Eyes of the Fleet

Eyes of the Fleet

Monday, October 31, 2011

I think this is a bad idea: "Promotion boards to look at energy efficiency"

While it pains me to say it, the Secretary of the Navy continues to assert a mythical "energy vulnerability" while inserting what can only be construed as a "green" component into Navy officer promotions, as reported at Promotion boards to look at energy efficiency - Navy Times:
Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, who has spent the past two years trying to wean the service off of fossil fuels, said promotion boards will consider an officer’s energy management when deciding whether to move him up. Furthermore, Battle E commendations will be based, in small part, on a command’s ability to sip fuel instead of guzzle.
Look, if the SecNav wants to cut fuel costs that's arguably a good idea, though I would assert it is not necessary to take drastic measures that will hurt combat preparedness. What fries my bacon is his persistent assertion that there is an U.S. strategic fuel shortage and that it requires drastic steps, including pumping millions of DON money into creating a "biofuels" market. Why isn't he screaming for more nuclear powered ships? That's the ultimate effective "energy management" to beat the SecNav's concerns of reducing
. . . the sea services’ dependence on oil from adversaries while reducing the need to refuel, which takes ships out of combat while making them vulnerable to attacks.

As I have said before here, and here, the U.S. has plenty of fossil fuels to operate our Navy for hundreds of years. In the latter post I wrote, "When we claim we're "hostages" to foreign energy, we're just being stupid. Politically correct, but stupid." Develop the energy we have, and stop this nonsense.

This program of the SecNav is a another misstep in already overly "politically correct" environment.
Chart from here

On the other hand, sail makers should be out in force, selling "new" wind energy tools for optimum fuel savings for promotion hungry officers.

Or, hey, just tie the ships up and send the crews home to practice being at sea by playing video games and following other silly guidelines.

Somali Pirates: Latest ONI Piracy Analysis and Warning Weekly (to 27 Oct 11)

You can download the latest U.S. Navy Office of Naval Intelligence reports here, including the "Piracy Analysis and Weekly Warning" - the latest of which runs to 27 Oct 2011. Generally, Somali piracy seems to have slowed, with but one reported attempt:
(U) Vessels Fired Upon/Attempted Boarding:
(U) INDIAN OCEAN: Cargo ship (HR CONSTELLATION) fired upon by pirates in two skiffs on 20 October while approximately 275 nm northeast of Port Victoria, Seychelles. One of the two skiffs approached to within 50-100 meters of the vessel. The armed security team on board the cargo ship fired warning shots and the skiff broke pursuit with the pirates returning fire. The crew had mustered in the safe room while the Master, chief mate, and security team remained on the bridge. The Master reported that the vessel had implemented version 4 Best Management Practices, reported to UKMTO, and had conducted weekly counter-piracy drills. The master later reported the vessel safe. (UKMTO, Owner)
One of the reasons successful attacks are in decline is contained in the report - in the part I emphasized above - merchant ships carrying armed guards and are shooting back at the pirates instead of playing the role of passive victims and letting themselves be taken by ragtag pirates.

It should be noted that the British government has now authorized the use of such armed teams on merchants carrying their flag. See here for a Navy Times report:
Ships sailing under Britain’s flag will be permitted to carry armed guards on some perilous routes to combat the threat from pirates, the prime minister said Sunday.

David Cameron said Britain was reversing its opposition to the use of weapons aboard ships, amid mounting concern about the risks of vessels and crew being seized by pirates — particularly off Somalia’s coast.

Cameron’s office said the use of weapons on British-flagged ships is banned under firearms laws, but that new rules would be in place within a month.

Britain’s announcement follows the decision in February of the International Chamber of Shipping, the major trade association of ship owners, to support members hiring private security companies to provide protection.

“The evidence is that ships with armed guards don’t get attacked, don’t get taken for hostage or for ransom, and so we think this is a very important step forward,” Cameron told the BBC during a visit to a Commonwealth summit in Australia, where he discussed the issue with leaders from the Seychelles and Mauritius.
The ONI PAWW report is important, too, because of its maps representing the weather impact on possible pirate activity, such as the one below (though, to be candid, in between monsoons, the weather in the upper Indian Ocean, Gulf of Aden, etc, is generally pretty favorable to pirates operating in small boats which explains a great deal of their success over the years during those non-monsoon months):

Coast Guard Revisits "The Perfect Storm" 20 years later

Nice reminder of some earlier really bad Halloween weather in The Perfect Storm, 20 years later at the Coast Guard Compass.

Lives saved in a high risk environment. The Coast Guard way.

Remember the others who also took the risks to help others and never made it home.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Strait of Malacca Piracy: A Tanker and a Barge Rescued

Reported as Malaysia rescues hijacked tanker, barge:
Malaysia maritime authorities have rescued a tanker and a barge which were hijacked in the latest South China Sea pirate attacks, according to officials.

A tanker carrying oil and gas worth 14 million ringgit ($4.6 million) was hijacked Thursday in the Straits of Singapore, said Syed Mohamad Fuzi Syed Hasan, a regional operations director with the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency.

Authorities located the Malaysian-registered MT Nautica Johor Bahru off the country's east coast Friday after an alert from the shipping company that the vessel was no longer contactable.

Navy ships from Malaysia and neighbouring Indonesia managed to intercept the vessel in Indonesian waters though the pirates, about 10 men armed with a pistol and machetes, got away in a speedboat, Syed Mohamad Fuzi said.

None of the 19 crew members was injured but their belongings were stolen. The tanker was on its way from peninsular Malaysia to Borneo island, he said.

Meanwhile, authorities also rescued a barge with two crew and palm oil worth eight million ringgit on board Thursday off southern Malaysia, said maritime enforcement agency regional commander Zulkifli Abu Bakar.

The barge was hijacked from a fishing boat in Indonesian waters Wednesday while traveling from Borneo to peninsular Malaysia, he said. The six armed pirates had left the barge, presumably to get another tug boat.

Noel Choong, head of the International Maritime Bureau's piracy reporting centre, called on authorities and ships to be vigilant.

"We hope it's not going to be a start again (of more such attacks). The authorities have to clamp down on these fast," he told AFP. "In this region ships should maintain a strict anti-piracy watch."
The cooperation between Indonesia and Malaysia is to be commended.

UPDATE: More on the tanker rescue here:
The Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) and Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) rescued a tanker with a RM12 million oil and gas cargo, from a group of armed pirates in the South China Sea, Friday night.

RMN Commander of Naval Region 1, First Admiral Datuk Mohamad Roslan Mohamad Ramli said the 19 crew oil tanker MT Nautica Johor Bahru was rescued at 9.10pm after they were given clearance by Indonesia’s Sea Security Coordinating Board to pursue the vessel into Indonesian waters.

Read more: http://www.theborneopost.com/2011/10/30/navy-mmea-rescue-hijacked-oil-tanker/#ixzz1cNRjuuWl

Today on Midrats: A Reporter's View of Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Importance of Tribes

As we continue to look at the 10th anniversary of our involvement in Afghanistan, we call on a reporter with long association in the Afghanistan, Pakistan and India area.

Our guest on Midrats today at 5pm Eastern U.S. will be Rone Tempest.

Mr. Tempest is a former Los Angeles Times national and foreign correspondent who served as the newspaper’s bureau chief in Houston, New Delhi, Paris, Beijing, Hong Kong and Sacramento from 1981 to 2007. In 2004 he was part of a team of reporters and photographers to win the Pulitzer Prize for coverage of massive wildfires in Southern California. A resident of Lander, Wyoming, he served as WyoFile.com’s editor until November 2010.

During his stint with the LA Times, Mr. Tempest was one of the foreign reporters riding out of Afghanistan on Russian armor as the Russians withdrew, visited the country while the Taliban were in charge and was recalled to the area shortly after 9-11. One of his key takeaways from his experience is the importance of tribes both in Afghanistan and in Pakistan, as well as in other parts of Southwest Asia.

A graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, he also attended the American University in Beirut and colleges in Germany and France.

He also suffers the distinction of being my brother.

The general link to Midrats is here.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

U.S. Navy First Airship in 50 Years Revealed

Yes, it's a research tool and not like the Macon and all those older planes, except that it is an airship, as reported at First Navy airship in 50 years unveiled at NJ base :

Good luck with those budget cuts. There is a place for such machines in the services, though.

I'd go with nuclear power, though. And that internal fighter thing.

I don't think the Sparrowhawk is the answer, though.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Somali Pirates: "Stagnated"

Well, some good news on the Somali piracy front from the NATO Shipping Center Weekly Piracy Assessment:
During the reporting period from 20 – 26 Oct 11 piracy activity in the Arabian Sea and Somali Basin has stagnated. There was one incident of suspicious activity in the Bab Al Mandeb (BAM), as well as three reports of suspicious activity and one attack in the Somali Basin. There was a successful disruption in the southern Somali basin of one whaler and one skiff about 120 nm off the Kenyan coast.
It's not that there are not some suspicious boats out there, the report notes, it just, well, not much is happening.

Good news. But, as always, keep one eye open.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Somali Pirates: A Techno Fix?

DefenceWeb suggestions for modern ways of fighting Somali pirates in "Technology there to find, fix, finish pirates":
Finding pirates before they can launch attacks requires a fully integrated intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance cycle: Intelligence to build an initial picture of the situation; surveillance to develop and update that picture; and focused reconnaissance to add detail and follow up leads to further refine that picture.
The key elements required to perform this function will include shore-based radars, maritime surveillance and patrol aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicle systems (UAVS); patrol vessels of several types, with embarked helicopters or UAVS; shore-based fixed and mobile sensors, including radar and optronic sensors, and electronic intelligence gathering systems to monitor radar emissions and communications signals.
Fast Manned Patrol Boats
Fast Unmanned Boats
Money to fund this work is, of course, the drawback. The rest of it is essentially correct. As has been discussed here before, the key is to, one way or the other, blockade the pirate operating areas. See, Somali Pirates: U.S. Senator Proposes Legislation for Counter Piracy, Somali Pirates: Hmmm . . . is a pirate port blockade coming? and the links therein. In the latter post, by the way, I touched on the use of UAVs, USVs and more to help in the blockade:
Manned Patrol Aircraft
Anti-Pirate "Mothership"
Containment involves limiting the damage that can be caused by pirates. This can be carried out by naval patrols, convoys, establishing safe routes and blockades of pirate ports, the very sort of activity we now see by naval units in the area.

Drones, patrol aircraft and lots of small fast boats to run down anything that leaves known pirate hangouts.

It could work.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Week's Worth of Piracy 18 Oct - 25 Oct 2011

From reports found here:
Singapore Strait attack
Date of Occurrence: 10/25/2011 Reference Number: 2011-438 Geographical Subregion: 71 Geographical Location: 1° 15' 30" N 104° 02' 00" E
Aggressor: PIRATES Victim: TUG BOAT AND BARGE Description: SINGAPORE STRAITS: Pirates in two boats approached and followed a barge towed by a tug. The crew directed searchlights towards the barge but could not detect the small boats. Master contacted other vessels including a security vessel in their convoy. Later a Singapore navy warship contacted and alerted the tug's Master that there are two small skiffs hiding behind his barge. Master altered course and spotted the two pirates boats resulting in the skiffs moving away. At 0200 local time, skiffs once again approached the barge. The navy warship spotted the skiffs and alerted the Master. Even with the presence of the warships the pirates boarded the barge. Upon inspection propertes and stores of the barge were found stolen.

Sulu Sea attack off Philippines
Date of Occurrence: 10/24/2011 Reference Number: 2011-439 Geographical Subregion: 92 Geographical Location: 6° 59' 54" N 119° 44' 48" E
Aggressor: PIRATES Victim: BULK CARRIER Description: SULU SEA, PHILIPPINES: Pirates in six speed boats chased and attempted to board a bulk carrier underway. Master raised alarm, took evasive manuevers, crew mustered and activated fire hoses. The pirates chased the ship for 15 minutes and then aborted the attempted attack. The boats were last seen heading towards a fishing vessel in the vicinity.

Last 3 report locations
Date of Occurrence: 10/23/2011 Reference Number: 2011-440 Geographical Subregion: 63 Geographical Location: 4°59' 00" N 54° 29' 00"E
Aggressor: PIRATES Victim: TANKER Description: 360 MILES EAST OF HOBYO, SOMALIA: Armed pirates in two skiffs chased and attempted to board a tanker underway. Mother ship in the vicinity. Master increased speed, carried out evasive maneuvers and onboard security team fired warning shots. Ship evaded the attack.

Date of Occurrence: 10/20/2011 Reference Number: 2011-443 Geographical Subregion: 61 Geographical Location: 1°11' 30" S 58°32' 18" E
Aggressor: PIRATES Victim: HEAVY LOAD CARRIER Description: 270 MILES OFF SEYCHELLES: Armed pirates in two skiffs chased and fired upon a heavy load carrier underway with intent to hijack. Master raised alarm, increased speed, took evasive maneuvers, contacted CSO and all crew mustered at citadel. Onboard security team returned fire. Later the pirates aborted the attack and moved away.

Date of Occurrence: 10/20/2011 Reference Number: 2011-436 Geographical Subregion: 61 Geographical Location: 1° 12' 00" S 58° 32' 00" E Aggressor: PIRATES Victim: MERCHANT VESSEL Description: WESTERN INDIAN OCEAN: Merchant vessel attacked in 01-12S 058-32E at 1432Z on 20 Oct. Vessels are advised to keep 100 miles clear of this position and to exercise extreme caution.
One of the most interesting reports is that of an attack in the Sulu Sea near the Philippines. It's been awhile since that was an active area.

How to Save Lives and Much More

AltelaRain® 600
A nice bit if inventing reported in Ocean News and Technology Magazine, September 2011 issue:
New technology brings water treatment to the masses

For over 100 years, the removal of salts from water required high pressure, large factories, metal parts susceptible to corrosion and massive amounts of electricity. All of this cost a bundle and led to the creation of huge desalination plants usually on the ocean somewhere. “Desal,” as it's called, meant only the richest countries could afford the factories.

Because the desal technology was too cumbersome and not available to water treatment facilities across the nation, the salt byproducts, such as total dissolved solids (TDS's), and other hazardous chemicals from industrial uses, have found their way into our rivers and drinking water. A new desal technology has emerged that not only can desalinate water at an affordable cost, but can also simultaneously remove harmful chemicals and disease microbes from the water.

It all started years ago when a scientist working in a small lab at a university in Arizona, had an idea. Dr. Jim Beckman, a professor at Arizona State University, asked these questions: Why couldn't desalination technology avoid using pressure, metal parts, and large amounts of electricity? Why couldn't the technology use no pressure and instead rely on plastic parts to avoid corrosion, and thus use almost no electricity? So Beckman went to work – and after years in the lab, he produced a system that can do just that. In order to treat the water, Altela technology uses the simplest of Mother Nature's processes, making rain. The mechanics are simple: each AltelaRain® tower is composed of two chambers. Steam and hot air taken from a heat stream or waste heat, circulate throughout the two chambers. As brackish water enters one chamber, it evaporates by passing through the steam. The water's contaminants fall to the bottom and exit the chamber. Next, dry air is pumped into the bottom of chamber, which carries the evaporated water molecules into the other chamber. From there, the water is condensed into clean water droplets. As the water condenses it becomes colder and emits heat that re-enters the other chamber and evaporates the brackish water.

Altela manufactures small, portable units that can be set up anywhere. That means the technology can remove salt and all harmful chemicals at any site in the country easily, cheaply, and with 90% less energy than other water treatment systems. An AltelaRain® module could run off of solar energy, enabling it to treat water from a village in Africa to the Marcellus Shale of Pennsylvania.

What does this mean, in practice? It means that all water coming from the Marcellus Shale natural gas wells, known as “frac water,” can be made cleaner than drinking water before going into the river. It means that runoff from a landfill, water that pollutes the streams, rivers and oceans ultimately can be treated on site before it is released. And it means that every village in Africa can have a small water treatment plant to stop the deaths of 3.5 million people every year from a lack of safe drinking water.

In fact, Altela's facility in Albuquerque is busy churning out modules to do just that. Its AltelaRain® 600 systems have also been installed in Pennsylvania and are processing water from natural gas wells to keep the industry going, despite new regulations, and sustaining 156,000 jobs in Pennsylvania alone.

“We set out to revolutionize the desal treatment, and we ended up finding a solution to water treatment all over the world, from the Marcellus Shale, to the smallest village in Africa,” said CEO Ned Godshall. “Pennsylvania is the beginning, but now we are poised to provide clean drinking water for the planet and stop the needless deaths of 3.5 million people every year.”
Good for people, good for the oil and gas industry, good for clean water.

Nice. Well done, Dr. Beckman!

UPDATE: No, I don't own any stock in Altela nor is this meant to be investment advice. If you are taking investment advice from me, you are not the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree, are you?

Altela, Inc. - Green Tech Report from Altela, Inc. on Vimeo.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Somali Pirates: Taking them out early

New anti-piracy strategy against Somali pirates? Maybe, as hinted at here:
"I am also heartened to hear from EUNAVFOR that both pirate dhows which have put to sea so far this season have been put out of service, one of them at the bottom of the sea. And also that a pirate whaler acting as a supply ship was also sunk last week through a joint EU/NATO operation Rules of Engagement are already strong, and the naval operations will be given the legal authority they need to deliver effective action. This Government is 100 percent behind a more robust response to piracy, and we are glad to see the Royal Navy, EUNAVFOR and NATO leading the way."
Well, if they can't get to where the ships are, it just might tend to slow them down.

Not so much a news flash: "America once had pirates, just like Somalia"

I guess somewhere along the way, in his youth, the author of this piece from The New Republic, "We Were Pirates Once, And Young: An American Way To Understand Somali Pirates" must have missed reading about Blackbeard, Anne Bonny, Vane, Major Bonnet, or even looked at DeFoe's A General History of the Pyrates. Or any of a rather large number of other materials about the history of piracy off the Americas. And maybe he never got to the part about "walking the plank" and other pirate cruelties until recently. And to find that some of America's early fortunes were made by underwriting pirates, well, yawn, hasn't that been known for some time? Just like their participation in the slave trade made some of them very rich?

In any event, Mr. Moore has now discovered Somali pirates and finds that, to what should be no one's surprise, finds there are similarities between the pirates of olden times and the modern Somali version.

And, here, all the time I have been blogging on the topic (for what, 6-7 years?), I thought that was the point. That and the irony of a modern world trying to learn to control an old, old problem.

The funniest part of the piece to me is this:
Of course, there are crucial differences between early America and modern Somalia beyond where the money ends up. Pirates helped build the American colonies because the colonists belonged to a well-organized system of trade; the stolen money oiled a working—if rudimentary—infrastructure, which Somalia lacks. Twenty years of civil war have left the nation without proper schools, institutions, and in some cases functioning roads. Khat also leaves people listless, and constant warfare leaves them traumatized. Piracy—so far—tends to fuel the chaos, not alleviate it. American colonists also had ambitions to build a stable new country, and it’s not clear that Somalis have the same unified will. Still, with peace, and infrastructure, some Somali pirate treasure might not go to waste.
Gee, with peace and infrastructure most of Somalia and its people might not go to waste. It's a failed state, for goodness sake, which kind of implies lack of peace and infrastructure, doesn't it? And the pirate "treasure" is ransom extorted by holding humans hostage in terrible conditions. I'm sure if Somalia were a peaceable kingdom, they would have many more millions in foreign aid than the pirates have "earned" in total.

Of course, it also is true that if I had a few million dollars, the efforts of many Porsche workers would not be wasted.

It's all in the "if," isn't it? Meanwhile, the pirates are part of criminal enterprises that are exploiting poor Somalis and screwing up a few major sea lanes.

Too bad they can't get their act together enough to allow the world to help them help themselves. Remember that Somalia was one of the first big "humanitarian interventions" and that didn't end well for anyone.

So, Mr. Moore, what's the plan to solve the problem?

Somali Pirates: British Force Takes Down Pirate "Mothership"

HMS Somerset's Merlin helicopter fires warning shots across the bow of the pirate dhow [Picture: Leading Airman (Photographer) Dave Jenkins, Crown Copyright/MOD 2011]
Reported as British Commandos free 20 crew held hostage on pirate "mothership"in the Indian ocean:
Royal Marine Commandos staged a daring raid freeing 20 sailors held hostage on a pirate 'mothership' afloat in the Indian Ocean, it was revealed today.

Backed by gunfire from a Merlin helicopter, a boarding team stormed the cargo vessel, which had been hijacked by pirates to use as a base to attack merchant shipping in the area.

'Through my weapon sight I could see dark figures moving in the shadows on the bridge,' said Captain Rod Yapp, who led the assault.'We quickly boarded and secured the dhow, then mustered the 24 occupants on her bow.'
UK MOD report, with more pictures, here:
It is believed the dhow was hijacked by suspected pirates so that they could use it as a base, or mother ship, from which to launch attacks against merchant ships many hundreds of miles from Somalia. Throughout this time, the Pakistani crew of the dhow were held hostage onboard.

On Friday 14 October, some 200 miles (320km) off the coast, HMS Somerset and RFA Fort Victoria closed in on the dhow.

HMS Somerset's Commanding Officer, Commander Paul Bristowe, said:

"The mother ship was located by Somerset's Merlin helicopter at first light and the boarding teams brought to immediate notice whilst Somerset closed with the dhow."
In the run up to being boarded, the suspected pirates were observed by Somerset's Merlin helicopter ditching equipment and weapons overboard as well as setting one of their skiffs adrift. Despite their desperate attempts to cover their tracks, a large cache of boarding ladders, weapons, a second attack skiff, and equipment from a previously pirated ship were found onboard.

Captain Yapp said:

"There was a clear indication that the suspected pirates found on the dhow were well-practised and knew what they were doing. One of the weapons had recently been fired and was well maintained - as was the RPG [rocket-propelled grenade] rocket.

"I think that if we hadn't disrupted this group of suspected pirates, it is quite possible that they would have attacked another merchant vessel."

U.S. Oil Shale Under Part of Wyoming Estimated at 1.45 Trilliom Barrels

Green River shale oil in place put at 1.45 trillion bbl

A trillion barrels is 1 million million  (1,000,000,000,000) barrels in U.S. terms. According to the EIA Saudi Arabia has 266.75 billion barrels of proven oil reserves, so this report would seem to give the U.S. even more oil than Saudi Arabia, though it is shale oil.

The EIA reports the U.S. crude oil and products imports 9,440,000 barrels/day. Assuming you can recover it, a trillion barrels would replace those imports for 288 years, by my rough calculations.

If these numbers are correct, why is this not a bigger news story?

You can find the supporting U.S.G.S. report in pdf format here.

UPDATE: Speaking of big energy finds, a report of a large gas find off Africa, which is a good thing, I would think for Mozambique:
An Eni group has drilled a giant gas discovery at the first well in Area 4 off northern Mozambique that the company said is the largest operated find in its history.
“The outstanding volume of natural gas discovered will lead to a large scale gas development with a combination of both export to regional and international markets through LNG and supply to the domestic market. This will support the industrial and economic growth of the country,” Eni said.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Regular Blogging to Resume Soon

We had one of these as air cover on one of our hikes
Back from a mini-vacation. After rediscovering where I put everything and catching up a little, regular blogging should be back . . . this evening?

In the meantime, enjoy this from Sunday's Midrats, where the guest was Bill Roggio from The Long War Journal which one of my daily reads:

Listen to internet radio with Midrats on Blog Talk Radio 


No, despite the rumors, this is not a picture of me. I was nowhere near the beach. But, yes, it does resemble my preferred beach attire.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Worldwide Piracy to 13 Oct 11

From the file of the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence, weekly
Worldwide Threat to Shipping Report. A highlight of some areas around the globe:

1. (U) NIGERIA: Product Tanker CAPE BIRD boarded and hijacked 08 October at 2040 UTC, near position 04:55N, 004:51E, approximately 90 nm south of Lagos, Nigeria. Recent reporting indicates that the ship has not yet been released. (IMB)
2. (U) BENIN: Chemical tanker fired upon, boarded, and robbed 2 October at 2337 LT while drifting in position 04:06N, 002:51E, approximately 136 nm southeast of Cotonou, Benin. Pirates armed with automatic weapons approached in two small boats and boarded the vessel. The crew retreated into the citadel and stayed there the whole night, when they emerged the
next day they found that the pirates had stolen ship cash. (IMB)
3. (U) GUINEA: Cargo ship (THOR LIGHT) boarded and robbed 29 September at 0505 UTC while anchored in position 09:24N, 013:43W, Conakry anchorage. Ten to twelve robbers armed with guns and knives boarded the vessel and assaulted the eleven crew members. Robbers stayed onboard for approximately 40 minutes, during which time they stole ship's and crew's cash and crew's personal belongings before escaping. Port authorities were contacted but received no response. (Open Source, IMB)
4. (U) TOGO: A chemical tanker experienced an attempted boarding on 24 September at 0130 UTC while anchored in position 06:01N, 001:15E at the Lome Anchorage. Two small boats approached shipside, the duty officer told them to move away, but was ignored. Later, two more boats approached the vessel from the stern and secured themselves to the ship's rudder. The master informed the Togo Navy, which responded and detained all four boats. Nothing was stolen from the vessel. (IMB)
5. (U) TOGO: Bulk carrier experienced an attempted boarding on 16 September at 0340 LT while anchored in position 06:03.7N, 001:17.5E at the Lome Anchorage. Seven robbers in a fast boat approached the vessel, one of the robbers had a hook attached to a rope. The duty crew spotted the robbers, contacted the bridge, and informed another watchman. Master
raised the alarm, sounded the shipĂ­s horn, and the crew directed search lights. The pirates aborted the attack upon seeing the alerted crew. The Togo Navy was contacted but did not respond; later, a naval boat patrolled the area. (IMB)
6. (U) BENIN: Product tanker (MATTHEOS I) hijacked on 14 September at 0121 UTC during ship-to-ship (STS) transfer operations approximately 62 nm southwest of Cotonou (see below incident). The vessel had 23 crew members, composed of Filipinos and Spanish, Peruvian, and Ukrainian officers. The pirates sailed the vessel to an unknown location. (IMB)
7. (U) BENIN: Product tanker boarded on 14 September at 0121 UTC during STS operations approximately 62 nm southwest of Cotonou. Master sent out an SSAS alert and the crew locked themselves into the engine room. The pirates later left the vessel, and when the crew left the engine room there were no pirates onboard. (IMB)

Kosovo: The Fun Never Ends

What, 12 years after a NATO action to protect the Kosovar Albanians from the Serbs, the fun goes on as NATO moves to remove Kosovo Serb roadblocks:
Kosovo's NATO-led peacekeepers confronted crowds of angry Serbs on Thursday as they tried to remove Serb roadblocks in the volatile north of the country.

For nearly three months, Kosovo Serbs have been blocking roads to stop the country's ethnic Albanian leadership from extending its control over the part of the country populated mostly by ethnic Serbs.

The Serbs reject Kosovo's 2008 declaration of independence from Serbia and consider the region a part of the larger Serbian nation.

After Kosovo Serb leaders refused NATO's demand to allow freedom of movement, the peacekeepers in riot gear moved in at dawn Thursday against hundreds of Serbs at roadblocks consisting of parked trucks, rocks, mud and logs.

Scum: "Somali kidnappers want cash for dead body"

Scum: Somali kidnappers want cash for dead body:
The Somali kidnappers of a disabled Frenchwoman who died after being snatched from her home in Kenya are demanding a ransom for the return of her body, France said on Thursday.

"The hostage-takers are even trying to sell the remains, it could not be more despicable," French Defence Minister Gerard Longuet told the i-TELE news network.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Italy and Malta Tussle Over Eastern Mediterranean Energy Search

As you may recall, Israel has a big offshore natural gas find in the Eastern Mediterranean as set out here, which has created a row with its neighbor, Lebanon (some suggest Iran's hand is involved in this). In addition, drilling off Cyprus has Turkey doing its own "exploration" under armed naval escort. Tension is up, ugly words are spoken. Billions of dollars are at stake.

See Saturn 5's coverage at Bosphorus Naval News here and the links therein for more on the Turkey and Cyprus issue.

Greece also is looking at issuing exploration permits in its offshore areas, and,
well, now, there are new sparring partners, as little Malta issues permits for offshore exploration and Italy jumps in claiming rights to some of the same undersea zones. See here:
Interest in Mediterranean exploration has fostered great hopes but has also led to increased tensions in the region. US independent Noble Energy's large gas discoveries offshore Israel, have shed light on the potential of offshore acreage in the region. Investors are now looking to Cyprus, while Lebanon is planning its first offshore licensing round in 2012. On October 6, Greece also announced that it will put three blocks in the Adriatic on offer for exploration in 2012. Previously, Greece's development minister, Kostis Hatzidakis, said that the government had plans to start exploration for oil in the Aegean Sea.

However, this has proved to be a poisoned chalice with regard to diplomatic ties in the region. Turkey's relationship with Israel has disintegrated and it has opposed Noble's drilling plans off Cyprus, as it has yet to formally agree its maritime borders with the island-state. It has also threatened to place military vessels in the Mediterranean Sea to impede what it considers to be provocative exploration. In addition, the long feud between Greece and Turkey over maritime borders could make the situation worse, particularly in terms of exploration in the Aegean. Lebanon and Israel have similarly yet to agree on a maritime border.

In the case of Italy, tensions with Malta have risen following the island's publication of a tender for oil exploration in the Ionian Sea - in areas claimed by Italy. Meanwhile, Malta is also in dispute with Libya over its southern maritime borders. Furthermore, environmental concerns over a possible oil spill in the Mediterranean's closed sea could also hamper upstream activity in the region.

With recent discoveries in the eastern Mediterranean and further ongoing exploration already taking place offshore Italy, Albania, Croatia, Montenegro (and possibly Greece in the near future), we believe that exploration on Italy's side of the Ionian Sea is likely to attract significant interest. Nevertheless, this raises political tensions and a great deal of diplomacy will be required if serious disputes are to be resolved or avoided.
Oh, Libya, too.

Nice turf war you got there, fellas.

There's an element of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre in all this. Mixed in with international threats, of course.

Greed kills.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Computer Modeling to Fight Sea Pirates

While I don't pretend to understand all the aspects of what this involves, the Agent Technology Center is employing its process to aid in the anti-sea pirate fight, as set out in Agentc - Projects:
We explore how multi-agent systems, a branch of artificial intelligence, can be used to improve maritime security, with particular focus on fighting maritime piracy. Our ultimate objective is to develop an integrated set of algorithmic techniques for maximizing transit security given the limited protection resources available. We achieve this by improving the coordination of the movement of merchant vessels and naval patrols, while taking into account the behavior of pirates.

In order to evaluate the proposed techniques and to gain better insight into the structure and dynamics of maritime piracy, we also employ agent-based simulation and machine learning techniques to build dynamic models of maritime transit and to model and assess piracy risk.

All methods are implemented within a modular software testbed featuring a scalable simulation engine, connectors to real-world data sources and powerful visualization front-end based on Google Earth.
Got that? Well, here's a video:

UPDATE: Nice visual of sea lanes, a thwarted pirate attack and more. Suggest using full screen mode. Setting of optimal patrol sectors on transit lane is interesting.

Overall, Piracy Rises, But Fewer Successful Somali Pirate Hijackings (Compared to Last Year)

From Platt's Piracy rises yet more ships escape Somali pirates: IMB:
Piracy has risen to record levels in the first nine months of the year with Somali pirates behind 56% of the 352 attacks, the International Maritime Bureau said Tuesday.

"Figures for piracy and armed robbery at sea in the past nine months are higher than we have ever recorded in the same period of any past year," said Pottengal Mukundan, Director of IMB. The IMB's Piracy Reporting Center has monitored piracy worldwide since 1991.

More ships, however, are escaping Somali pirates with hijack attempts "being thwarted by strengthened anti-piracy measures," the report said.

Despite the Somali pirates initiating more attacks, which amounted to 199 through September, up from 126 last year, and going further out in the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean, they "are managing to hijack fewer vessels," the report said.

"Only 24 vessels were hijacked this year compared with 35 for the same period in 2010," the IMB said.

"Policing and interventions by international naval forces," as well as "careful consideration of the crews' retreat to a 'citadel' and other onboard security measures" were credited for the reduction in hijackings off Somalia.
What the IMB did not say, or what was not report in the piece if it was said, is that a large number of attempted attacks have been turned away by shipboard armed security teams.

As of today, no ship with an armed security force on it has been hijacked. What is also unreported is that the pirates continue to expand into new areas, apparently in an effort to find ships with lowered security levels because they are out of the recognized piracy danger areas. Thus, the expansion into the lower Red Sea (weather also being a factor), along the coast of Pakistan and India and offshore Tanzania and Kenya.

With an adequate mothership, a pirate team can cover a lot of the Indian Ocean. Of course, as as been discussed before, they really need to stick to known sea lanes to find the most targets.

Better Harbor and Port Security Through Electro Optics

US Sensor Systems reports on a new undersea surveillance system that shows some promise in a press release dated from August 2011:
US Seismic Systems (USSI) . . . announced today it successfully completed a demonstration of its underwater harbor security system this month at a Lake Erie, PA, test site under a contract with Penn State’s Electro Optic Center sponsored by the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC), Crane, IN. USSI had installed two fiber optic sonar arrays on the lake bottom to detect small craft attempting to enter a protected region of interest (ROI). The USSI system positively detected 100% of the intrusion attempts at ranges up to 4 km. USSI’s equipment was part of a much larger integrated harbor security system called Harbor Sentinel, which included surface search radar, thermal imaging cameras and Automated Identification System (AIS) ship tracking information.
The USSI system demonstrated the feasibility of using a very low cost fiber optic underwater sonar array to provide automated tripwire and ROI alarms in a harbor environment without operator intervention. In May, USSI achieved similar results during testing of the system in San Diego’s Mission Bay.
“There are 360 US ports and harbors that conduct trillions of dollars commerce annually. Many of these facilities, which are located in close proximity to large metropolitan centers handle a variety of highly toxic, flammable, and explosive materials,” stated Jeff Grannan of NSWC. “Damage to or destruction of containers storing these substances poses a vulnerability to critical US infrastructure, disruption of commerce, and endangerment to the surrounding population. USSI’s new sensor technology can be an effective force multiplier to assist those agencies tasked with the vital role of keeping America safe.”
“We were gratified to be selected to participate in this very important program, and were very excited that our equipment performed so well under the actual, real-life harbor intrusion scenarios,” stated Jim Andersen, CEO of USSI. “Our fiber optic sensor systems are designed for reliable, trouble-free operation in tough environments, such as in an oil well or at sea, and this highly successful test serves as just one more example of the advantages of our breakthrough technology over traditional, electronic-based sensor systems.”
More from the Penn State Electro-Optics Center here:
Harbor Sentinel utilizes complementary sensor types. Radar and AIS detect surface vessels. Passive fiber optic acoustic arrays detect propelled vehicles without wet side electronics. A 360° panoramic camera with zoom capability identifies surface vessels. High resolution telescopic EO/IR cameras interrogate detected vessels. Data is passed from the sensors via standards based messaging to a single operator station, where it is integrated into a comprehensive display for situational awareness. The operator can cross-cue between sensors to quickly investigate detected targets with other sensors.
In the old days of Inshore Undersea Warfare, this sort of thing was a pipe dream.

I do note, however, that some of that stuff in the second picture looks like it came from a MIUW Unit.

Hat tip: Ocean News & Technology magazine

Monday, October 17, 2011

Somali Piracy Spread from 2005 to October 2011

A short video showing where the Somali pirates have spread over the last few years.

Somali Pirates: Start of the Week Where the Pirates Are (Maybe)

Once again, we see suspected Pirate Action Groups sitting on the major northern Indian Ocean shipping lanes and long the coastwise routes off East Africa, as shown on the NATO Shipping Center's Pirate Action Group (PAG) Map:

And a little action off Tanzania/Kenya:
Alert 229 / 2011 16/10/2011 10:50 05 01S 040 03E Attacked
At 1050 UTC / 16 OCT 11 / a merchant vessel was reported under attack by 1 skiff in position 05 01 S 040 03 E. This vessel managed to evade hijack. The Pirate action group is still in the area
That's the brighter reddish spot off the borderline of Tanzania and Kenya on the map.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

"Libya Lessons Learned" on Midrats, Episode 93

Today, 5pm Eastern U.S. a discussion on the early lessons to be learned from the NATO experience in Libya with Sal from CDR Salamander, Eagle1 and Dr. Robbin Laird:
Dr. Robbin Laird is co-founder of Second Line of Defense. He is a Washington and Paris based defense consultant and has worked with all of the US services on various strategic issues. His most recent books are the Re-Norming of Air Power and 21st Century Air Capabilities.
In addition to his books, Dr. Laird's works include: The Libyan Operation: Rethinking the Space Contribution in Rapid Response Operations, The Libyan Operation: Comparing the French and USMC Experiences and at AOL Defense French Libya Lessons Learned: Better Targeting, Flexible ROEs, Limits to Armed UAVs, for starters.

Join us 5pm Sunday 16 October at the link you'll find at the Midrats on BlogTalkRadio home page here. You if can't make the show, you can download it from the Midrats BTR home page or from iTunes.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Danube River Pirates: Arrests in Serbia

Reported at Piracy in Europe: Danube River Pirates Arrested in Serbia:
The issue of piracy has made global headlines in recent years with events off the Somali coast, but instances of piracy are also occurring along the waterways of mainland Europe, according to a report in Croatian daily, Jutarnji List, on October 12, 2011.

According to the paper, transportation company Dunavski Lloyd has suffered three attacks this year alone on the internationally vital transport route of the Danube River, which runs from Rotterdam to the Black Sea, and is an important trade route for many European businesses.
Shipping Equipment Stolen

In the last attack, on the company' ship Sloga, approximately 60,000 euros worth of equipment was stolen from the vessel in the Serbian port of Smederevo, a theft which delayed Sloga's onward journey to the Black Sea, due to lack of equipment. The theft left the ship without key navigation equipment and the ability to raise the anchor, among other things . The paper notes that the pirates are not targeting crews, merely equipment
In order to combat the piracy, the owner of Dunavski Lloyd, Davor Ivancan, appealed to the Croatian embassy in Belgrade for assistance. As a result of the embassy's efforts, Serbian police looked into the three cases, and have made four arrests, according to a report in the Croatian Times on October 15, 2011.
Some may remember tales of a different breed of river pirates:

Friday, October 14, 2011

Worldwide Energy: Turkmenistan has a great big gas field - #2 in the world

The Oil & Gas Journal reports another one of those nasty fossil fuel finds that drives the gloom and doom "We're running out of energy" crowd insane, in GCA: Turkmenistan's Iolotan gas field is world's second-largest :
Gaffney, Cline & Associates (GCA) said Turkmenistan’s South Iolotan natural gas field is the world’s second-largest, with an estimated 21.2 trillion cu m (tcm) of gas reserves. Supergiant Iolotan field was discovered in the country’s Amu Daria basin in late-2006 (OGJ Online, Nov. 22, 2006).

In a recent presentation, Jim Gillett, GCA business development manager, said South Iolotan’s latest reserves estimate make it second only to giant South Pars gas field, shared by Iran and Qatar.

“Turkmenistan’s gas reserves are more than enough for any potential demand over the foreseeable future, whether it be from China, Russia, Iran, or Europe,” Gillett said.

However, Gillet said estimates of the central Asian nation’s reserves could increase even more, noting that in addition to South Iolotan, the country’s Yashlar field has substantial gas, too.
For the geographically challenged, the map above will help you locate Turkmenistan.

Expect big pipeline investments from the Chinese. Pipeline rights through a couple of other 'Stans should not cost all that much.

And they probably won't have idiot "greens" whining about a way to get fuel to flow into China.

Somali Pirates: Suspicious Activity Near Pakistan

Pirates lurk along commercial shipping lanes
NATO Shipping Center alerts for 14 Oct 11 NSC | All Alerts:
NSC4: Warning- Suspicious Activity 14/10/2011 17:45 2429N 06347E Suspicious Activity
At 1743Z a merchant vessel was approached by 4 skiffs, at approximately 2nm. The skiffs ceased the approach at 1835Z

No weapons were seen.
This situation is in the northern Arabian Sea, near NSC 3: Suspicious Activity.

A broader view. Pirate motherships allow long range operations by the pirates
Masters are encouraged to exercise extreme caution when proceeding through this area.

NSC 3: WARNING - Suspicious Activity 14/10/2011 15:40 2142N 06401E Suspicious Activity
At 1542Z a merchant vessel was approached by 2-3 skiffs in position 2142N 06401E.

These skiffs closed the vessel and gotten within 0.5nm, and is following the vessel astern.

Gulf of Guinea Pirates: Ghana Buys Chinese Counter-Pirate Vessels

Ghana Orders Two 46 m Patrol Vessels from China’s Poly Technologies Incorporated:
Ghana has ordered two 46 metre patrol vessels from China’s Poly Technologies Incorporated as part of a larger drive to modernise its navy. The vessels will be used to combat piracy and increase maritime security off Ghana’s coast once they are delivered before yearend.

According to Ghana’s defence minister Lieutenant General Joseph Henry Smith, the vessels form part of the drive to modernise Ghana’s navy as it is not able to defend the country’s exclusive economic zone.
“We have constantly been reviewing our measures to safeguard our waters, most importantly to protect our oil installations,” Smith told Reuters last month. “We are aware of the increasing piracy attacks in our neighbourhood and we are very much prepared to face any such attacks.”
So, unlike the failed state of Somalia, Ghana takes steps to protect its waters including counter-piracy and fisheries protection.

Good for Ghana.

Gulf of Guinea Pirates: Tanker Released by Pirates

Early report that the crew of the tanker hijacked 90 or so miles off Nigeria has been released by the pirates here
The 20 crew of the Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker Cape Bird, hijacked by pirates off the Nigerian coast, have been freed after a week-long ordeal, the Russian sailors union said on Friday.

"The crew of the Cape Bird have been freed" the Seafarers Union of Russia said in a statement on its website. "The sailors are healthy and there are no injuries."
"The entire crew were freed this morning," Sergei Panyushkin, the head of the Columbia shipping recruitment firm that hired the sailors, told the Interfax and RIA Novosti news agencies.

He said information about how they were freed would only be divulged once the ship had returned to port. The sailors were employed by Hamburg-based German company Columbia Ship Management GmbH.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Ultimate "Tax Fairness" Plan

New IRS "Fairness Tax" Enforcer
After watching more of the "occupiers of Wall Street," I decided it was time to post and revise a comment reply I made to some comments made to my post He hates these cans. Imagine a day when you get this letter from the IRS:

From IRS "Fairness Division" Washington, D.C.
To: John Doe, Fair American
Subj: Income Tax Fairness

1. It has come to our attention that you are interested in enabling some of the poor and low-income people in this country to not be disproportionately burdened by taxes, citing "payroll tax" as an indicator of unfairness.

Did pirates nab missing scientists around Papua New Guinea?

Odd little report "Missing scientists may be in hands of pirates":
Police say five scientists with Papua New Guinea's Institute of Medical Research, who went missing in August this year may have been kidnapped by pirates.

They were on a research on malaria related diseases in Kimbe in PNG's West New Britain province when they were reported missing.

Provincial Police Commander, Anthon Billy says they may have been kidnapped by pirates.

He says a member of a suspected piracy gang has been arrested and questioned over the five missing scientists.
More here:
The scientists have been missing for more than two months, but police say a tip-off from local villagers has lead them to believe that the group were the victims of piracy.
They say an informant claims to have seen the two women from the research team alive, and that they are bing held hostage on the tiny and densely-forested
Mulgani Island.
The body of the boat's skipper was believed to have washed up on Manus Island last month.

Mr Billie [New Guinea Islands regional commander] said he believed the male scientists had been killed in the raid, with a police informant saying the skipper was shot in the moments after the pirates boarded the boat.
Sounds like a TV "movie of the week" plot by a hack screenwriter.

Somali Pirates: Armed Guards Worried Over

That's not an AK-47 that pirate has
For people who have been living under rocks someplace, The Economist offers up Piracy: Prepare to repel boarders dealing with the use of armed guards on ships plying pirate infested waters:
Until February the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), which represents the world’s merchant shipowners, opposed the use of armed guards—even as some members were discreetly hiring them. Since the chamber changed its line, the number of owners tooling up has accelerated. Now, says Simon Bennett, its spokesman, perhaps 20% of all ships passing through the risky parts of the Indian Ocean have armed guards aboard—typically retired marines or the like.

In recruiting armed security men, some shipowners have defied the laws of the countries where their vessels are registered. But governments, unable to provide the naval cover the shipowners want, are one by one legalising the practice. Spain, one of the earliest to let its fishing-boats carry armed guards, said on September 27th that they would now be allowed to use machineguns and other heavy weapons against the pirates’ AK-47s.
The UN’s International Maritime Organisation (IMO), while still not endorsing the practice, last month asked Somalia’s neighbours to let armed merchant ships call at their ports. The ICS says it understands Egypt is to lift its ban on armed merchant ships’ passage through the Suez canal. But the Indian government is still said to disapprove of armed merchant ships calling at its ports: their guards either have to go elsewhere or dump their weapons overboard.

An official inquiry in the Netherlands last month recommended that the government itself do the hiring of armed guards, enlisting them as temporary members of the armed forces. This is one potential way to ease worries about the spread of what would in effect be private navies on the high seas—something not seen since government-sponsored “privateers” were banned in the 19th century.
Shipowners’ insurers are worried that ill-trained guards without insurance of their own might shoot someone and land them with huge claims. . . .
There do not yet seem to have been any claims, or lawsuits, over the use of armed ship guards, says Tom Heinan of International Registries (which runs the Marshall Islands’ shipping register). But shipowners using them could face legal action in various places: their own country, the flag state of their ship, the home countries of injured crewmen, and so on. All the more reason to ensure that the guards are competent and well-insured.
Meanwhile, the UK government seems to have decided armed guards aren't all that bad, as reported here:
As reported in Lloyd’s List, any formal opposition to the use of private armed guards on board UK flagged vessels will now be dropped.

UK Foreign Office minister Sir Henry Bellingham confirmed a reversal on the previous strong discouragement of armed vessel protection.
The Dutch are going to provide an armed force for ship riding, as set out here, as will Italy.

Welcome to 19th century, sorta. Sometimes you just have to shoot back.

It's a U.S. Navy Birthday

Navy Birthday:
The United States Navy traces its origins to the Continental Navy, which the Continental Congress established on 13 October 1775, by authorizing the procurement, fitting out, manning, and dispatch of two armed vessels to cruise in search of munitions ships supplying the British Army in America. The legislation also established a Naval Committee to supervise the work. All together, the Continental Navy numbered some fifty ships over the course of the war, with approximately twenty warships active at its maximum strength.
What makes a great Navy?

It's always about the people who serve.

Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Travis K. Mendoza