Eyes of the Fleet

Eyes of the Fleet

Friday, September 30, 2011

Islamist cleric Anwar Awlaki 'killed in Yemen'

Short note for the end of a wasted life -BBC News - Islamist cleric Anwar Awlaki 'killed in Yemen'.

"Cleric?" Sure, in a death cult.


A U.S. born traitor.

More coverage than he deserved.

Somali Pirates: Interdiction of of Pirates by German Warship


Reported as "Board and search operation carried out by EU NAVFOR warship:
EUNAVFOR warship FGS KÖLN has today, 28 September, stopped and boarded a suspicious group of two small boats, a whaler and skiff.

The suspicious boats were located by FGS KÖLN 70 nautical miles South West off Mogadishu, Somalia, 30 miles off the coast. A helicopter was sent to inspect the group of boats and 12 people with equipment usually associated with piracy were seen on board. The boats refused to stop when hailed. KÖLN’s helicopter fired warning shots ahead of the skiff which caused the boat to stop.

Before the boats could be boarded by teams from FGS KÖLN, the crew of the boats started to throw weapons and other items overboard. The skiff, whaler and their engines were destroyed to prevent any potential future use for piracy and the men released close to the shore.
UPDATE: Another anti-pirate move by FGS Koln reported here:
On September 29 the EU NAVFOR warship FGS KÖLN located and destroyed a suspicious whaler close to a beach off Somalia, 100 nautical miles SW of Mogadishu.

Koln's counter-piracy action end result (EUNAVFOR photo)
A helicopter was dispatched to inspect and found the whaler loaded with equipment usually related to piracy on board.

No crew was seen on board. Consequently, the whaler was destroyed to prevent any potential future use for piracy.
More interdicting of pirate boats like this are needed. Blockade the pirates.

Nigeria: Arrest of Some Sea Pirates

A report of the arrest of some Nigerian sea pirates found at here:
We asked all the crew members to lie face down or be shot. We searched everybody but the money and other properties we took were not enough hence we ordered the captain to search for money or we shoot him dead.

“Sensing danger the ship captain at gun point went inside and brought N15, 000 and we and ordered him to tow our boat to a sandy area where we found our way.

We later shared the money and I was given N5, 000. We abandoned the boat as we could not go with it again, but the following day we went to see what we could do to remove it so that the money we would pay the owner would not be too much as the owner charges N5, 000 every day and we were not ready to pay more than a day.”, he said.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Somali Pirates: NATO Alert 29 Sept 11

 Let me be the latest to warn that the weather soon will be improving in the upper Indian Ocean area and when the seas calm a bit, the Somali pirates will be out in force. Currently, a pirate action group or groups seems to be focusing in the lower Red Sea area (lots of islands to hide around) near the chokepoint of Bab el Mandeb. There are reports of Indian naval vessels interdicting pirates (see here, as well as the usual Iranian claims of rescuing most of the world from pirates, see here- "An attempt by the Somali pirates to hijack a Russian vessel was thwarted after an Iranian fleet of warships present in the region rushed to the scene. " - a "fleet?" - Really?).

Checking the wind conditions in the Gulf of Aden and the other areas most affected by pirates is pretty easy - along the right side of this blog I have the updates kindly put out by WeatherOnline. Based on the most recent reports, it looks as if the winds are dropping into safe conditions for pirate small boats operations.

You can view all NATO Shipping Center Somali Piracy Alerts here, but the most recent is:
Alert number 220 / 2011 28/09/2011 11:40 14 03N 042 48E Attacked

Alert number 220 / 2011.

At 1140 UTC / 28 SEP 11 / a merchant vessel has been attacked by skiffs in position 14 03 N 042 48 E

***This vessel managed to evade hijack***
***Vessel is SAFE***

The Pirate Attack Group is still in the area, and there have been reports that these skiffs have been involved in at least two other piracy attempts in the same region.
The lead boat of the group is described as a very fast white skiff.

While navigating in the Southern Red Sea and Bab al Mandeb regions, vessels are urged to operate at a heightened state of readiness, and implement Self Protective Measures in accordance with Best Management Practices Version 4 (dated August 2011). For further details, please see www.mschoa.org. or http://www.shipping.nato.int/Pages/BMP.aspx

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

These Boots Are Made for Shaking: "Iran Navy to build aircraft carriers"

A free aircraft carrier design to the Islamic Republic of Iran from Eagle1
Reader Rick sends this link Iran Navy to build aircraft carriers:
Iran's Deputy Navy Commander Captain Mansour Maqsoudlou has announced the country's plan to design and manufacture aircraft carriers.

The initial designs for building the carriers have been approved and the process of research, design and manufacture will start soon, Captain Maqsoudlou told IRNA on Wednesday.

Since the victory of the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, the country has embarked on a campaign for self-sufficiency in the defense industry and launched numerous military projects.

Last year in February, the Iranian Navy unveiled its first domestically-manufactured destroyer, Jamaran, in the waters of the Persian Gulf.

The 1,420-ton destroyer, equipped with modern radars and other electronic warfare capabilities, patrols the southern waters of the Persian Gulf.

In January, Iran successfully test-fired the mid-range, surface-to-air Hawk missile, and the Iranian Defense Ministry delivered new cruise missile systems to the Navy.

The systems, designed and manufactured by Iranian experts, are capable of spotting and destroying different targets at sea.
Rick notes, "Of course their definition of "Aircraft Carrier" might not match ours. I visualize a 20' Boston Whaler flying off some R/c airplanes - "Those are UAV's don't you know...""

Whatever.  I suggest they start small. Smaller targets are more challenging.

Iran: Atlantic Deployment Off U.S. Coast? Come right ahead. We'll be here waiting.

Something was making my "SWO sense"* tingle, and my humor alerts were ringing, and then, well then, I read this- Iran says could deploy navy near U.S. coast:
Iran raised the prospect on Tuesday of sending military ships close to the United States' Atlantic coast, in what would be a major escalation of tensions between the long-standing adversaries.

"Like the arrogant powers that are present near our marine borders, we will also have a powerful presence close to American marine borders," the head of the Navy, Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari said, according to the official IRNA news agency.

Speaking at a ceremony marking the 31st anniversary of the start of the 1980-1988 war with Iraq, Sayyari gave no details of when such a deployment could happen or the number or type of vessels to be used.
Arrogant SOB that I am, I was doing one of those rolling on the floor laughing demonstrations (which disrupted my workplace as you might guess).

This "announcement" (propaganda piece) just gets better as I read various analyes (e.g. here) of the proposed venture to the new world, many of take a more excited tone than I can about a fifth rate naval power venturing across the seas.

More. Later. Maybe much later, when the great "Iranian Caribbean Fleet" gets underway.

*Surface Warfare Officer sense - sort of an ESP-like Spidey sense thingie

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

South China Sea: Philippines seeks help from Japan with sea lane off Spratly Islands

 What happens when it appears the U.S. might not be - um- willing (or able) to assist allies fend off the aggressive territorial claims of China? Well, you just might get countries in the region sending out feelers . . .

As reported here:
President Aquino will seek Japan’s help for the Philippines’ Coast Watch” initiative, which seeks to ensure free and safe passage along vital sea lanes especially in the West Philippine Sea, Transportation and Communications Secretary Manuel Roxas II said yesterday.

Roxas said the President will discuss maritime security issues with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda in their bilateral meeting today in Tokyo.
Earlier, Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary for Asian and Pacific Affairs Maria Theresa Lazaro said the Philippines was hoping to receive a ship, radar and communication facilities and other maritime assistance for the Philippine Coast Guard after Aquino’s official working visit. The Coast Guard is under the DOTC.

Lazaro said Aquino and Noda would also discuss the West Philippine Sea issue as a “regional” concern but clarified there would be no exchange of notes on the matter, only “exchange of views” on the need to maintain peace and stability in the area.

Asked if Japan would provide maritime assistance to the Philippines, Lazaro said yes but the exact nature of support would still have to be worked out. She said there had also been mention about a ship “but no finality” yet.

Roxas said the Coast Watch was important because like many other countries, Japanese commercial ships regularly sail the West Philippine Sea. Japan has also been assisting Filipino seafarers against pirates. Roxas said the Coast Watch program covers anti-terrorism efforts, environmental protection and free navigation.
Malacañang clarified, however, that Aquino is not shopping for allies in discussing the West Philippine Sea issue with Noda. He stressed that a peaceful resolution of the West Philippine issue is in the best interest not only of the Philippines and Japan but other countries in the region as well.

“They (Japan) are concerned (about) the freedom of navigation. The products they import, the products they export pass through the West Philippine Sea hence it is a matter for them that the West Philippine Sea remains open for navigation,” Lacierda said.

When asked if the meeting between the two leaders might provoke China, Lacierda said: “We do not think so.”

Monday, September 26, 2011

Malacca Strait Piracy: "Arrests Reveal Major Criminal Operations"

Pirate Arrests Reveal Major Criminal Operations Across Malacca Strait:
Police in Aceh announced that the arrest of four suspected pirates had uncovered a highly organized and extensive criminal organization operating across the Malacca Strait.
Iskandar said the four, all from East Aceh, were believed to be part of a wider, highly organized pirate outfit operating extensively across the Malacca Strait, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.

He said the gang operated under the command of a prisoner currently being held at Tanjung Gusta Penitentiary in North Sumatra. “They would frequently receive instructions from him and then share their spoils with him,” the police chief said.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Three Fables - Again

Republished from February 2009. Still applicable to the "new" jobs bill/stimulation package.

There were once three fables that were taught in school.

One was about a little red hen and her hard work and it went like this:
The little Red Hen was in the farmyard with her chicks, when she found a grain of wheat.

"Who will plant this wheat?" she said.

"Not I," said the Goose.

"Not I," said the Duck.

"I will, then," said the little Red Hen, and she planted the grain of wheat.

When the wheat was ripe she said, "Who will take this wheat to the mill?"

"Not I," said the Goose.

"Not I," said the Duck.

"I will, then," said the little Red Hen, and she took the wheat to the mill.

When she brought the flour home she said, "Who will make some bread with this flour?"

"Not I," said the Goose.

"Not I," said the Duck.

"I will, then," said the little Red Hen.

When the bread was baked, she said, "Who will eat this bread?"

"I will," said the Goose

"I will," said the Duck

"No, you won't," said the little Red Hen. "I shall eat it myself. Cluck! cluck!" And she called her chicks to help her.
And the other fable from Aesop and was about a man with an amazing goose:
A Man and his Wife had the good fortune to possess a Goose which laid a Golden Egg every day. Lucky though they were, they soon began to think they were not getting rich fast enough, and, imagining the bird must be made of gold inside, they decided to kill it in order to secure the whole store of precious metal at once. But when they cut it open they found it was just like any other goose. Thus, they neither got rich all at once, as they had hoped, nor enjoyed any longer the daily addition to their wealth.

Moral: Much wants more and loses all.
Those fables taught hard work, responsibility, stewardship and the danger of greed. Then there was the fable about fear:
Chicken Little was in the woods one day when an acorn fell on her head. It scared her so much she trembled all over. She shook so hard, half her feathers fell out.

Chicken Little was so scared she started shouting: "Help! Help! The sky is falling! I have to go tell the king!"

So she ran in great fright to tell the king. Along the way she met Henny Penny.

Henny Penny asked, "Where are you going, Chicken Little?"

Chicken Little yelled, "Oh, help! The sky is falling!"

Henny Penny asked, "How do you know?"

Chicken Little replied, "I saw it with my own eyes, and heard it with my own ears, and part of it fell on my head!"

Henny Penny yelled, "This is terrible, just terrible! We'd better hurry up."

So they both ran away as fast as they could. Soon they met Ducky Lucky.

Ducky Lucky asked, "Where are you going, Chicken Little and Henny Penny?"

Chicken Little & Henny Penny yelled, "The sky is falling! The sky is falling! We're going to tell the king!"

Ducky Lucky asked, "How do you know?"

Chicken Little replied, "I saw it with my own eyes, and heard it with my own ears, and part of it fell on my head."

Ducky Lucky joined in the yelling, "Oh dear, oh dear! We'd better run!"

So they all ran down the road as fast as they could. Soon they met Goosey Loosey walking down the roadside.

Goosey Loosey seeing the group said, "Hello there. Where are you all going in such a hurry?"

Chicken Little shouted, "We're running for our lives!"

Henny Penny shouted, "The sky is falling!"

Ducky Lucky yelled, "And we're running to tell the king!"

Goosey Loosey asked, "How do you know the sky is falling?"

Chicken Little yelled, "I saw it with my own eyes, and heard it with my own ears, and part of it fell on my head!"

Goosey Loosey joined in the yelling and shouting, "Goodness! Then I'd better run with you."

And they all ran in great fright across a field. Before long they met Turkey Lurkey strutting back and forth..

Turkey Lurkey said, "Hello there, Chicken Little, Henny Penny, Ducky Lucky, and Goosey Loosey. Where are you all going in such a hurry?"

Chicken Little screamed, "Help! Help!"

Henny Penny shouted, "We're running for our lives!"

Ducky Lucky quacked, "The sky is falling!"

Goosey Loosey yelled, "And we're running to tell the king!"

Turkey Lurkey asked, "How do you know the sky is falling?"

Chicken Little yelled, "I saw it with my own eyes, and heard it with my own ears, and part of it fell on my head!"

Turkey Lurkey joined in the noise, "Oh dear! I always suspected the sky would fall someday. I'd better run with you."

So they ran with all their might, until they met Foxy Loxy.

Foxy Loxy slyly asked. "Well, well. Where are you rushing on such a fine day?"

Chicken Little, Henny Penny, Ducky Lucky, Goosey Loosey, Turkey Lurkey (together) all yelled, "Help! Help!" It's not a fine day at all. The sky is falling, and we're running to tell the king!"

Foxy Loxy was surprised, but asked, "How do you know the sky is falling?"

Chicken Little shouted, "I saw it with my own eyes, and heard it with my own ears, and part of it fell on my head!"

Foxy Loxy saw an opportunity and said, "I see. Well then, follow me, and I'll show you the way to the king."

So Foxy Loxy led Chicken Little, Henny Penny, Ducky Lucky, Goosey Loosey, and Turkey Lurkey across a field and through the woods. He led them straight to his den, and they never saw the king to tell him that the sky is falling.
As the latest "Economic Stimulus Plan" is being urged to end our current alleged economic "sky is falling" catastrophe, it might be a good idea to keep these three fables in mind.

Hard work, patience and courage will win the day over laziness, greed and fear. Especially fear mongered by foxes.

Don't panic. And don't follow any sly foxes offering quick solutions.

Somali Pirates: A Danish Admiral Discusses the Issue

Op-Ed: A possible solution to Somali piracy (Includes first-hand account):
“The piracy problem is not just a problem between the ship industry and the pirates. The spill-over effect in my point of view would be a threat to stability in the whole East Africa region and that is why it should create a sense of urgency both in the UN framework and in the African Union framework.”
He also tackled the issue of rising piracy, despite the fact that some 35 ships from numerous international navies and at least two alliances, the EU and NATO, are operating in an area the size of the continental United States. He did point out that more than 35 police cruise[r]s would be needed to police the US.
Go to the source to read more.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Gulf of Guinea Pirates: Update

Pirates release Cypriot tanker seized off Benin:
Pirates have released a Cyprus-flagged tanker seized off the West African country of Benin on 15 September with a 23-strong crew, including five Spaniards, a Spanish foreign ministry spokeswoman said Saturday.
***The coast of Benin, which neighbours Nigeria, Africa's largest oil producer, has seen a steep increase in hijackings this year, with 19 ships coming under attack.

Of the 19, eight were hijacked, nine were boarded and there were unsuccessful attempts to attack two others, according to the International Maritime Bureau.
***Unlike the explosion of piracy off the coast of Somalia on the eastern side of the continent in recent years, those involved in the recent West African attacks have so far not appeared to be after ransom payments.
Report on ship capture here.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Midrats on Sunday: Episode 90 Pacific Air in WWII - 09/25, 5pm Eastern

Episode 90 Pacific Air in WWII :
Join Sal from "CDR Salamander" & EagleOne from "EagleSpeak" with their returning guest, author David Sears for the full hour to discuss his latest book, Pacific Air: How Fearless Flyboys, Peerless Aircraft, and Fast Flattops Conquered the Skies in the War with Japan.

For WWII and aviaition fans - this is a show you do not want to miss!

Click here to join us.

Marine Insurers Support Armed Guards to Counter Pirates

Reported as Marine Insurers Backing Armed Guards as Piracy Threat Grows:
More ship insurers are backing the use of private armed guards on merchant vessels at sea to combat Somali piracy as attacks and the resulting costs are set to rise in coming weeks, industry officials said on Tuesday.

Pirate attacks on oil tankers and other ships are costing the world economy billions of dollars a year and navies have struggled to combat the menace, especially in the vast Indian Ocean. Seaborne gangs are set to ramp up attacks in the area after the monsoon season ends.
“Piracy is clogging the arteries of globalization,” said Emma Russell with underwriter Watkins, a member of the Lloyd’s of London insurance market. “No vessel with armed guards has yet been taken,” she added.

Industry delegates at the annual conference of the International Union of Maritime Insurance (IUMI) said there were more than 20,000 transits a year in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean.

Speakers at the conference said the hiring of private armed guards to accompany ships is increasingly seen as an effective deterrent against pirates and as a complement to overstretched navies, many of whom face budget cuts.

Ship owners and insurers have until recently been reluctant to accept the use of armed private contractors. They have hesitated partly due to legal liabilities and risks, including the problem of bringing weapons into some territorial waters and due to the fear of escalating violence.

The IUMI said the use of private guards should comply with the legislation of the flag state.
Industry group the Security Association for the Maritime Industry (SAMI), which has 58 members, is aiming to have the first companies complete an accreditation process by the second quarter of 2012, founding member Peter Cook said.

This will result in a list of audited security firms able to provide armed guards.

The end goal
Cook said private firms would play an increasing role as navies face spending reviews, citing prospects of a 30 percent decline in the size of Western navies in the next 20 years. “They’re taking the policemen off the block,” he said.

Ship owner associations, meanwhile, have called on the United Nations to create an armed military force to be deployed on vessels to counter piracy and restrict the growth of unregulated private contractors.
Let's take a look at the ship owner suggestion of a UN force - it looks to me like nothing more than an effort to push this cost onto someone else's ledger. See here.

Looks to me like a place where private enterprise, supported by realistic shipping law, can handle this quite well. Well, except for those shipping and fishing companies too poor or cheap to provide security. In which case, they may be better off purchasing "protection" from the pirates themselves.

Protection in the old "mafia" way . . .

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Somali Pirates Burn Ship in Frustration, Crew Saved, Ship Abandoned

Burning Pacific Express (Italian Navy photo)
Reported on the Italian Navy website here and by MarineLog as Italian Navy rescues crew after fleeing pirates set ship on fire. From the Italian Navy site:
This morning, the destroyer Andrea Doria, engaged in the Indian Ocean as part of NATO's anti-piracy mission "Ocean Shield," intervened to support the Cypriot freighter "Pacific Express", the subject of an attempted hijack by armed pirates.

The attack, thwarted by the prompt reaction of the merchant's crew, who closed themselves in the citadel (the protected part of the superstructure), lasted almost all night and also caused a fire on board.

Italian destroyer Andrea Doria
Upon its arrival in the area, about 200 miles east of Mombasa, Andrea Doria approached the merchant, and verified the absence of pirates on board, who allegedly fled after spotting the military unit, and sent a security team to free the crew.

Then the Captain of the Pacific Express, given the severity of the fire, said the ship is lost and asked for help to abandon ship.

Andrea Doria embarked the entire crew of the merchant (Ukrainian captain and Filipino sailors, 25) and headed to Mombasa where the crew requested to be landed. ***
Thank goodness no lives were lost. You can expect more of this sort of behavior by the pirates. Citadels do protect crews, but are not a solution unto themselves.

Pacific Express is the same ship reported on as being attacked (and then "safe') in an earlier post here.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

U.S. Navy (and, I assume, the Marines) Looking for that Basic Ground Support Aircraft

Hawker Beechcraft AT-6
I was just talking to someone about the need for a low-flying, long linger time ground support aircraft to support the SEAL teams and Marines (and also do dandy anti-swarm defense for ships) when what does Lex link to? This: Light-Attack Plane Seeks New Life In Navy:
The Navy recently shifted over $17 million into the Combat Dragon II program, designed to prove that a small, turboprop-driven aircraft can be used for "high end/special aviation" missions in Afghanistan.

The program was driven by the need coming out of from Central Command to have aircraft do close air support missions that larger fighters and bombers could not do, specifically in support of Naval Special Warfare units.
I was describing the old A-1D "Spad" and wondering if the Air Force Farce (certainly an appropriate tag when discussing close air support of ground troops by the mainstream AF) would transfer some A-10s to the Marines.

Two Skyraiders looking for trouble (U.S. Navy photo)
For the mission, the described plane may be even better. The Hawker Beechcraft website describing the AT-1B is here:
Today, 100 percent of United States Air Force (USAF) and United States Navy (USN) student pilots train in a Hawker Beechcraft aircraft. Also, Hawker Beechcraft has been meeting the needs of over 50 foreign military nations around the world with trainer, weaponized trainer and special mission aircraft.

The Beechcraft AT 6 incorporates the very best of proven training methods and close air support capability to meet light attack and armed reconnaissance requirements. AT-6 capabilities cover a wide-mission spectrum that includes training, manned Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) and light precision attack, while at the same time offering non-traditional capabilities for homeland defense and civil support missions.

Now upgraded with a more powerful 1600 Shaft Horsepower Pratt and Whitney PT6A-68D engine, the AT-6 is a structurally strengthened derivative of the proven Beechcraft T-6 trainer. Adding to the FAA approved primary flight avionics system by CMC Esterline, Lockheed Martin leveraged A-10C precision engagement modification capabilities in integrating the mission avionics of the AT-6. The result is a plug-and-play mission system architecture that combines state-of-the-art data link, combat communications capabilities, extensive variety of weapons delivery modes and precision weapons tailored for the AT-6.
Embraer Super Tucano
Embraer's offering described here:
Embraer spared no effort in providing the Super Tucano with an Armament System that incorporates state-of-the-art technology.
The Super Tucano is designed to carry a fighter's typical array of weapons - either smart or conventional. Its armament line-up is fully integrated with its avionics system and may be fitted with most advanced ordnance and sensors.
The aircraft features two .50" machine guns (200 rounds each) in the wings. Five hard points under the wing and fuselage allow up to 1,500 kg of weapons for most configurations. The aircraft's inboard stations, as well as its ventral one, are "wet" for underwing fuel tanks.

In addition to its two internal machine guns, the Super Tucano can be configured with additional underwing armament stations, such as two 20mm gun pods or .50" machine guns, thereby significantly increasing its firepower for missions requiring air-ground saturation.

Outboard stations allow the loading and firing of short-range air-air missiles of the AIM-9X class.

All stations can be loaded with the Mk 81 or Mk 82 (conventional or smart) bombs, SBAT-70/19, LAU-68 A/G Missile Launchers or MLB Bombs.
They both look good. I wonder if they can land on an amphib?

Photo of the Skyraiders (what a great name!) from The A-1 Skyraider Association

Strait of Malacca: Malaysia Captures Pirates

Reported inThe Jakarta Post:
Malaysian officers are questioning six Indonesians detained for allegedly attempting to hijack a ship in the Malacca Strait.

The commander of the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency’s southern division, First Admiral Zulkifli Abu Bakar, said that sailors on a navy patrol boat allegedly saw the men climbing aboard a merchant ship off shore Johor Island, near Singapore, on Sunday morning.

“Once they realized that their acts were noticed, the pirates tried to flee. But our patrol vessel managed to catch up. We fired a warning shot before intercepting it in Malaysian waters,” he said on Tuesday as quoted by kompas.com.

Zulkifli said that the men apparently approached Johor from Batam, to the south, and planned to hijack three ships.

The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) issued a hijacking warning in June to all ships transiting the Malacca Strait.

Jihadist Threats to "Tankers"

Jihadi target?
Shiptalk and a number of other maritime security sites have noted a reported threat by unspecified jihadist groups to attack "martime targets" or "oil tankers" somewhere along the tanker paths from the "Arabian Peninsula" to the "Horn of Africa." See, e.g. "Targeting Tankers, Targeting Tankers, Tanker Threat. The link to the source of this report is not present on any of those sites,but I believe it to be SITEIntel, a subscription based jihadist monitoring company. My belief is based, entirely, on a Google search that led me to this summary from a subscription based site:
6 days ago – A jihadist called for attacks on oil tankers, particularly those in waters around the Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa, and gave ...
While I am fascinated by the report, I don't have enough couch change to pump for the fees required to look into it.

Damaged tanker Limburg
What I do know is that such threats have been around for some time and that various al Qaeda or other groups have attacked ships in the past: USS Cole on October 12, 2000; the tanker Limburg on October 6, 2002; the tanker M-Star on 27 July 2010; and the thwarted attack on a cruise ship off Turkey in 2005. Then there are the Philippine ferry attacks and the handiwork of the now silent (but not dead yet) Sri Lankan LTTE terrorists.

USS Cole damage
Such threats have long been blogged about on this site, including this 2007 post, "Al Qaeda's Maritime Threat" an essay by Akiva Lorenz of the Institute for Counter-Terrorism, this 2008 post Al Qaeda Calling for Chokepoint Terrorism.

There have also been a number of news reports raising this issue over the years.

In short, there is a threat.

There has long been a threat.

Maritime security remains important.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Somali Pirates: Ship Under Attack

UPDATE from the NATO Shipping Center:
The attack on the merchant vessel 20 Sept 2011, in position 0447S 04435E, has been averted through the use of recommended self-protection measures as detailed in BMP4.

The crew is safe.

Vessels are still advised to exercise extreme caution when navigating within 100 nautical miles of the position given in this report and maintain maximum CPA with any ship acting suspiciously.
You can get your own pdf copy of BMP4 here. End UPDATE.

An alert from NATO Shipping Center:
Alert 218 / 2011 20/09/2011 10:00 0447S 04435E Attacked
At 0734 UTC / 20 SEP 2011 / a merchant vessel is currently under attack by 2 skiffs in position 0447S 04435E.

Vessels are advised to exercise extreme caution when navigating within 100 nautical miles of the position given in this report and maintain maximum CPA with any ship acting suspiciously.
More from NATO:
At 0734Z today, an attack against a merchant vessel by 2 skiffs in position 04 47S 044 35E took place. Details can be found under Alert Details at Alert 218. It is believed that the group in this area may be operating from a Jelbut dhow. The high level of activity off the Somali/Kenya Border indicates this as an area of great concern to vessels, and as improved weather conditions allow, increased piracy activity is expected.

At 0734Z today, an attack against a merchant vessel by 2 skiffs in position 04 47S 044 35E took place. The weather in the north Somali Basin remains less favourable however, in the next few weeks the weather is expected to improve.

Update on "Arrested" "Pirate Hunters" in Mozambique

A previous post, Mozambique: "Pirate Hunters" Arrested, requires an update.

According to GreySide Group Disputes Information Surrounding Personnel Traveling Through Mozambique:
The GreySide Group refutes information contained in recent reports surrounding five of its personnel traveling through Mozambique. The GreySide Group employees were briefly questioned at the Nampula airport; however, there were no weapons present, and after the Mozambique authorities investigated and found no wrongdoing, the personnel were quickly released and granted visas.

"As a security firm operating globally we take every step to ensure all proper licenses are obtained prior to conducting international missions on behalf of our clients. Our highly trained team of professionals were in full compliance with our rigorous procedures, and with applicable international and domestic laws," said Alex Popovic, CEO, GreySide Group.

The GreySide Group team was carrying ammunition legally and in accordance with Directorate of Defense Trade Controls, International Traffic in Arms Regulations and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

"We have conducted dozens of transits without a single incident, and currently have numerous teams in the Gulf of Aden protecting commercial ships transiting high risk waters," said Popovic.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Eastern Mediterranean: Much Ado About Gas

So, Turkey has been shaking the war stick at Israel, making big noise over the Israeli blockade of Gaza that last year resulted in the stopping of Turkish ship and the violence that followed. In addition, Turkey is most unhappy with the discovery of large amounts of natural gas beneath the waters off Israel and Cyprus.

First, about the discovery:

The above map from Nobel Energy sets forth some discoveries made by that company, as described below:
Noble Energy has been operating in the Mediterranean Sea, offshore Israel, since 1998. We have a 47 percent interest in the Mari-B field, the first offshore natural gas production facility in Israel. Production from Mari-B began in 2004 and sales volumes have increased as Israel’s power demand and pipeline infrastructure have expanded tremendously. Significant new exploration discoveries at Tamar, Dalit, and Leviathan will help meet Israel's energy needs and drive new potential for natural gas in the future.

The Company has recently completed two additional development wells at Mari-B. Combined with additional compression work in 2011, these new wells will support near-term gas deliverability and serve as injection wells for storage in the future.

We have a 36 percent operated working interest at Tamar, with gross mean resources of 8.4 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of natural gas. Tamar was the largest deepwater natural gas discovery in the world in 2009. Sanctioned by the Company in September 2010, initial expectations target commissioning first gas from Tamar at the end of 2012. Development drilling at Tamar is underway, and the Company is continuing discussion with a growing number of parties to deliver reliable and clean energy resources to customers.

Leviathan represents the largest exploration success in the Company's history, with gross mean resources of 16 Tcf of natural gas. We are actively studying multiple export options, including both LNG and pipeline scenarios. The Company anticipates returning to appraisal drilling at Leviathan in mid 2011. Supported by 3D seismic acquisitions in 2009 and 2010, Noble Energy has identified a number of additional prospects and leads on our significant acreage position offshore Israel and Cyprus, with plans to drill three to four exploration / appraisal wells in 2011.
This discovery has major implications for Israel and Cyprus. With specific reference to Cyprus, this piece notes:
For Cypriots who always had an Arab-envy, seeing their neighbors drawn in oil while they have to import every drop of it, has been frustrating if not intoxicating. Loren Steffy, the business columnist for the Houston Chronicle, reports: “Just as the Israeli discoveries may transform that country from an energy importer to an exporter, a similar find off the coast of Cyprus could turn the island nation into a major European energy hub”.
Terry Gerhart, the Vice President for international operations of Houston-based Noble Energy declares: “Cyprus could be on the verge of a natural gas revolution. Gas will strengthen the Cypriot economy for decades to come. Cyprus will become the Mediterranean’s energy hub”.
Well, maybe - both Cyprus and Israel are going to have some serious challenges - as noted her:
From Israel, there is good news and bad news.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Sunday on Midrats: Episode 89 2049 China and All That

Midrats on BlogTalkRadion, Sunday, 5pm Eastern Episode 89 2049 China and All That:
More and more the 21st Century looks to be not the American Century, not the Chinese Century - but a century that will be defined by how China and American grow to see each other from their side of the Pacific from each other from both a security and economic perspective.

Two linchpins will be how each nation decides to place their cards on the Taiwan question, and the growing aliance between China's neighbors who are uncomfortable with the dragon waking after a few centuries rest.

Join Sal from "CDR Salamander" and EagleOne from "EagleSpeak" as they discuss this for the full hour with one of the authors from The Project 2049 Institute's latest, Asian Alliances in the 21st Century.

Our guest will be Mark Stokes, the Executive Director of the Project 2049 Institute.

Previously, he was the founder and president of Quantum Pacific Enterprises, an international consulting firm, and vice president and Taiwan country manager for Raytheon International. He has served as executive vice president of Laifu Trading Company, a subsidiary of the Rehfeldt Group; a senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies; and member of the Board of Governors of the American Chamber of Commerce in Taiwan. A 20-year U.S. Air Force veteran, Stokes also served as team chief and senior country director for the People’s Republic of China, Taiwan and Mongolia in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs. He holds a B.A. from Texas A&M University, and graduate degrees in International Relations and Asian Studies from Boston University and the Naval Postgraduate School. He is a fluent Mandarin speaker.

Mozambique: "Pirate Hunters" Arrested

Reported here:
Mozambique authorities arrested four U.S. citizens and a Briton for possession of illegal weapons this week.

According to a BBC News report, the five say they were in the region to help rescue a boat from pirates. They told authorities that they worked for GreySide, a U.S. security firm, however the company has not commented on the incident and the U.S. embassy disavowed any connection to the group.

Mozambican officials told BBC that the men were in possession of weapons, ammunition and communication equipment. The leader of the group, identified as U.S. citizen 42-year-old Michael Ferguson, said the group flew from the U.S. through Ethiopia and Kenya in order to enter a large vessel off the coastal city of Pemba to subsequently assist another boat being held by pirates.
Reportedly the men were arrested in Nampula.

Info on "Greyside Group- Maritime Security Services" here. (Update) As noted on its website,
  • GreySide Group is licensed and certified to transport arms globally (US ITAR).
    • All of GreySide's weapons are legally obtained, legally shipped, and legally employed.

It's generally a really bad idea to carry weapons into foreign countries unless the proper permits or other forms of authorization have been obtained. "Baksheesh" might work, but, then again, it might not.

Maybe a permit expired or was renewed and someone didn't get the memo.

UPDATE here. Apparently it was a matter of team members being "questioned" and then released.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Taiwan arms sales bill introduced in US Congress

Reported in Taiwan as Taiwan bill introduced in US Congress - Taipei Times:
A major new bill to strengthen and enhance the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) has been introduced to the US Congress by Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chairperson of the House of Representatives Foreign Relations Committee.
“This bill supports the sale of F-16C/Ds to Taiwan and endorses a wide range of defense exports to the island, and strengthens congressional oversight of defense transfers to Taiwan,” Ros-Lehtinen said.
“China must not be allowed to dictate US policy in the Pacific,” she added.
It has been introduced at a tense moment in US-Taiwan relations, with Obama nearing a self-imposed deadline of Oct. 1 to announce his decision on whether to sell Taipei 66 advanced F-16C/D jets.

There has been extensive speculation that he will bow to Chinese pressure and refuse to sell the fighters, choosing instead to update and refit Taiwan’s fleet of aging F-16A/B planes. However, if the new bill became law, it force Obama to make the sale.
On the question of arms sales, the bill contains a long list of items that should be made available to Taiwan, including modern surface-to-air missiles, vertical and short take-off and landing aircraft, access to satellites for remote sensing and communication, submarines, anti-ship cruise missiles and enhanced senior-level training.

The bill also calls for an extensive review into whether Taiwan’s air defense forces retain the ability to effectively defend Taiwan “against China’s ballistic missile and air threats.”
Taiwan has sought new diesel electric submarines for some time. The G.W. Bush administration suggested purchases from a third party, such as the Netherlands (Taiwan already possesses 2 older Dutch designs) or Italy. Taiwan proposed building its own.

For more on the history of the Taiwan Relations Act, see below.

The hang up on foreign sales to Taiwan is the big mainland Chinese dragon, for example (referring to the stalled submarine acquisition):
Even if a locally-built submarine is more costly than one purchased from abroad, Taiwan has to build its own underwater fighting craft, because naval powers around the world refuse to sell them to Taiwan for fear they might offend the People's Republic.
For those of you unfamiliar with the China-Taiwan controversy, see here for a primer. Another excellent resource is this pdf, "China/Taiwan: Evolution of the “One China” Policy—Key Statements from Washington, Beijing, and Taipei" from the Congressional Research Service.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Gulf of Guinea Pirates: Vessel Hijacked

From the ICC CCS IMB Live Piracy Report:
Attack Number: 331-11
Date: Wed Sep 14 2011
Type of Vessel :Product Tanker
Location detail: Around 62nm SW of Cotonou, Benin
Type of Attack : Hijacked
14.09.2011: 0121 UTC: Around 62nm SW of Cotonou, Benin.
Armed pirates boarded and hijacked a product tanker during STS operations and took her 23 crew members hostage. The pirates sailed the vessel to a unknown location. Further report awaited.
More here:
The head of Benin's navy said the ship was the Cyprus-flagged Mattheos 1, and that it was too far off the coast for patrol boats to reach quickly.

"We can't intervene at the moment because of the distance," Navy Chief Maxime Ahoyo told Reuters by telephone. "It would take us at least seven hours to reach the site."

Ahoyo said pirates had also attacked the Nowegian-flagged Northern Bell, which was doing the cargo transfer with the Mattheos 1, but that the crew had locked themselves in the engine room and the pirates eventually left.

The IMB has recorded 19 pirate attacks off of Benin so far this year, from none in 2010 -- a sign that pirates may be moving West of their traditional Nigerian stomping grounds.
UPDATE: Wondering about the Benin Navy? Our friends at the U.S. Naval Institute have some info:
The very small Benin Navy, consisting primarily of rigid-hull inflatable boats . . . has barely 75 miles of coastline to patrol. The navy, however, benefitted directly from the Africa Partnership Station, when after training in late 2009, they conducted a counterpiracy operation in which they took back a ship that had been captured by pirates.
Apparently Benin has a few "Defender" boats like the one pictured. RBS Defender class boats are a product of SAFE Boats International.

UPDATE2: A report of an earlier success of the Benin Navy defeating an pirate hijacking here.

UPDATE3: Gulf of Guinea piracy so far in 2011:

Ship photo by Emiliyan from Shipspotting.com and used in accord with the terms of that site.

North Korea Wants Your Tourist Money

Well, perhaps not your tourism money, but they have an new idea - using a converted freighter as a cruise ship to move Chinese money - I mean Chinese "tourists" from a border port near China to a resort in the DPRK south near South Korea.

To a resort they once shared with the South Koreans. The South Koreans bailed after one of their tourists was killed by a North Korean soldier.

In any event, here's a somewhat entertaining video from New York Times reporter Edward Wong who took the cruise. You can hum along the theme song of the old TV show "The Love Boat" if you wish.

And the related NYT article.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Tanzania Ferry Disaster

Reported as Tanzania Ferry Disaster Kills Hundreds:
An overloaded ferry sank off the coast of Tanzania, and officials said Saturday the death toll was approaching 200.

Emergency responders had rescued more than 600 survivors after the MV Spice Islander capsized overnight while traveling between Zanzibar’s main island Unguja, and Pemba, the archipelago’s other main island.

The Italian news agency Agenzia Giornalistica Italia reported Zito Zuberi Kabwe, a member of the Tanzanian Parliament, said the death toll had reached 198 and Time magazine reported Tanzanian police had placed the total number of bodies recovered at 192.

AGI said there were more than 800 people on board — more than 200 above the vessel’s passenger limit.
More recent suggestions that instead of 800 people on the ferry, there were 1000. See here:
A senior Zanzibar official said on Monday that the death toll from Tanzania's ferry disaster could rise significantly.

The announcement comes after it emerged there were more than 1,000 passengers aboard the vessel when it capsized last week,

Initial reports suggested the MV Spice Islander was carrying 800 people, well above the ferry's 600 passenger capacity.

[Seif Ali Iddi, Zanzibar's Second Vice-president]:
"We were told that the total number of people who were in the boat were a little bit over 1,000 so we are expecting some more bodies between now and maybe tomorrow or day after."

More than 600 passengers were rescued from the ferry.

Maritime Security: Philippines Establishes National Coast Watch System

Reported as National Coast Watch System established:
PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III has created a National Coast Watch System to counter the threats to the country’s maritime security.

“The Philippines faces maritime security challenges threatening not only its territorial integrity but the peaceful existence of the Filipinos,” Mr. Aquino said in Executive Order 57.

“Enhancing maritime security in the seas that link our country with other neighboring states promotes our national interest.”
The new order expands the scope of Coast Watch South, which was tasked mainly to provide maritime security in Mindanao, to cover the entire archipelago. It also abolished the Commission on Maritime and Ocean Affairs.
A National Coast Watch Center will coordinate the conduct of maritime surveillance or response operations. The center may also coordinate cross-border and multinational maritime security cooperation and help in prosecuting offenders.

The center may tap the Navy, the Coast Guard, the National Police-Maritime Group, and the National Prosecution Service of the Justice Department, Bureau of Customs, Bureau of Immigration, National Bureau of Investigation, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, and the Philippine Center for Transnational Crime for manpower, equipment and material support.
There is certainly enough water to keep an eye on. And the neighborhood has rumblings of trouble.

Monday, September 12, 2011

EMP Again

Ships launching nuclear warhead-tipped missiles into our atmosphere and then . . . well, you won't be reading this. Or much of anything on a computer.

Of course, if we continue to develop our missile defense systems, then the threat described below is lessened, though, as the saying goes, "The bad guys only have to be lucky once."

The electromagnetic pulse threat raised again at Iran and the EMP Threat:
The radicals ruling Iran have openly talked about it as they have called for the destruction of America and a new world order that excludes America. While pursuing their nuclear bomb project, the Revolutionary Guards of Iran have successfully test-launched a ballistic missile from a ship in the Caspian Sea. Recently, they also announced that all their vessels now have been armed with long-range ballistic missiles, and that soon they will start a mission in the Atlantic Ocean that extends into the Gulf of Mexico.

The Guards have also progressed with their missile program under the guise of a space project. Soon they will launch another rocket into space, this time carrying a 330-kilogram payload, a sign that they can now deliver a nuclear warhead to any point on Earth. The Guards have openly stated that the rocket used to launch the satellite can be shot parallel to the Earth’s orbit, which would transform it into an intercontinental ballistic missile.
I've been posting intermittently about this threat since 2005, see Yet Another Threat and Iran plans to knock out U.S. with 1 nuclear bomb or even 2009's EagleSpeak: Warning about EMP since 2005.

Heck we had a Midrats show on the topic - Fearless Navy Bloggers Take to the Air: Halloween Special -Episode 43 EMP Threat: Hype or Other? 10/31/2010:

Listen to internet radio with Midrats on Blog Talk Radio

It's always a good idea to get ready with that disaster kit, with water filters, etc. Works for natural disasters, too.

Somali Pirates: Early Report - Hijack thwarted by "citadel" and Russian Navy

Yesterday the report was of a ship hijacked in the Red Sea - see here. A new report says the ship is free of pirates and sailing on its own.

NATO reports: "UKMTO reports that the Vessel that was attacked 10 Sept 11 is now safe, and is continuing navigation." No further details available yet.

More in this from Shiptalk.com:
. . . [T]he crew had locked themselves in the citadel the pirates could not gain full control of the vessel and this gave the Russian frigate “Severomorsk” time to act as it headed to the stricken vessel.
RFS Severomorsk (EUNAVFOR photo)
According to EUNAVFOR, RFS Severomorsk is performing escort duties in the Red Sea:
The Russian Federation Northern Fleet ASW frigate RFS SEVEROMORSK is currently escorting the M\V Medi Chennai which is carrying 45,936 metric tons of wheat for the World Food Programme (WFP) through the Red Sea to Djibouti.
An additional tentative article from SomaliaReport, which notes the increased penetration of pirates into the Red Sea.

Russian "handling" of pirates usually does not work out well for the pirates.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Somali Gunmen Attack British Tourists at Resort in Kenya

NY Times report Somali Gunmen Attack British Tourists at Kiwayu Resort in Kenya:
A boatload of Somali gunmen attacked an exclusive beach resort in Kenya on Sunday, killing a British tourist and kidnapping his wife before racing back into Somalia, Western diplomats said.

American officials were initially concerned that the strike might have been connected to the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks and that the gunmen were Islamist militants looking for Americans. But Western diplomats were leaning away from that theory on Sunday night, though they said they were still uncertain about the motive for the attack.

The resort, Kiwayu Safari Village, is just south of the Somali border and is one of the most expensive destinations in Kenya, where guests stay in $1,300-a-night bungalows at the water’s edge and are summoned to feasts at night by the trumpeting of a conch shell. Prince William and Mick Jagger are said to have vacationed there.

The gunmen attacked under the cover of darkness, zooming up to the beach in a skiff shortly after midnight, the Western diplomats said.

It was not clear how the British tourist was killed, but officials said the gunmen sped away with the dead man’s wife, heading toward Ras Kamboni, Somalia, a well-known hide-out for Islamist militants.
Another report on the same incident from the BBC here:
A British man has been killed and his wife kidnapped from a Kenyan resort, Kenyan police say.

The married couple were staying at the luxury Kiwayu Safari Village, north of Lamu Island, when armed men attacked.

Kenyan officials said a police officer saw six men taking away a woman in a speed boat.

Tourist resorts have not been targeted before but the site is near Somalia and Somali pirates could be involved, a BBC reporter says.
Pirates? Looking for a new means of making money? The long term prospects for this approach seems pretty slim.