episode 69.

Somali Pirates: Singapore Air Force Maritime Patrol Aircraft to Gulf of Aden

Singapore MinDef photo
Report by Singapore's Ministry of Defense, SAF Deploys F-50 Maritime Patrol Aircraft to Gulf of Aden:
The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) has deployed a Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) Fokker-50 Maritime Patrol Aircraft (F-50 MPA) to support the international counter-piracy efforts in the Gulf of Aden. Chief of Air Force Major-General Ng Chee Meng officiated at the send-off ceremony for the 38-man F-50 MPA detachment at Changi Air Base this morning.

This is the first time that the SAF has deployed an F-50 MPA to support the international counter-piracy efforts. During its three-month deployment, the F-50 MPA detachment will be based in Djibouti and operate under the ambit of multinational Combined Task Force (CTF) 151. The F-50 MPA will conduct maritime air surveillance to provide CTF 151 with an enhanced sea situation picture of the Gulf of Aden, as well as perform coordinated search operations to locate and investigate suspicious vessels. The detachment comprises air, ground and communications support crew, as well as logistics personnel.

Since April 2009, the SAF has deployed two SAF task groups to the Gulf of Aden, each comprising a Landing Ship Tank and two Super Puma helicopters.

Friday, April 29, 2011

About Those Gasoline Prices

Chart of the Day - Gasoline prices near record highs:
As a result of ongoing geopolitical tensions as well and increasing global demand, the price of crude oil continues to trend higher. Over the past eight months, the cost of one barrel of crude oil has increased by over $40. With oil prices trending higher, it is not all that surprising to find that gasoline prices are following suit. Since the financial crisis lows at the end of 2008, the average US price for a gallon of unleaded has risen $2.18 per gallon. The only time when gasoline prices were higher than today was during a brief three-month period in mid-2007, just prior to the Great Recession.
As the news media excitedly notes, Exxon Mobil (trades as XOM) has reported a 1st quarter profit of about $11 billion. This seems to have set some people's hair on fire.

Should they be all that excited? I appears to me that the excitement comes from not understanding where they money taken in by a corporation goes. In Exxon's case, the company belongs, not to the management, not to Snidely Whiplash or Dr. Evil, but to the owners of its stock.

Who owns the stock? You, me, and many others either directly through personal portfolios or indirectly through large pension funds and mutual funds that invest in the stock market.

Who are the 10 biggest investors in Exxon Mobil? Well, 48% of XOM shares are institutionally owned, with the top 10 institutions owning a little over 18%.  Mutual funds own a chunk. Here are listings of investors in Exxon:

In short, vehicles through which pension funds and individuals invest own much of XOM - and much of the rest is owned by individual investors on their own accounts, along with employees and retirees of XOM and its acquisitions over the years (Mom and Dad, Granddad and Grandmother, in other words). Yes, some is owned by professional investors.
Exxon Mobil employs over 102,000 people who depend on it making money so that they will be paid and receive benefits.

If you want to protect yourself from high gas prices, here's an idea - invest in Exxon, Chevron and other energy companies. Their stocks are publicly traded and you can buy them! No kidding. Deal of a lifetime.

What many of those same excited people mentioned above fail to point out is that even after a huge "profit" by Exxon, the estimated earnings per share of Exxon Mobil stock is only $2.14. So, if you owned 1,000 shares of XOM stock (morning price was about $87) you would have $87,000 invested and your projected annual earning per share would be about $2.14 qtr x 4 qtrs= $8.50 per share or about $8,500 per year, a little over a 9% return on your investment. Exxon has 4.96 billion shares outstanding. As seen above, that "profit" gets distributed to many shareholders and to employees. Some of it is retained for future use.

Buy a 100 XOM shares and over a good year, you might get $800 "back" to offset the increase in gasoline prices. Of course, if you are buying Exxon, it will cost you $8700 to get back that $800 and there is no guarantee that things will continue to allow Exxon to earn $2 per share per quarter.  Chevron can be bought for $108 or so per share) its earnings are about $3 per share for the 1st qtr, roughly an 11% return if annualized (and if I am reading the number correctly). So, buy 100 shares of Chevron and for your $11,000 investment you may get "back" $1100 to offset gas prices. "Back" is in quotes, because, in reality you won't be able to pocket that money because that's not how it's paid.

Nope, earnings per share does not translate directly into dollar per dollar money for shareholders. Instead, those investors get paid dividends, which is the amount of money the management of the company believes is above that needed to meet basic operating costs and potential future expenses (where did you think they they got money to pay lawsuits and stuff?). Sometimes, if a company sees rough times coming, they may not pay a dividend, even when they are having a good quarter or year.

Exxon says it will pay $.44 per share for quarter 1 ($44 for 100 shares= $176 annualized before taxes). Chevron seems to be indicating that its dividend on its earnings in the 1st quarter will be $.78 per share. So, 100 shares= $78 in dividends x 4= $312 in return before taxes on an annual basis.

Let's see, you bought 100 shares of XOM at $87 and 100 of Chevron at $108 - so here's your "in pocket gain" before taxes: XOM 176/8700= 2% (see here), Chevron 312/10800= 2.9% (see here). And you will be taxed on those dividends, so your net return may be lower. It's better than current CD rates, but higher risk.

More on dividends here. My point is that the owners of the company - the shareholders, do not get $11 billion or $44 billion each. They do not reap 30% or 50% windfalls. Instead, they earn about 2 to 3% on their investment in cash before taxes and the rest of their "gains" are invested back into the company to help it grow and continue operations.

With dividends, you still own the stock and that has value which you hope increases because of wise management. But it may drop.

Oh, those evil oil companies. And all those neighbors of yours who own them. Gol durn profiteers.

Disclosure: Please note that I am a former energy company employee who hopes in the near future to start collecting pension money from Chevron and another energy giant.

UPDATE: Revised to make it more user friendly. UPDATE2: And revised again.

Better Shipping Cargo Container Screening for Improved Port Security?

Photo credit: Port of Houston
Duke University, among other schools, is working on a new approach to checking out shipping cargo containers for worrisome contents, as set out in Duke Today's "Physics for Safer Ports":
Two teams of North Carolina physicists are mapping the intricacies of the atomic nucleus, which could provide better security at the ports. The scientists have identified new "fingerprints" of nuclear materials, such as uranium and plutonium. The fingerprints would be used in new cargo scanners to accurately and efficiently identify suspicious materials. The physics might also be used to improve analysis of spent nuclear fuel rods, which are a potential source of bomb-making materials.

The problem starts at ports, where terrorists may try to smuggle an entire dirty bomb or even smaller amounts of plutonium or uranium by hiding it within the mountains of cargo that pass into the country each day. Cargo scanners using the new nuclear fingerprints would be sensitive enough to spot an entire bomb or the smaller parts to build one, according to Mohammad Ahmed, a nuclear physicist at Duke University.

Photo credit: Port of Houston
Ahmed and his colleagues are developing the fingerprints for the next-generation detectors with HIGS, the High Intensity Gamma-Ray Source. It is the world's most intense and tunable source of polarized gamma rays and is located on Duke's campus as part of the Triangle Universities Nuclear Laboratory. HIGS produces gamma rays that are guided to collide with target materials, causing a variety of nuclear reactions.
Anything that makes scanning the containers faster and more thoroughly is good.

Somali Pirate Warnings 29 APRIL 2011

April 29th 2011
Latitude 03 48N Longitude 051 41E
Alert Number 162/2011
At 0831Z UTC April 29th A pirate Action Group consisting of mother Ship hiding skiffs on deck was reported in the above position
My own warning is that Somali pirates have been releasing ships after ransoms have been paid, and they now have openings in their inventory that they will be aggressively seeking to fill. Expect more attacks.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Maritime Security: Shipping Container Bomb Threat

Journal of Commerce reports "Terror Suspect Sought Container Bomb Attack":
An al Qaeda operative and one-time New York City travel agent sought to use his expertise in shipping to smuggle biological and nuclear weapons into the United States in ocean containers, according to leaked documents disclosed by Wikileaks.

The documents identify the suspect as Saifullah Paracha, a 63-year-old Pakistani businessman who worked in New York and is now held at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay.

The file on Paracha, whose son is serving a 30-year prison term in the U.S. on terrorism-related charges, identifies him as a member of a small group that supported Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the planner behind the September 11 terror attacks. Paracha was part of an al Qaeda terror network that sought to launch new attacks in the United States after September 11, according to reports on the Wikileaks documents by The New York Times.

Disaster Relief

If you are here wondering about the scarcity of recent posts, I'm letting you know that we are still involved in helping people affected by the recent tornadoes that hit our area. I think our efforts here will soon be winding down, but encourage you to send your prayers to the people hit by the most recent southern storms and to donate generously to the Red Cross and other agencies. I can tell you again than many church groups are out there doing wonderful work. The Baptist Men, Salvation Army, Samaritan's Purse, Methodist Men - I've seen them all in the worst hit areas.

Please take all weather alerts seriously and for those of you who live in earthquake zones or dangerous flooding areas, work on getting you emergency kits up to date. They may save your life.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Events in troubled Yemen? See Jane Novak's Armies of Liberation.

How to support a fleet worldwide? AW1 Tim has some concerns at Logistics and the Long War.

Need an example of the "out of the air" budgeting process of this Administration? Try this No cost-benefit studies done for Obama's $53 billion high-speed rail.

How to lose friends -
How Obama is losing Colombia
. That's the country in South America, not the university he graduated from.

Monday, April 25, 2011

How to Screw Up National Defense

Read this The American Spectator : Obama's Machete Hacks Up Pentagon Budget and then come back for a discussion.

The President of the United States,flying blind into the world of national defense, comes up with a "magic number" that he must "feel" is the right amount to cut the U.S. Defense budget. That proposal is another $400 billion cut over the next 10 years in addition to the last $400 billion the president says has already been cut. So, what will be removed from national defense by hacking $800 billion?

Well, as pointed out in the article, who the hell knows?
He wants the analysis to find an additional $400 billion to cut from the Pentagon budget in the same ten years [NB as the first $400B] and redefine our "role in a changing world." It's both necessary and proper to make the analysis the president proposed. But, once again, he's set the amount to be cut before performing the essential threat analysis.
In other words, fire, then move the target to claim a hit.

Again, to the commentary,
We will no longer plan for the future and invest in the tools of war we will foreseeably need. The cuts Obama and Gates have already made will result in a force that is shaped differently from the one we might need were an enemy to disagree with Dr. Gates' belief that we won't have to fight another conventional war. Or if American satellites were attacked in space. Or if we were to suffer the kind of cyber attacks that were made on Estonia, Kyrgyzstan, and Georgia by Putin's Russia. Or if any number of other real threats were to be realized.

To borrow Obama's phrase, let's be perfectly clear. Our nation's security and that of our allies is at risk because of the cuts that have already been made in the absence of a realistic analysis of the threats we face. We cannot afford another round of "hope and change" at the Pentagon. The armed services need a budget that enables them to meet and deter or defeat every serious threat.
This is no way to plan any part of government, let alone that devoted to national defense. It's time for serious people to look at all aspects of the budget, and set realistic goals, not pull "magic numbers" out of the air.

It might even be possible that the President's dollar amount is exactly right. Stranger things have happened. But the wrong way to find out is when we really need a military we don't have.

Somali Pirates: Turks Capture Pirates, Free Dhow Crew

Good report from Saturn5 at Bosphorus Naval News:
The dhow turned out to be a Yemeni vessel, captured by the Somali pirates on 11 April 2011 to be used as a mother ship. The seven Yemeni fishermen on board were freed by the Turkish sailors.

Taliban Tunnel Rats

It might make a great move, but then again, the Taliban don't allow the watching of movies - Afghanistan's great escape: how 480 Taliban prisoners broke out of jail:
Kandahar's prison may not be Stalag Luft III but in terms of ingenuity, organisation and sheer cunning the successful break-out by at least 480 Taliban prisoners in the early hours of Monday morning rivals anything pulled off by British POWs in the infamous German prison camp.

According to people involved in the break-out, the Taliban's great escape began with a team of 18 insurgents on the outside spending five months burrowing hundreds of metres underground through the brown soil west of Kandahar city and into Sarpoza prison, taking their tunnel right into the prison's political section where hundreds of Taliban were held.

As the great escape was a break-in rather than a break-out, there was no need to surreptitiously get rid of the earth inside the camp; according to one local media report, the Kandahar plotters simply sold lorry loads of the earth in the city's bazaar from a tunnel stretching a reported 320 metres.

The starting point was a compound directly opposite the prison that from the outside looked like any one of hundreds of building companies that have popped up in areas awash with reconstruction dollars.

But the metal and concrete beams made there were not for building US-sponsored projects. Instead they were used to support a part of the tunnel that went directly underneath a section of Afghanistan's most important road: the stretch of Highway One running between the cities of Kandahar and Herat.
If we hear about a Taliban guy riding a motorcycle in a ripped sweatshirt and trying to jump fences to escape, we'll know where they got the idea.

Ach du lieber!

Iran says it has uncovered second cyber attack

Iran says it has uncovered second cyber attack:
An Iranian military official said on Monday that the country has been attacked by a second computer virus, which he called part of a Western plan to sabotage Iran’s nuclear energy program.
It's almost like they're at war or something . . . wait until they see what happens next:

Good Political Advice: The Tortise Strategy

Worth reading by the conservative/libertarian opponents of the current executive branch.

The American Spectator : Don't Let Alinsky Win:
"The enemy properly goaded and guided in his reaction will be your major strength," wrote Alinsky in Rules for Radicals. "The first step in community organization is community disorganization. The disruption of the present organization is the first step…."

Cloward and Piven, meanwhile, called for "a political crisis… that could lead to legislation for a guaranteed annual income and thus an end to poverty." They propose actions that "would generate severe political strains, and deepen existing divisions…. [B]y the collapse of current financing arrangements, powerful forces can be generated for major economic reforms at the national level." And: "Advocacy must be supplemented by organized demonstrations to create a climate of militancy."

A crisis is Obama's friend. An angry reaction is his ally. Disorder is his goal.

His mortal enemy (speaking tactically), on the other hand, is steady, sober, thoughtful, rational pressure by political adversaries who are willing to take the time to consolidate gains, explain themselves, reassure the public that it (the public) has nothing to fear from them (Obama's adversaries), and which constantly calibrates their words and actions to make it evident that they are keeping the moral high ground. A government shutdown does not fit this model. Forcing a debt crisis does not fit this model. Incendiary rhetoric doesn't fit the model, nor do all-or-nothing ultimatums.
In short, slow and steady. In fact, "relentless" may be a better term than steady.

You think it doesn't matter about keeping calm but steady pressure? Look at these two new White House efforts to . . . goad conservatives? Further expand the federal government?

1. Boeing may not be your favorite company, but what happens when a company's right to move to less unionized state is attacked by the federal executive branch? See Obama to Boeing: Drop Dead. Given that the argument is that the Boeing effort is purely a anti-union move and the NLRB has couched its complaint as responding to a Boeing "retaliation":
In its complaint, the labor board said that Boeing’s decision to transfer a second production line for its new 787 Dreamliner passenger plane to South Carolina was motivated by an unlawful desire to retaliate against union workers for their past strikes in Washington and to discourage future strikes. The agency’s acting general counsel, Lafe Solomon, said it was illegal for companies to take actions in retaliation against workers for exercising the right to strike.
Really? So it is thus okay to force Boeing to remain in higher labor cost Washington? What about all those companies that moved production offshore to take advantage of lower labor costs (much of it related to union activity)? Can we force them to bring it all back to the U.S.? Can we make the auto makers who located plants in "open shop" states to require union membership to make it fair, when one of the reasons they left Michigan and Ohio to begin with was to avoid union hassles? Can we make Ford move factories back from Mexico? Can we make U.S. airlines buy only U.S. made aircraft? Who will pay the price for the higher costs? Oh, the consumer? Big deal, I guess.

If Washington state doesn't like businesses moving out because of more "business friendly" labor laws, why doesn't Washington state modify its laws? You know the answer - the power of union votes and money.

What prevents the Washington workers from moving themselves to South Carolina?

By having the feds step in this manner, questions must be raised about all those other inter-state competitions (such as sweet tax deals and other incentives to induce a business to relocate from California or New York to North Carolina or Mississippi)?

What about things that might be attractive enough to induce residents of states that have high income taxes to move to states that have no or much lower income taxes (Florida, Texas, Tennessee, Wyoming)? Isn't that "unfair" to the high tax states? UPDATE: For all you living in New Jersey and New York who are planning to retire to Florida - better do it soon, before it requires a federal permit that shows your expected tax contribution to NJ/NY is so negligible that you can be allowed to move. All you multi-millionaires - good luck getting such a license to move.

Was the goal of the founders to let each state exercise its own path in determining its laws and regulations or to allow the national government to force its views on individual states. If the latter, then why have states? Let's get rid of all the excess money spent on state legislatures, governors, state courts, and state laws and constitutions and give have one national legislature, executive and judiciary running the whole show.  Create your scenarios.

This battle needs to be fought in the courts, slowly and carefully. You know, unless like the idea that all states should become New York.

2. Okay, how about demanding that companies doing business with the federal government give up their free speech rights? See Obama administration considers moves to limit anonymous donations:
The White House last week began circulating a draft executive order that would require companies seeking government contracts to disclose contributions – including those that otherwise would have been secret – to groups that air political ads attacking or supporting candidates.
This a "push back" against the U.S. Supreme Court decsion that allows corporate donations to political campaigns. See here:
“No sufficient governmental interest justifies limits on the political speech of nonprofit or for-profit corporation,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority.
Is this an intimidation tactic? "Get along to go along?" Will there be an impact on the flow of government business your way if it turns out that your corporation has donated money to the opponents of a current administration, even if the donations are totally legal? What do you think?

So, two examples of action/proposed action that could foment an outraged response. Time to take a deep breath and win the little battles that win the larger war. Slow and steady.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Little Red Car

Take a 20 year old son. Add tales of that old MGA his grandfather drove, the MGB his mother and I owned when we were first married and childless and that MG Midget I owned and worked on for awhile when he was 5. Throw in a certain level of - what? - maleness? Mix in a modest budget but the desire to do things with his hands. Factor a short Easter break from college and his weekly scan of Craigslist for old MGB's. Toss in some hard-earned money from his work.

What do you end up with?

Why, this, of course:

And one happy young man.

I know what I'll be helping with this summer.

This "semi-retirement" stuff has a lot of upside.

Happy Easter!

Hail thee, festival day (Easter):
Hail thee, festival day!
Blest day that art hallowed forever;
day wherein Christ arose,
breaking the kingdom of death.
May Easter be in your heart year round.

Keep in your prayers those serving in far off places and nearer to home.

Somali Pirates: 24 April Update

Pirate attacks in normal shipping trade routes continue in Indian Ocean.
Yellow Arrows Point to 24 April 2011 Attacks on Shipping by Somali Pirates
 24 April Somali piracy update from the NATO Shipping Centre:
April 24, 2011
Latitude 12 13N Longitude 060 24E
Alert Number 160 / 2011
At 0615 UTC 24 April, a Pirate Action Group consisting of a mothership and 1 skiff was reported.
The Pirate Action Group is still in the area.
April 24, 2011
Latitude 04 11S Longitude 047 45E
Alert Number 159 / 2011
At 0300 UTC 24 April, a merchant vessel was reported under attack by pirates / 2 skiffs.
Weapons were used during the attack.
***The vessel evaded hijack.***
The Pirate Action Group is still in the area.
And a look into the near future (weatherwise) from the U.S. Navy, Office of Naval Intelligence Piracy Analysis and Warning Weekly (Horn of Africa) report (pdf):

The redder the color, the better the weather for pirate operations
Finally, a look into the near past in the Somali pirate operating areas (some of which may be new information to you) from the records of the U.S. Marine Safety Information site:
Date of Occurrence: 04/17/2011 Reference Number: 2011-205 Geographical Subregion: 62 Geographical Location: 14° 04' 00" N 42° 20' 00" E Aggressor: PIRATES Victim: MERCHANT VESSEL Description: SOUTHERN RED SEA: A merchant vessel reported suspicious approach at 0830Z on 17 Apr in position 14-04N 042-20E, approximately 84 miles from Eritrea, Eriterea. This area will remain a high risk for the next 24-48 hours.
Date of Occurrence: 04/12/2011 Reference Number: 2011-201 Geographical Subregion: 62 Geographical Location: 13° 40' 00" N 49° 56' 00" E Aggressor: PIRATES Victim: TANKER Description: GULF OF ADEN: Oil products tanker (SAINT RAM) was fired upon by one skiff 12 April at 1218 UTC while underway in position 13-40N 049-56E, approximately 70NM southeast of Al Mukalla, Yemen. The vessel was fired upon by one skiff containing six pirates with RPGs and guns. The armed security team onboard exchanged fire with the skiff, and the skiff then aborted the attack. (IMB, UKMTO, Commercial Sources)

Date of Occurrence: 04/12/2011 Reference Number: 2011-202 Geographical Subregion: 62 Geographical Location: 14° 22' 00" N 42° 36' 00" E Aggressor: PIRATES Victim: BULK CARRIER Description: SOUTHERN RED SEA: About five pirates in a skiff approached a bulk carrier underway. All crew went into citadel while bridge team increased speed, enforced anti piracy measures and contacted authorities. Later the skiff aborted the attempt and moved away.

Date of Occurrence: 04/11/2011 Reference Number: 2011-200 Geographical Subregion: 62 Geographical Location: 12° 31' 00" N43° 38' 00" E Aggressor: PIRATES Victim: PASSENGER SHIP Description: GULF OF ADEN: A passenger ship underway noticed a group of about 20 skiffs near the port bow at a distance of three miles. Five skiffs were seen to break out from this group and head towards the vessel. At a distance of around 600 to 700 meters the armed security team noticed around five to seven pirates armed with rpgs and guns were seen in each skiff and instructed all crew members to stay inside the ship. As the skiffs approached closer the security team fired warning shots and the skiffs moved away. At the same time three more skiffs approached the vessel from the stbd side at a distance of 800 meters. The security team noticed arms onboard these skiffs and fired warning shots when the skiffs closed to a distance of 600 to 300 meters. The pirates aborted the attempted attack and moved away. Master informed a warship in the vicinity and all ships in the area via VHF.

Date of Occurrence: 04/10/2011 Reference Number: 2011-198 Geographical Subregion: 62 Geographical Location: 12° 02' 00" N 45° 08' 00" E Aggressor: PIRATES Victim: CHEMICAL TANKER Description: GULF OF ADEN: While underway a chemical tanker noticed one white and one blue skiff heading towards the vessel. Four persons were seen in the white skiff and five persons in the blue skiff. Crew alerted and armed security guards made themselves on the bridge wings. The skiffs approached to around 500 meters and the security team fired warning shots resulting in the skiffs moving away. The skiffs continued to follow the vessel for around 15 minutes before finally moving away.

Date of Occurrence: 04/09/2011 Reference Number: 2011-196 Geographical Subregion: 62 Geographical Location: 13° 08' 00" N 56° 18' 00" E Aggressor: PIRATES Victim: MERCHANT VESSELS Description: GULF OF ADEN: Pirate activity observed at 1005Z on 09 April in position 13-08N 056-18E. At 1506Z, approximately 120 miles northeast of Socortra Island, Yemen. This area will remain high risk for at least the next 24-48 hours.

Date of Occurrence: 04/08/2011 Reference Number: 2011-195 Geographical Subregion: 62 Geographical Location: 18° 25' 00" N 57° 27' 00" E Aggressor: PIRATES Victim: MERCHANT VESSEL Description: GULF OF ADEN: A merchant vessel reported being hijacked at 0234Z on 08 Apr in position 18-25N 057-27E, approximately 90 miles southeast of Duqm, Oman. Vessels are advised to keep 100 miles clear of this position and to exercise extreme caution.

Date of Occurrence: 04/08/2011 Reference Number: 2011-197 Geographical Subregion: 62 Geographical Location: 18° 25' 00" N 57° 27' 00" E Aggressor: PIRATES Victim: CARGO SHIP Description: ARABIAN SEA: General cargo ship (SUSAN K) was hijacked 08 April at 0234 UTC while underway in position 18-25N 057-27E, approximately 274NM southwest of Sur, Oman. About ten pirates boarded the cargo ship with weapons. The ten crew members and Master went into the citadel, but pirates entered the citadel and took the crew members hostage.(IMB, UKMTO)

Date of Occurrence: 04/05/2011 Reference Number: 2011-190 Geographical Subregion: 62 Geographical Location: 16° 00' 36" N 59° 52' 06" E Aggressor: PIRATES Victim: TANKER Description: AROUND 375 MILES OFF SOCOTRA ISLAND: Two large white hulled skiffs were noticed approaching a tanker underway at a distance of 2.5 miles. Master raised alarm and all crew except for the duty crew mustered in the safe room. The security team onboard fired rocket flares as a warning. The skiffs ignored this and continued to approach the tanker at high speed and at a distance of 600 meters, the security team fired warning shots. One skiff stopped while the other continued its approach. The security team reported that this skiff fired upon the vessel as it approached. The security team returned fire resulting in the skiff aborting the attempted attack.

Date of Occurrence: 04/05/2011 Reference Number: 2011-194 Geographical Subregion: 62 Geographical Location: 15° 53' 00" N 59° 57' 00" E Aggressor: PIRATES Victim: MERCHANT VESSEL Description: ARABIAN SEA: Merchant vessel (PACIFIC OPAL) was fired upon 05 April at 0656Z while underway in position 15-53N 059-57E, approximately 381 miles northeast of Socotra Island, Yemen. The pirate attack group consisted of a mothership and two large, white-hulled skiffs. Each skiff had six to eight pirates aboard. Fire hoses were initiated and the armed security team onboard fired flares ad waring shots. One of the skiffs aborted the attack at that time. The security team reported five or six rounds of incoming fire within 500 meters of the vessel. After more warning shots were fired, the second skiff aborted the attack. Both skiffs were equipped with motors capable of reaching 30 knots. (Commercial sources, IMB)
Date of Occurrence: 04/03/2011 Reference Number: 2011-187 Geographical Subregion: 61 Geographical Location: 5° 35' 00" S 40° 20' 00" E Aggressor: PIRATES Victim: BULK CARRIER Description: INDIAN OCEAN: Bulk carrier (ELENI G) was fired upon by one skiff 03 April at 0205Z while underway in position 05-35S 040-20E, approximately 96 miles northeast of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Six pirates fired rpgs and small arms at the vessel. The master raised the alarm and engaged in evasive maneuvers. (Commercial source IMB)
Date of Occurrence: 04/02/2011 Reference Number: 2011-185 Geographical Subregion: 62 Geographical Location: 15° 21' 54" N 51° 59' 18" E Aggressor: PIRATES Victim: BULK CARRIER Description: AROUND 17 MILES OFF QISHN, YEMEN: A skiff with three pirates onboard came within ten meters of a bulk carrier underway. Onboard security team fired warning shots and the skiff moved away. Small arms were sighted in the skiff.

Date of Occurrence: 04/01/2011 Reference Number: 2011-188 Geographical Subregion: 63 Geographical Location: 19° 17' 00" N 65° 14' 00" E Aggressor: PIRATES Victim: BULK CARRIER Description: ARABIAN SEA: Bulk carrier (ARRILAH-I) was boarded 01 April at 0528Z while underway in position 19-17N 065-45E approximately 398 miles southeast of Sur, Oman. The vessel was attacked by two skiffs firing small arms fire (each skiff had three pirates). The crew locked themselves in the citadel. The vessel was freed by IAE special forces in coordination with the U.S. 5th fleet on 02 April. (Comercial sources IMB)

Date of Occurrence: 04/01/2011 Reference Number: 2011-189 Geographical Subregion: 62 Geographical Location: 14° 05' 00" N 51° 43' 00" E Aggressor: PIRATES Victim: CHEMICAL TANKER Description: GULF OF ADEN: A chemical tanker underway noticed a suspicious fishing vessel. After monitoring the vessel for some time it was observed that a skiff as being launched which then headed directly for the tanker. Alarm sounded and navies contacted. Armed security team fired rocket flares in the direction of the approaching skiff. The pirates continued to approach the vessel and fired rpg and guns towards the vessel. The security team onboard returned fire and the pirates aborted the attack and moved towards their mother vessel. No injuries to crew and tanker.
Old School U.S. Navy Approach to Protecting Merchant Ships
The highlighted words are my doing, to point out the effectiveness of armed security teams in thwarting attacks.

Ships that are unprepared, low in the water and without security are more likely to be be victims of pirates.

A citadel, as noted by all the authorities, does not guarantee safety for the crew.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Somali Pirates: Counter-Piracy the Aussie Way

HMAS Stuart
Reported as Australian ship bolsters patrol for pirates:
"We look for 'trip wires', or things that can suggest something untoward with the vessel," Lieutenant Commander Glynn said.

"These can include things like ladders, weapons, lots of people or skiffs. We'll check what's on board and then make sure we fly outside the 'threat band'."

One of the crew takes photos of the fishing boats, quickly flicking through the pictures as he crouches on the floor of the helicopter, searching for anything suspicious. If need be, the [HMAS ] Stuart will then change course to intercept the boat.

Read more: here.

Somali Pirates: 23 April Warning and Attack

From the NATO Shipping Centre :
April 23, 2011
Latitude 15 11N Longitude 051 36E
Alert Number 157/2011
At 2306 UTC 22 APR 2011 a merchant vessel was reported under attack by pirates / 3 skiffs.
The vessel was fired upon by pirates.
***This vessel managed to evade hijack***
The Pirate Action Group is still in the area.
220610Z APR 2011
LATITUDE 1402N 04252E
A pirated action group has been operating in the area centred on Last reported 220600Z Apr 11 attacking merchant vessel with 4 skiffs, two of which were identified as having 4 – 6 POB, weapons and ladders on board
Note from the image above that the attack took place very close to the Yemeni coast and that the Pirate Action Group PAG) responsible for that attack remains in that area.

For the other PAG, note that it seems to be operating off the coast of Yemen in the Red Sea.

The yellow arrows point to the locations. Click on the map to enlarge it.

Somali Pirates: Helicopter Attacks Destroy Pirate Ship

Reported here:
It was . . . the black helicopter of doom
Foreign naval forces launched a second raid to destroy a suspected pirate "mother ship" near Hobyo on the Somali coast that they had attacked 24 hours earlier, witnesses said on Friday.

"A military helicopter attacked a boat near Hobyo last night (Thursday). It opened fire on the boat and completely destroyed it but there was no casualty," Abdulahi Jama, a witness, told AFP from Hobyo.

"The boat had been attacked and damaged the night before (Wednesday) when several of its crew were killed but the chopper returned and burned down the boat which had already drifted back to shore," Ahmed Yusuf, a fisherman in Hobyo said.

Witnesses could not identify the helicopter gunship's nationality but believed it was one of the foreign navies patrolling waters off Somalia as part of an anti-piracy operation.

The attack on Wednesday evening left at least four dead and six wounded according to pirate sources who spoke to AFP.

Ecoterra International, an environmental and human rights organisation monitoring maritime activity in the region, confirmed Thursday night's attack.

"The naval helicopter gunship returned, firing two missiles and opened up with heavy nachine-gun fire ... on the vessel," Ecoterra said in a statement.

"The identity of the dhow was established by our local observers as FV AL AFINIYA, which had been trailed by the navies," the group said, confirming that at the time of the second attack no one was on the vessel and there were no further casualties.
FV Al Afiniya is, I believe, an Iranian vessel.

An air of mystery reported here:
Scene from Hobyo?
Most local people, who say the whole coastal town of Hobyo is terrorized and many have left to inland villages, still were not able to clearly identify the attackers. Speculations pointed on Dutch or Skandinavians (Danish, Finish or Norwegian) navies under NATO command, because they are known to destroy the dhows along the coast, or some even suggested that it might have been an attack by the Iranian navy, though they usually only escort their vessels.
It could in the meantime be established that the Dutch and the Danish navy carried out the assoult jointly, though NATO said in a statement only that the Danish warship HDMS Esbern Snare saw a pirated dhow heading toward a known pirate town and came under attack as it investigated. 'Without provocation, the suspected pirates then started to fire on the NATO boarding team,' NATO said. 'As HDMS Esbern Snare returned fire in self defence, the crew put their hands up as if they were surrendering. As the boarding team approached the dhow for the second time, some of the suspected pirates then started to fire again.' The NATO statement did not account for the second attack this evening. The death toll of yesterday's assault has meanwhile risen to six, including one Iranian and five wounded. A humanitarian problem is now also how to free and repatriate the surviving members of the Iranian crew.
UPDATE: More here:
Hobyo( Sunatimes) 14 Iranian hostages arrived in Galkao city central Somalia safely , a day after they survived from an airstrike by suspected Nato naval jets on Hobyo sea port of Galmudug State., one of the Iranian told Sunatimes on Friday

"No sooner we had jumped off the boat, and then Nato naval forces struck it with bombs and destroyed it. We narrowly escaped for our lives. The most horrific scene I remember is that we could see some of the Somali pirates, who were holding us; die before our eyes as we swam towards the shore," said one of the survived Iranian hostages

"In the aftermath of the Nato attack, we traced the Iran hostages down and finally found them out. We took them to Galkao for their safety because of their safety. I am not sure that Nato Naval forces have killed all the Somali Pirates in Hobyo coastal area, but all I can confirm is that innocent local fishermen were hit during the attack," said Hobyo Police Commander Mr Abdiwali Farabadan.

Mohamed Ali, the Galmudug Minister of Fisheries and Resources have vehemently charged foreign Naval forces, patrolling the in the Indian Ocean of raiding the attack on local fishermen under the false pretext of targeting pirates

The Iranian hostages were first kidnapped in Garaad erea but later moved to Hobyo town and Galmudug administration condemns that.
So, in case you are keeping score:
  1. Pirates taking hostages ="condemned"; 
  2. Airstrike on pirates ="vehemently charged . . . false pretext";
  3. Injuries to innocent fishermen = "all NATO's fault";
  4. Fact hostages where were they were = well, apparently, it's not the pirates' fault, nor the fault of the Galmudug "government" nor that of the Galmudug Minister of Fisheries and Resources.
Note that the helicopter attack has morphed into a "naval jet" attack.

UPDATE: Hmmm. Where's Boxer?

110417-N-ZS026-040 ARABIAN SEA (April 17, 2011) The amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4) conducts a replenishment at sea with the Military Sealift Command fleet replenishment oiler USNS Henry J. Kaiser (T-AO 187). Boxer is underway supporting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Trevor Welsh/Released)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Somali Pirates: Korean Ship and Crew "Found Safe"

Earlier reports of the reported attack and following silence of the Korean ship Hanjin Tainjin let us wonder what happened (see here).

Now, a report the the crew has been found safe by the Korean Navy destroyer Choi Young, at All 20 Crew Aboard Hanjin Tianjin Found Safe:
All 14 Koreans and six Indonesians on board the container vessel Hanjin Tianjin that lost contact with its operator, Hanjin Shipping, early Thursday are confirmed safe.
ROKS Choi Young (DDH-981)
The Choi Young naval destroyer from Korea's Cheonghae unit, which is part of the international campaign to wipe out piracy in the area, arrived at the site at around 5 p.m., Korea time, near the pirate-infested Gulf of Aden about 400 kilometers east of Yemen's Socotra Island.
Seoul's foreign ministry says the Korean troops found all 20 crew members inside the freighter's emergency shelter at around 6:40 p.m., after the unit's Lynx helicopter conducted a thorough inspection around the troubled vessel.
The 75-thousand ton ship en route to Singapore from Spain, had remained afloat after it came under some sort of an attack by pirates.
However, there have been no reported sightings of the pirates and the search operation inside the ship's cargo is to continue for some time to figure out what exactly happened when it sent out a security alarm call just before communication was cut off at 5:15 a.m.
Officials add that the international combined fleet's Turkish warship that reached the Panama-registered freighter some three hours after the alarm went off, had already informed Seoul there were no signs of the attackers.
And the 20 people were out of reach since the shelter was only equipped with a marine VHF radio.
Lauding the successful rescue of the Hanjin Tiajin and its crew, officials here in Seoul highlighted the government and shipping companies' joint efforts to maximize the crew's safety from piracy by mock training and maintaining traveling regulations.
Reports are that unnamed Turkish navy ship was about 80 miles away at the time of the attack here:
The commandos searched the vessel with 14 South Koreans and six Indonesians aboard and found no pirates aboard, officials said.

The Panamanian-registered ship owned by South Korea’s Hanjin Shipping Co. lost contact at around 5:15 a.m. Thursday when it was in waters some 460 miles east of the Somali coast. It was sailing from Spain to Singapore.

The crew members were found in the zone at around 7:30 p.m. and are currently in good health, officials said.

The commandos also discovered three live bullets of AK rifles presumed to be owned by Somali pirates and multiple footprints of bare feet, all of which indicate that pirates attempted to hijack the vessel, officials said.

A Turkish warship, just 80 miles away from the container ship at the time of the attack, first arrived at the scene to help South Korea’s rescue operation. It provided necessary information to the Cheonghae Unit before the 4,500-ton destroyer Choi Young of the unit arrived at the scene at 4:40 p.m., officials said.

Somali Pirates: One ship confirmed hijacked, another "gone silent" but suspected

BBC News report here:
Two cargo ships are suspected to have been hijacked by pirates in the Arabian Sea, officials say.

Hanjin Tianjin
A South Korean warship is racing towards the scene where the 75,000-tonne Hanjin Tianjin lost contact after emitting a distress call.

An Italian vessel, the Rosalia D'Amato, is confirmed to have been seized about 650km (400 miles) off Oman's coast.
EUNAVFOR report on Rosalia D'Amato here:
Early morning on 21 April, the Bulk Carrier MV ROSALIA D’AMATO was pirated approximately 350NM South East of Salalah, Oman, in the Indian Ocean.

Rosalia D'Amato
The 74,500 tonne Italian flagged and owned vessel was on its way to Bandar Imam Khomeini (Iran) from Paranagua (Brazil) when it was attacked by a single skiff. Coalition warships had communications with the vessel and were told: ‘pirates onboard stay away’. The MV ROSALIA D’AMATO has a crew of 21(6 Italians, 15 Filipinos). There is no further information about the crew at present.
NATO reports from here:
Reported hijack location
April 21, 2011
Latitude 13 17N 05906E
Alert Number 156 / 2011
Reference previous Alert Number 155 / 2011
At 0205 UTC / 21 APR 2011 / A merchant vessel was reported under attack by pirate action group consisting of 1 dhow and 2 skiffs.
***This vessel has been hijacked***
the Pirate Action Group is still in the area.
April 21, 2011
Longitude 13 17N Latitude 059 06E
Alert Number 155 / 2011
At 0205 UTC / 21 APR 2011 / a merchant vessel is currently under attack by pirates / 1 skiff.
Report on suspected Korean hijack here:
A South Korean container carrier, which lost contact with its owner company in pirate-infested waters off Somalia earlier Thursday, appears to have been hijacked, a foreign ministry official here said.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho Byung-jae made the remark in a media briefing following media reports that the 75,000-ton Hanjin Tianjin with 14 South Korean sailors aboard was captured by pirates after being attacked several hundred kilometers off the Somali coast.

Declining to give details for operational reasons, Cho said that a South Korean warship in nearby waters was sailing toward the vessel, which has been floating still since it last made contact with its company in South Korea early Thursday morning.

The Panamanian-registered ship owned by South Korea's Hanjin Shipping Co. was also carrying six Indonesians, ministry officials said, adding it was sailing from Spain to Singapore when it logged its last contact about 460 miles off the Somali coast.

If confirmed hijacked, the ship will mark the first such case since a South Korean naval operation that rescued South Koreans from a hijacked 11,500-ton chemical carrier three months ago.
Rosalia D'Amato photo from by Maxi Alonso and used in accord with terms of that site.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Gun Running Scheme Broken Up in India UPDATE: Or maybe not?

UPDATE: False alarm?

Reported as Two Retired Royal Army Soldiers Arrested in Arms Smuggling in India, but a Danish flagged ship lies at the heart of this saga:
The crew of the Danish ship MV Danica Sunrise, which was moving towards the Mumbai coast and captured by the Indian security agencies on Sunday admitted that it was carrying AK-47 assault rifles and ship sinking pistols on-board.

Information and confirmation to this effect was made by a senior coast guard officer that,“The crew members have confessed that they had two AK-47 rifles and two ship drowning pistols when they started sailing from Egypt, they had bought the fire arms from the open market there and they had receipts for the same. They sailed from Egypt to Kuwait and then sailed towards India where they said they had decided to wait for a few days and get in touch with local agents to see if they could get them any cargo.”
It is to mention that arrested eight crew of captured Danish ship MV Danica Sunrise included the two retired Royal Army soldiers working as security guards identified as Christopher Johnson and Steven Michael.

Televised reports:

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Storm Damage

For the last couple of days I have been working as a volunteer for the Red Cross performing damage assessments of areas impacted by the series of tornadoes that hit North Carolina this past weekend.

You can view photos of some of the damage at Raleigh storm photos. I put couple up here.

Unlike the massive damage wrought over an entire region by a hurricane (a visit to Biloxi after Katrina was stunning because there was so much damage the mind had trouble processing it), this storm's impact was, as someone said, "40 miles long and 2 blocks wide." In doing our assessments, we would find the center of the damage path. Buildings damaged, trees down or limbs down. Drive a block over and everything was normal except that there probably was no electricity. Repeat for 40 miles from the southwest corner of our county to the northeast. Along the path, damage two blocks on each side, and on the next street over, perfectly normality. I am not a fan of  "mobile homes."

Along the storm's path, it blew along a shallow gulley and, in the process, threw off shattered pine trees to both sides. Downed power lines, trees broken over house, house speared with tree parts.

One house probably had 6 trees in or on it and none of them pines.

The pine trees shatter and pieces fly about, but the other trees, with shallower roots fall over - massive old trees smashing into the ground or house with all their weight. Anyway, one house, as I said, had a bunch of trees on it and these were intertwined with power lines. But, in one of those odd storm things, the house next to this wreck had absolutely no visible damage.

The streets were full of downed limbs, power crews, city inspectors and residents trying to recover . . . something. It smelled like pine. It looked like a sunny version of hell. And in the middle of this devastation, there were two houses undamaged - the one I mentioned above and the next one in line - mostly undamaged. In the driveway of this second house there was an elderly woman, maybe 80, maybe 75, I don't know - out there, surrounded by chaos, sweeping her driveway.

And I will remember it forever.

As I will the people who, in the midst of this mess in their lives, took time to thank the Red Cross for being there.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Stupid Headline, Stupid Article

The AP has at least one economic illiterate on its staff. It's too bad they assigned that person to write this article, Super rich see federal taxes drop dramatically. To fully understand the article's lameness, read these selections:
The Internal Revenue Service tracks the tax returns with the 400 highest adjusted gross incomes each year. The average income on those returns in 2007, the latest year for IRS data, was nearly $345 million. Their average federal income tax rate was 17 percent, down from 26 percent in 1992.

Over the same period, the average federal income tax rate for all taxpayers declined to 9.3 percent from 9.9 percent.

The top income tax rate is 35 percent, so how can people who make so much pay so little in taxes? The nation's tax laws are packed with breaks for people at every income level. There are breaks for having children, paying a mortgage, going to college, and even for paying other taxes. Plus, the top rate on capital gains is only 15 percent.

There are so many breaks that 45 percent of U.S. households will pay no federal income tax for 2010, according to estimates by the Tax Policy Center, a Washington think tank.
So, let's get this straight - the top 400 adjusted gross incomes average $345 million and average a 17% tax rate. Let's see, that .17 x $345,000,000= An average of $58, 650,000 tax per household. The total of these income taxes is 400 x $58,650,000 or $23,460,000,000. That's $23.5 billion dollars. From 400 households.

The reported seems to feel that amount ought to be doubled.

But the kicker in the article is that line about "There are so many breaks that 45 percent of U.S. households will pay no federal income tax . . ." In fact, not only will 45% not pay taxes, many of that 45% will receive tax "rebates" (credits or whatever) on taxes they didn't pay. Yep, they will get checks from the government as part of the tax process out of tax revenue to which they contributed nothing. Nada, zip.

Which, for the benefit of the AP reporter writing this article ought to suggest that there is a large class of people who should be marked in some way - not as "pay[ing} so little in taxes" or "pay{[ing] no federal income tax" but instead, marked as receiving tax free income (as in a check) from the state often at some fairly high percentage rate of their actual earned income. Where's the part in the article about how much money that involves as a transfer payment from the wealthiest Americans to the poorest (not even counting the other government programs paid for out of tax dollars?)

Where's the part of the article about tax credits ("paid for" by other taxpayers) for people who bought certain cars, or windows or air conditioners?

You want "tax fairness." Write about it fairly.

Somali Pirates: A Little Hostage Threat

Reported as Somali pirates say to hold any Indian crews hostage:
Somalia pirates said on Saturday they would keep any Indian nationals from freed ships as hostages until fellow pirates held by India are set free.

Somali pirates, who make millions of dollars ransoming ships hijacked as far south as the Seychelles and eastwards towards India, on Friday released MT Asphalt Venture, but held some of its Indian crew.

"We are holding eight of Asphalt Venture crew. It was a joint understanding among us not to release any Indian citizens," a pirate who gave his name as Abdi told Reuters from pirate stronghold Harardhere.

"India hasn't only declared war against us, but also it has risked the lives of many hostages," he said.

An Indian warship stationed near the Gulf of Aden has thwarted dozens of hijacking attempts and escorts vessels passing through the region. India is holding more than 100 pirates it has detained mostly in rescue operations.
So, what does this tell us? That you can't trust a pirate? Well, duh.

UPDATE: Related thoughts:
Maritime professionals aver that this is the first time that the Somali pirates have adopted such a stance and that this marks a break from the unwritten protocol that all crew members would be released when the agreed ransom was paid.

Added thought: If India gives in to this blackmail, then the pirates will do this with every country whose sailors they capture - and probably to every other nation which is out there capturing and prosecuting pirates by threatening (again - this is a common pirate refrain) to kill more hostages. But this Indian situation is a serious escalation of the brutish pirate behavior.

As to who is putting the hostages a risk - well, it certainly wasn't India that took merchant sailors innocently plying international waters into captivity for ransom. Of course the pirates are to blame and no half-baked attempt to shift that responsibility can be allowed to succeed.

If I were in India's shoes, I'd be gathering a small invasion fleet. If the pirates want war, they can have it.

Some one has to take on the job of "owning" the Indian Ocean and it shouldn't be the pirate thugs of Somalia.

Of course, they may have some work to do:

It sounds like that work is in progress.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Fearless Navy Bloggers Take to the Air: Episode 67: The Navy in the US Civil War

Join us at 5 pm (Eastern) as we talk about the naval aspects of America's most costly war - the internal war between the states at Episode 67 The Navy in the US Civil War 04/17 by Midrats | Blog Talk Radio:
Our guest for the first 1/2 hour is author, lecturer, and Civil War expert William Connery. For the second half of the show we will have Matthew Eng, an Educator, Hampton Roads Naval Museum.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Somali Pirate Negotiator Nabbed in Somalia by U.S. forces, Interesting Legal Issues to Follow

Four dead Americans on an American yacht, and now the negotiator for the pirates involved in that messy ended has been arrest in Somalia and is facing U.S. charges, as set out here:
Mohammad Saaili Shibin is the first alleged pirate to have been arrested on-shore in Somalia. He was brought to the United States in early April, but was indicted by a federal grand jury earlier for his alleged role in the killings.

The Wall Street Journal reported that US forces, with the help of Somali army, had apprehended the alleged pirate on land. It was the first time that the US had carried out a similar operation on-shore.

Neil MacBride, US Attorney said "The arrest of Mohammad Shibin is a significant breakthrough in the United States' battle against Somali pirates."

"Today marks the first time that the US government has captured and charged an alleged pirate in a leadership role - a hostage negotiator who operated in Somalia.

"We hope that this indictment will strike at the heart of the piracy business and send a strong message to all pirates that they are not beyond the reach of the FBI, whether they board the ships or remain on-shore in Somalia," he said.

Shibin has been charged in US federal court in Norfolk, Virginia, over the alleged pirating of an American yacht, and the taking of four US citizens hostage.
I guess we must have some sort of treaty deal with some government we recognize in Somalia that allowed this.

More later as I sort through it.

Somali Pirates: Australian Navy Frees Hostages, "Catch and Releases" Pirates

HMAS Stuart (RAN photo)
Reported as Australian sailors rescue Somali pirates' hostages:
HMAS Stuart has interdicted a Yemeni-flagged dhow and rescued three crew members who were being held hostage by Somali pirates off the Horn of Africa.

The interdiction occurred on the morning of Monday 11th April 2011 after HMAS Stuart had been monitoring suspected pirate activity in the area for several hours.

The Chief Joint Operations, Lieutenant General Mark Evans, said he was very pleased with the way HMAS Stuart’s crew handled a difficult and dangerous mission.

“No shots were fired by either HMAS Stuart or the pirates during the interdiction and no threats were made by the pirates to harm the Yemeni crew once they saw the boarding party rapidly secure the dhow,” Lieutenant General Evans said.

“Stuart’s boarding party did extremely well in maintaining the safety of the dhow’s crew and ensuring a potentially challenging situation did not escalate.”

Assies checking out the dhow (RAN photo)
The Al Shahar 75 was attacked and seized by pirates about 20 days ago.

Fifteen Somali pirates surrendered to HMAS Stuart’s boarding party as they approached the Al Shahar 75.

During a search of the dhow, the boarding party located 11 AK-47 assault rifles with 16 magazines, a large quantity of small arms ammunition and a Rocket Propelled Grenade Launcher with grenade. The weapons were catalogued and then disposed over-board.

The unarmed pirates were released in their skiff after being provided with adequate water, food, fuel and communication equipment to make the nearest land-fall off the Somalia coast.

The Yemeni vessel was safely escorted from the area by HMAS Stuart.
UPDATE: Adjusted the headline to reflect reality.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

" Hard National Security Choices" as set out at Lawfare Blog

I'm attending the same conference covered (and participated in) by some real legal experts in matters of trying to balance national security needs with individual privacy and other concerns. These are being recaptured by Benjamin Wittes at Lawfare: Hard National Security Choices and I’m from the NSA, and We Don’t Get Out Much.

Not a field in which I have had much experience, but as I sit there listening, it is easy to see what a challenge it is working through these issues as, in many case, events and technology have sped far beyond the legal systems efforts to try and assemble itself to deal with the new issues.

For example, with the law of armed conflict driven, for the most part, by nation states and uniformed armies in the field, how do you derive rules for a war that is not being fought by national armies nor by uniformed forces nor even by nationals in the state in which battles are being fought?

More has this goes on tomorrow.

Piracy Worldwide - A Growing Business

From IMB Piracy Map 2011 to date (click to enlarge)
Reported as Worldwide piracy attacks at record high:
PIRACY hit an all-time high in the first three months of 2011, with 142 attacks worldwide, driven mainly by raids off the lawless Somali coast, a maritime watchdog said.

A total of 97 attacks were recorded off Somalia in the first quarter, up from 35 in the same period last year, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) said in a report today.

Worldwide, marauding sea bandits' hijacked 18 vessels and took 344 crew members as hostage, and kidnapped six seafarers from their boats. A further 45 vessels were boarded, and 45 more reported being fired upon.

"Figures for piracy and armed robbery at sea in the past three months are higher than we've ever recorded in the first quarter of any past year," said Pottengal Mukundan, director of the IMB's Piracy Reporting Centre, which has monitored incidents worldwide since 1991.

Mukundan said in the first three months of the year, pirates killed seven crew and wounded 34.
At the last count, on 31 March, IMB figures showed that Somali pirates were holding captive 596 crew members on 28 ships.
Current NATO warning for the Somali piracy threat:
Jin Chun Tsai 68 (NATO photo)
The current assessment is that there are at least one active dhow PAG in the Arabian Sea. In addition, the fishing vessel JIH CHUN TSAI 68 is still missing and may be active in this area. This is a minimum figure and there remains the possibility that other dhows have got underway from Pirate anchorages and are now also in the area. No other recent activity of note.

Although a low level of activity and recent disruptions of counter piracy forces in the southern Somali Basin, at least one whaler PAG is assessed to be active, possibly along the Kenyan/ Tanzanian coast towards the Mozambique Channel.

Recent reports of piracy in the Gulf of Aden area are showing a slight increase of activity. A mother ship dhow is possibly operating in this area.

In Bab al Mandeb strait area it is not unusual that fishermen carry guns and that they do attempt to fish close to the wake of larger vessels possibly causing confusion.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Gaming Anti-Submarine Warfare

There's a theory that the more brains that look at a problem, the more likely that improvements in attacking the problem will follow.
Our friends at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) have come up with a variation on that theory - a hands on variation.

Anti-submarine warfare is going to undergo some sort of evolution are introduced into the fleet. But there is a problem - how to best use these new tools to fight submarines?

DARPA is trying to tap into the collective brain power of a lot of very smart gamers by - well, by gaming the problem of using  ACTUVs (Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessels)

If you go here (DARPA ACTUV) you will find a free game download the playing of which game may allow you to help DARPA:
The DARPA ACTUV program is developing a fundamentally new tool for the Navy’s ASW toolkit. Before we can develop the autonomous software that will run on ACTUV’s computers, we need to understand what approaches and methods are the most effective. We have made arrangements for ACTUV to be integrated into the Sonalysts Combat Simulations Dangerous WatersTM game, and we’re offering this new ACTUV Tactics Simulator here for free public download and this is where you can play an import role!

You are invited to put yourself into the virtual driver’s seat of one of several ACTUV configurations and show the world how you can use its capabilities to follow a submarine. Of course you won’t be the only ship at sea so you’ll have to safely navigate among the commercial traffic, and the target sub has some tricks up his sleeve so watch out! Rack up points as you complete the mission objectives, and see how you stack up against the competition on our leaderboard page. You can also share your experiences and insights from playing the simulator with others at SUBSIM ACTUV forum.
It's based on the Sonalysts "Dangerous Waters" platform.

So, for you war gaming crew out there, here's your chance to apply that brain tissue to something different. And help out your Navy, too.

Oh, by the way. ASW ain't for sissies. Hurry, the games have begun and you are already behind.