Good Company

Good Company
Good Company

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Know Your Opposition

Some gems in this Oil and Gas Journal opinion video about the "stakeholders" in opposition to development of "non-conventional" petroleum production and transportation. The development of new means of production is an "inconvenient truth" for groups now fighting, as noted in the opinion, for that in which they've invested their time and talents. In some instances, it is almost like arguing against a religious belief.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Naval Strategy: "Cooperation from Strength: The United States, China and the South China Sea"

January 10, 2012 - at the Center for a New American Security, with an interesting introduction from Chief of Naval Operations Admrial Greenert, Cooperation from Strength: The United States, China and the South China Sea | Center for a New American Security about . . .
the future of U.S. strategy in the South China Sea and the impact of territorial disputes on the maritime commons.

For those of you who like to listen as you work out, you can download the audio here. Lots of good stuff - during one Q&A sequence, the second part of question was something like, ". . . the Chinese Ministry of Defense warned the U.S. to be careful in words and actions." To which the Admiral responded, "I appreciate the advice." UPDATE: Oh, and the written report they are discussing Cooperation from Strength: The United States, China and the South China Sea. Read it, watch it and think about how big and capable a Navy we need.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Sea Mysteries: Something on the Ocean Floor . . .

Side scan sonar images show - what, exactly? From CNN Shipwreck hunters stumble across mysterious find:
Using side-scan sonar, the team found a 60-meter diameter cylinder-shaped object, with a rigid tail 400 meters long.
Looks like some sort of rock formation to me, but there are other theories.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Exporting Good Ideas: The RiverHawk Multimission Platform Launched

MSS Image
For Lebanon, as reported by MarineLink, RiverHawk's Multimission Platform Launched
RiverHawk Fast Sea Frames (RHFSF) has launched its signature Advanced Multimission Platform (AMP) at its shipyard in Tampa, Florida. Fully designed and built in the United States, the 145-foot coastal security craft was contracted 12 months ago by the U S Department of the Navy’s Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) to Maritime Security Strategies (MSS) of Tampa, Florida. RiverHawk designed, produced and is outfitting the ship, scheduled for final delivery to NAVSEA in May. Subsequent transfer is expected this summer to the Lebanese Armed Forces under the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program. The launching ceremony was attended by NAVSEA program officials, representatives from the U S Central Command (USCENTCOM) and a delegation from Lebanon led by the Chief of the Lebanese Navy, Rear Admiral Nazih Baroudi.
The AMP 145 is a design contracted for by Maritime Security Strategies of Tampa, which describes the design as follows:
Each Advanced Multimission Platform begins with our basic design, the AMP-145.
The platforms are built performance tough, using state of the art fabrication processes, materials, and technologies.
12 month delivery.
Composite hull with Aluminum deck and superstructure for speeds of 30+ knots.
Twin Hamilton Waterjets/MTU diesel plants.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Somali Criminals: SEALing their fate

Reported as U.S. Forces Rescue Kidnapped American, Danish Humanitarian Workers in Somalia:
By the order of the President of the United States and under the direction of U.S. Africa Command (U.S. AFRICOM), early Wednesday morning, January 25, 2012, U.S. Special Operations Forces rescued an American citizen and a Danish citizen from captivity in Somalia.

Mrs. Jessica Buchanan of the United States and Mr. Poul Thisted of Denmark, who both worked for the Danish Demining Group, a non-profit humanitarian organization, were kidnapped at gunpoint on October 25, 2011, near Galcayo, Somalia, and were being held for ransom.

The Department of Justice requested assistance from the Department of Defense, which, in turn, directed U.S. AFRICOM to plan and conduct the rescue operation.

Receiving actionable intelligence, U.S. Special Operations Forces conducted a coordinated operation in the vicinity of Gadaado, Somalia. During the course of the operation, the rescue force patrolled to the location and confirmed the presence of Mrs. Buchanan and Mr. Thisted guarded by nine captors. All nine captors were killed during the assault. After securing the location, U.S. Special Operations Forces found Mrs. Buchanan and Mr. Thisted unharmed in the outdoor encampment.

"Last night's mission, boldly conducted by some of our nation's most courageous, competent, and committed special operations forces, exemplifies United States Africa Command's mission to protect Americans and American interests in Africa," said General Carter F. Ham, commanding general, U.S. Africa Command. "I am extraordinarily proud of the joint-service team that planned, rehearsed and successfully concluded this operation. Thanks to them, a fellow American and her Danish co-worker are safe and will soon be home with their families. We should remember that Mrs. Buchanan and Mr. Thisted were working to protect the people of Somalia when they were violently kidnapped. It is my hope that all those who work in Somalia for the betterment of the Somali people can be free from the dangers of violent criminals."

At the time of their abduction, Ms. Buchanan and Mr. Thisted had finished conducting a demining training course for local Somali citizens.

If I was a pirate, I wouldn't be so sure that I was safe at home. Emphasis added.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Philippines: 15 Dead Fisherman on High Seas

Reported as "High seas massacre":
Gunmen mercilessly strafed at least 15 fishermen in a grisly massacre on the high seas off Basilan, with a police official saying investigation is under way to identify and hunt down the perpetrators.

Chief Superintendent Bienvenido Latag, director of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) regional police, said they are banking on the testimony of the three survivors of the attack that occurred at around 7 a.m. Monday some 10 nautical miles away from Basilan.
The initial conduct of the investigation revealed that a total of 18 fishermen were on board three fishing boats when gunmen on board three small watercrafts started shooting them some 10 nautical miles away off the Sibago Island in Mohammad Ajul town in Basilan.
Asked if the Abu Sayyaf is responsible for the attack as the area is known routes of the bandits in going to mainland Mindanao, Latag said it is early to point the blame to the group, saying it is also a possibility that sea pirates perpetrated the massacre.

Doesn't sound like a chance encounter, does it? UPDATE: More here, which makes it sound like a fishing "turf" war:
Cabangbang told The Associated Press that the fishermen were probably attacked by a rival group of fishermen because they strayed into their fishing grounds. . . . "They were fishing in the turf of another group of fishermen from Basilan," Cabangbang said. *** One of the survivors told police that their group had been warned to stay away from the fishing grounds where the attack took place, ABS-CBN TV reported. Khu, the regional police official, said there was unconfirmed reports that the attacked fishermen were blamed by their rivals for destroying giant nets that they had set up worth about $3,500. Such nets are used for catching tuna, one of the Philippines' main exports.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Things having to do with Iran

Paying a premium for strategic incoherence | Shadow Government:
Here the administration's incapacity to develop a strategy has had deeply detrimental effects. They don't seem to realize their writing off Iraq has fanned sectarian tensions throughout the middle east, how their inactivity on Syria is further destabilizing Iraq (and vice versa), or their approach to the peace process undercut Palestinians working to build a state and further isolated Israel, can't tell the difference between success in Libya and success in Egypt, what fleeting opportunities now exist to contain Iranian activity and influence in the region, how far -- and even just how -- to support the transition to democracy, whom to partner with, or coordinate their rhetoric about priorities (a pivot to Asia?) with in this once in a century set of changes occurring in the middle east.
Morning Brief: European Union bans Iranian oil:
European ministers elected to phase in the embargo gradually to protect the European economy as it struggles to overcome its debt crisis, but enraged Iranian authorities may foil that plan. Iran's Fars news agency quoted one official as saying Iran should halt oil exports to the EU immediately "so that the price of oil soars and the Europeans ... have trouble."
Why we should take Tehran's threat to cut off the Strait of Hormuz seriously. :
, , , The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA), a well-connected Washington defense think tank, just released a new analysis of future military trends around the Persian Gulf. Mark Gunzinger and Chris Dougherty, authors of "Outside-In: Operating from Range to Defeat Iran's Anti-Access and Area-Denial Threats," assert that over the next decade, Iran could acquire military capabilities that would rip up the assumptions that the U.S. military has used for its Persian Gulf planning over the past three decades. The authors conclude that the Pentagon needs to adapt to changing military circumstances in the region by devising new plans and redirecting investments into new capabilities.
From the web page offering up referenced CSBA piece:
Iran has had ample opportunity over the last twenty years to examine the “American way of war” and to deduce that allowing the United States and its allies to mass overwhelming combat power on its borders is a prescription for defeat. Therefore, Iran is pursuing measures to deny the U.S. military access to close-in basing and make traditional U.S. power-projection operations in the Persian Gulf possible only at a prohibitive cost.
Challenges, challenges.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Midrats Sunday: Episode 107 Air-Sea Battle Budgets the PACOM Shuffle 01/22/12

 Episode 107 Air-Sea Battle Budgets the PACOM Shuffle 01/22 by Midrats | Blog Talk Radio 5pm Eastern U.S.:

 Most agree that our nation's national security focus needs to shift its weight towards the swath across the Western Pacific through the Strait of Malacca to the Northern Arabian Gulf.

We have started the same path in response to national budget and debt problems that started a decade ago in Europe; and the defense budget here as there will take the first hit.
Are we starting in the right direction - or are we in danger of inserting in to the equation a fundamental error?
Our guest for the entire hour will be returning guest and panel member, Bryan McGrath.
Bryan is the Founding Director of Delex Consulting, Studies and Analysis specializing in Defense and National Security issues, including strategy and strategic planning, executive communications, and strategic communications.
You can also find him online at Conservative Wahoo and Information Dissemination.
A retired Naval Officer, Bryan spent 21 years on active duty including a tour in command of USS Bulkeley (DDG 84), with his final duties ashore included serving as Team Lead and Primary Author of the U.S. Navy's 2007 Maritime Strategy; A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower.

Somali Pirates: Indian Dhow Freed by EUNAVFOR, Pirates Wrangle Escape

FGS Luebeck and the freed dhow (EU NAVFOR photo)
An interesting follow on to the failed pirate attack on a ship defended by Dutch Marines, where the pirate "attack dhow" was ultimately freed from pirate control, though the pirates themselves managed to blackmail their way onto another pirated mothership. All as set out in EU NAVFOR warship FGS LUEBECK successfully releases Indian dhow and crew
After three days of persistent pressure, FGS LUEBECK has forced Somali pirates to release an Indian dhow with 15 Indian mariners held as hostages.

On the 17 January 2012 the EU NAVFOR warship FGS LUEBECK re-located an Indian registered dhow which had been used as pirate mother-ship involved in the attack on M/V FLINTSTONE early the same day. A Dutch Vessel Protection Detachment (VPD) stationed on the Dutch-registered civilian fall-pipe vessel had repelled the attack following a gun-fight and caused the attack skiffs to retreat back to the pirate mother ship with injuries to the suspected pirates.

Having positively identified the dhow and sighted the attack skiffs and other pirate paraphernalia on deck of the dhow, FSG LUEBECK approached the dhow demanding that they comply via radio messages.

The vessel did not react to radio calls or to subsequent warning gunshots. Sustained pressure was applied to the dhow through the presence of FGS LUEBECK including direct shots fired into the bow of the dhow and use of the ship’s helicopter to neutralise the attack skiffs secured on the upper deck.

Throughout the action the safety of the hostages was the primary consideration, especially as the suspect pirates threatened to kill all crew members and to fire on anyone attempting to board the dhow.

During the night of 19 January 2012, FGS LUEBECK established control of the situation to allow the M/V ENRICO IEVOLI, an Italian tanker which had been pirated in December 2011, and has 18 hostages onboard to rendezvous with the Indian dhow. On arrival the pirates again threatened that they would harm all the hostages if any military action was taken to prevent a transfer of pirates who had been injured during the initial attack on the M/V FLINTSTONE.

The FGS LUEBECK maintained an overt presence and following the transfer, was able to board the Indian dhow to assure the health and safety of the crew as well as providing technical assistance. The 15 released crewmembers were all in good health. This action has denied the suspect pirates the use of the dhow as a mother-ship and freed the crew from what could have become months of captivity. The injured suspected pirates were seen to have transferred to the M/V ENRICO IEVOLI which is being shadowed . . .

Thursday, January 19, 2012

World Oil Transit Chokepoints - Add One More to the List

The U.S. Energy Information Agency has a dandy list of those narrow places on the earth where oil flowing in commerce on ships can be threatened by "pirates, terrorist attacks, and political unrest" at World Oil Transit Chokepoints. The list includes the Strait of Hormuz, the Strait of Malacca, the Suez Canal, Bab el-Mandab, the Bosporus, Panama Canal, and the Danish Straits.

Time to add another narrow area to the list, the "O Gap" sometimes located in Washington,DC and, unique to chokepoints, known to be more a part of a calculation than a real spot on the planet.

Shown below is a rare capturing of the "O Gap" as it begins to close off a route of oil to the U.S.:

Some might feel that the "O Gap" would be better known as the "Keystone Twist". Many people are unhappy with its existence, as set out in Expected Keystone XL permit rejection strongly criticized:
US Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), the primary sponsor of legislation that set a deadline for a decision, said the administration misled the American people on the pipeline. “In the face of Iranian threats against oil affordability, [it] once again is trying to blame Congress and the State of Nebraska instead of taking responsibility for American jobs and security,” he said during an appearance at a Greenwood, Ind., instruments and gauges manufacturer who potentially would be doing work for the project. “This political decision offers hard evidence that creating jobs is not a high priority for this administration,” said US Chamber of Commerce Pres. Thomas J. Donohue. “By placing politics over policy, the Obama administration is sacrificing tens of thousands of good-paying American jobs in the short term, and many more than that in the long term.”*** “Blocking the Keystone pipeline would be an enormous mistake by the Obama administration,” said National Center for Policy Analysis Senior Fellow H. Sterling Burnett. “We need the oil and we need the jobs it would bring. This is as ‘shovel ready’ as anything Obama has proposed, yet because his radical environmental constituency objects, he’s apparently halting the pipeline.”
Or, as set out in the video linked at Instapundit, “He chose Venezuela over Canada.”, which really ought to be watched.

China must like the result, Canada will look to China to sell its oil. I guess the oil tanker owners will be happy, too.

Remember the "O Gap" - the new chokepoint. UPDATE: Here, read Re-Election Obsessed Obama Goes Political On Keystone By ROBERT J. SAMUELSON

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Somali Pirates: Rejected by Dutch Marines

Somali pirates do not press encounter as Dutch marines ward off pirate attack:
Dutch marines guarding a merchant ship have warded off an attack by pirates after it was accosted in the Arabian Sea south of Yemen, the Dutch defence ministry said Tuesday.

"Dutch marines warded off the attack when pirates approached the Flintstone", a ship that dumps rocks to protect oil and gas pipelines, at around 6:00 am (0500 GMT), it said in a statement.
"The marines tried in vain to stop the fast-moving skiff, occupied by six men armed with an assortment of weapons including a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG), by firing tracers as a warning," the ministry said.

After one of the men aimed the RPG at the ship, the marines fired on the skiff, which turned around and joined the larger fishing vessel.

"It's not excluded that there may have been casualties among the attackers," the ministry said.
Putting armed guards on merchants has slowed the pirates down.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Danube River Pirates: Small Time Crime

Danube River System
 Danube shipping company reports pirate attacks on its ships in Romania:
Ukrainian Danube Shipping Company (Izmail, Odesa region) has reported a pirate attack on its UDP-1724 barge, which was in a convoy headed by the Perm motor vessel, on the 20-25 kilometer of the Borcea-Bala stretch of the Danube River on Romania on Jan. 4, 2012.

According to the press release of the company, first the motor vessel steered the barge and two sections with ore. After leaving them at a distance of 25 kilometers from Borcea, the vessel returned for the remaining sections, and at that time about fifteen people attacked the barge.

"A" marks Borcea, Romania
They demanded alcohol, cigarettes, money, fuel, and searched the barge. They threatened the skipper with a knife and threatened to throw him overboard. The attackers took from the barge two rope coils each 100 meters long and old maneuvering ropes about 150 meters long. The crewmembers were not injured by the pirates.

Somalia: Oil Exploration Starts in Puntland

Oil and Gas Journal reports Somalia: Dharoor block exploratory wells started:
Horn Petroleum Corp. has spudded the Shabeel-1 wildcat on the Dharoor block in Puntland, northern Somalia, toward a planned total depth of 3,800 m, said Africa Oil Corp., Vancouver, BC, which owns a 51% equity interest in Horn Petroleum.

Operations have also started on the Shabeel North-1 well with the setting of the 30-in. surface casing and the drilling of a 50-m pilot hole. The Sakson 501 rig will be used to drill both wells, and drilling and evaluation time is put at 90 days each.
Horn Petroleum reports:
The Shabeel and Shabeel North prospects are located on a Jurassic aged rift system which is part of the same system that has proven to be highly productive in the Masila and Shabwa Basins in Yemen that contain an estimated 6 billion barrels of oil*. Both prospects are very large fault block prospects with internal most likely estimates of potential oil volumes of over 300 million barrels of recoverable oil. Source rocks are expected to be rich Jurassic Kimmeridgian shales in the deep portion of the rift immediately down dip from the Shabeel prospects. Reservoirs are expected to be sandstones and carbonates of the Lower Cretaceous and Jurassic systems analogous to Yemen.

Horn President and CEO David Grellman commented "The commencement of drilling in the Dharoor Valley block is a major milestone in the evaluation of the oil potential of Northern Somalia. We have had very strong support from the Puntland regional government and the local communities who are all keen to see development resume in the region after prolonged periods of internal strife. These wells are the first to be drilled into the deep areas of the rift basins and will be key to unlocking the hydrocarbon potential of this unexplored prospective trend".
Oh, look, an industry other than piracy.

Watch for stories about the corruption of the Puntland oil money flows, along the line of those set out in this Wikipedia article. And for stories of the exploitation of Africa's natural resources by the West.

Structure map from Africa Oil Corp.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Cruise Ship Disasters: "Human Error?"

Story speaks for itself - BBC News - Costa Concordia cruise ship captain 'went off course'

Based on reports I have heard, here's a thought for you - when at sea on any sort or size of vessel, always carry a small, waterproof flashlight or glow stick on your person.

I don't care if it's the biggest ship on the ocean with the most lights per square foot or a small sailboat like a Sunfish, having a light when the lights go out or if you fall over the side or whatever may save your life.

Doesn't have to much of a light, either.

Even carrying a couple of glow sticks in a pocket or purse is a good idea if you won't carry anything else.

They will help you find your way out of dark spaces and help rescuers find you.

Glow sticks are cheap. I always carry a supply in my car. You just never know.

Sample light.

Somali Pirates: Still Out There Attacking

Latest unsuccessful Somali pirate attack effort as reported by the fine folks at the NATO Shipping Center in All Alerts:
Alert 007 16/01/2012 08:15
15.03 58.23 Attacked Alert 007 - Pirate Attack A piracy alert has been raised by the Maritime Security Centre.
Date of alert : January 16, 2012
Alert type : Pirate Attack
Location : 15 02 N 058 14 E
Latitude : 15 02 N
Longitude : 058 14 E
Alert number 007 / 2012.
At 0814 UTC 16 JAN a merchant vessel is currently under attack by 1 white skiffs in position 15 02 N 058 14 E. Vessel is SAFE.
Map is portion of NATO SC Alert Map. My arrow.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Somali Pirates: Royal Navy Nabs 13 and Mothership (U.S. Navy gets assist)

BBC News reports Royal Navy captures 13 Somali pirates:
Royal Marines apprehending pirates on dhow
RFA Fort Victoria and a US Navy vessel intercepted the pirates' boat, which had refused to stop despite warning shots from a Royal Navy helicopter.

Royal Marines in speedboats approached the vessel and boarded it, capturing 13 pirates and seizing weapons.
This latest operation was carried out around dawn on Friday. Capt Shaun Jones RFA, commanding officer on RFA Fort Victoria, said: "To manoeuvre such a large ship at speed in close vicinity of a nimble dhow takes extreme concentration and skill; my team were never found wanting." Capt James Sladden, who commanded the Royal Marines boarding party, added: "The moment of going on board the dhow was tense as we knew there were pirates on board who had refused to stop despite our warning shots. "Through our weapon sights we could see there were about 13 pirates, mostly gathered in the area of the bridge. We quickly boarded and secured the vessel before mustering the pirates on the bow."
If they can't get to sea, they can't capture ships. Containment. See here, here and here and at the links therein. Perhaps this time . . .

Midrats 15 Jan 12 Episode 106: Tough Choices Hard Budgets

Join us Sunday at 5pm (Eastern U.S.) to discuss the military budget as planning of the great diversion of money from the Department of Defense begins at Episode 106 Tough Choices Hard Budgets 01/15 . Or, as the Salamander put it
Many are sobering up to the fact that the military is about to face a budget challenge not seen in a generation. Especially those who have seen this movie before, a number know that this one has the potential to be the most challenging seen in over half a century.

For the full hour, our guest will be Col. Robert Killebrew, USA (Ret.)., using his article in the DEC Armed Forces Journal, Cutbacks and Crisis, as a starting point.

In addition to being a contributing editor at AFJ, mong the many other things he has done since retirement he writes and consults on national defense issues as a Senior Fellow at the Center for a New American Security.

Prior to his retirement from active duty he served for thirty years in a variety of Special Forces, infantry and staff duties. His assignments ranged included duty in Vietnam with MACVSOG, the Vietnamese Airborne Division, command in mechanized, air assault and airborne units, and staff positions in the Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force, as director of plans, XVIII Airborne Corps, special assistant to the Chief of Staff of the Army, command of a deployed joint task force and as an instructor in strategy and policy at the Army War College.
If you want to be ahead of the game in the growing budget battles, make sure and tune in this Sunday at 5pm EST or get the archive.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Strait of Hormuz: Triple Carriers (Briefly?)

Let's see now, one carrier leaves the Arabian/Persian Gulf and hangs about the Northern Indian Ocean/Arabian Sea because its replacement is inbound, the replacement has nearly arrived, and a third is lurking about the area.

USS John C. Stennis
Why, that's three of the big beasts in the region. Hmmm. What message does this send to the self-proclaimed "gatekeepers" of the Strait of Hormuz? Well, none if you believe this sort of headline, "U.S. military moves carriers, denies Iran link":
The U.S. military said on Wednesday that a new aircraft carrier strike group had arrived in the Arabian Sea and that another was on its way to the region, but denied any link to recent tensions with Iran and portrayed the movements as routine.

USS Carl Vinson
The shift in the powerful U.S. naval assets comes at a moment of heightened tensions with Iran, which has threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz - the world's most important oil shipping lane - if U.S. and EU sanctions over its nuclear program cut off its oil exports.

The U.S. military has said it will halt any blockade of the strategic strait and the top U.S. naval officer acknowledged on Tuesday that preparing for a potential conflict there was something that "keeps me awake at night."

Still, the Pentagon denied any direct link between recent tensions and the movement of aircraft carriers.

USS Abraham Lincoln
"I don't want to leave anybody with the impression that we're somehow (speeding) two carriers over there because we're concerned about what happened, you know, today in Iran. It's just not the case," said Captain John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman.

Military officials said the USS Carl Vinson arrived in the Arabian Sea on Monday to replace the outgoing USS John C. Stennis carrier strike group, which Iran last week warned not to return to the Gulf after departing in late December.

The Stennis was due to return to its home port in San Diego but the Pentagon did not say when that would happen.

Another carrier strike group, led by the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, concluded a port visit to Thailand on Tuesday and was now in the Indian Ocean. It is on track to join the Vinson in the Central Command area of operations, which begins in the neighboring Arabian Sea.
Why would anyone think there was a message involved?

By the way, carriers do not travel alone. They have escort services.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Somali Pirate Fail: "Know Your Enemy"

Surrendering survivors -EUNAVFOR photo
Well, the headline "Spanish Navy Thwarts Pirate Attack in Indian Ocean" doesn't really tell the tale:
Spanish forces have captured six alleged pirates in the Indian Ocean, after the suspects attacked a Spanish navy ship.

The Spanish defense ministry says pirates aboard a skiff (small boat) opened fire on the combat support ship PatiƱo early Thursday.

A statement says the navy ship exchanged fire with the pirates, who eventually tried to flee on their boat. A military helicopter caught up with the pirates, who then surrendered.

The ministry says six suspected pirates were taken into custody, five of whom were injured. The detainees said a colleague who was killed during the incident had been thrown overboard.
Hey, riding in a small boat, big ships look very much the same. Still . . .

This  is perhaps the 4th or 5th time this sort of thing has happened. Never turns out well for the pirates.
More here.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Somali Pirates: Pirate Mothership "Disrupted"

Early report and not much in the way of details, but there is this from NATO Shipping Center Daily Piracy Update:
The M/V LIQUID VELVET, the previously pirated vessel that may have been used as a mothership, was disrupted by naval Counter Piracy forces in the evening of 10 January. This mothership is no longer considered a threat to merchant shipping.
RN Lynx helicopter
I expect more details will be forthcoming. Should be interesting reading. UPDATE: Looks like a blocking move by a Royal Navy force as set out here:
RFA Fort Victoria
Fort Victoria, which is operating as part of Nato’s Operation Ocean Shield in the Indian Ocean, cut off the vessel’s progress when it was 90 miles from the coastline and forced it to return to Somalia. Fort Victoria approached the Liquid Velvet under cover of darkness, before circling the vessel at speed. The ship’s Lynx helicopter was also used. Fort Victoria then followed Liquid Velvet as she retreated towards Somalia.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

U.S. Coast Guard's Turn to Rescue Iranian Sailors in Distress

If you didn't know the U.S. Coast Guard was sending ships out to the Indian Ocean area, well, then this will be a surprise for you - the Coast Guard rescues Iranian mariners in Persian Gulf:
Distress Iranian Dhow
 The Coast Guard Cutter Monomoy, assigned to Commander, Task Force 55, rendered aid to six Iranian mariners who were aboard a distressed vessel in the North Arabian Gulf Tuesday.

USCGC Monomoy (Island Class Cutter)
At approximately 3 a.m. local time, Monomoy was operating in the area when it was hailed by flares and flashlights from the Iranian cargo dhow, Ya-Hussayn. The dhow’s master requested assistance from Monomoy indicating the engine room was flooding and deemed not seaworthy.

Monomoy immediately launched their small boat and approached the Ya-Hussayn. Two persons were rescued from the vessel and four from a life raft tied off to the dhow’s stern.

Grateful Rescued Sailor
The six Iranian mariners were transferred to Monomoy and were provided water, blankets and halal meals. Halal meals are in accordance with Islamic law and are stored aboard U.S. Coast Guard ships to provide to Muslim mariners in distress.

An emergency medical technician from Monomoy treated an injured Ya-Hussayn crew member. Fortunately, his injuries were not serious and there was no requirement for him to be medically evacuated.
Turnover to the Iranian Coast Guard
Later in the day, the six mariners were transferred by smallboat from Monomoy to the Iranian Coast Guard vessel Naji 7.

The captain of the Naji 7, via translator, said, “Sends his regards and thanks to our Captain and all crewmembers for assisting, and taking care of the Iranian sailors. Wishes us the best, and thanks us for our cooperation.”
Sailors helping sailors. Been that way a long time.

All photos by U.S. Navy except for picture of the cutter Monomoy which is a U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Somali Pirates: "We need a bigger boat?"

Early reports from the NATO Shipping Center that the Somali pirates may have gotten underway with a bigger ship to transit to their hunting grounds, as indicated at the NSC - DailyPiracyUpdate of 10 Jan 12:
M/V LIQUID VELVET, a previously pirated vessel may be used as a mothership. It was last reported making way 120nm off the coast of Somalia in vicinity of 10 22N 058 33E. This vessel was pirated on 31 Oct 11, and neither the vessel or crew have been released from pirate control. Details can be found under Alert 004.
Masters are advised to exercise extreme caution when navigating through this area, and maintain maximum CPA with any ship acting suspiciously. Please see photo of M/V LIQUID VELVET at left.
Orange hull, white superstructure, king post forward, crane amidships, tanker.

gCaptain reports ONI release here:

UPDATE: Posit of ship based on ONI and NATO reports. Red course lines is my projection and is undoubtedly not accurate.

Details from NATO Shipping Center Alerts:
ALERT 004/2012 10/01/2012 10:25 10.97 53.38
A piracy alert has been raised by the Maritime Security Centre.

Date of alert : January 10, 2012
Alert type : Suspect Vessel
Location : SOMALI BASIN 10 58 E 053 23 E
Latitude : 10 58 N
Longitude : 053 23 E


Alert number 004/2012

At 1024 UTC / 10 JAN 12 / the pirated MV LIQUID VELVET could be acting as a mothership and was reported in position 10 58 N 053 23 E

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.

Political Campaign Finance Math

Seems like this Sidney Harris cartoon applies to political campaigns and their promises of economic growth:

The long political campaigns continue.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Somali Pirates: The First Week's Work

So, in addition to being somewhat thwarted by the re-capture of pirated mother ships by U.S. and Danish units and releasing ships after collecting ransom, Somali pirates have been taking to sea in areas somewhat sheltered from the heavy winds and waves. NATO's Shipping Center kindly provides us with a map and a summary of pirate activity since the beginning of the year at NSC | All Alerts:
NSC 2/12 06/01/2012 14:15 12.43 43.8 Suspicious Activity NSC 2/12 - Suspicious activity A vessel has reported seeing suspicious activity in the vicinity of the Bab al Mandeb. 2 skiffs with 6 persons on board were seen acting suspiciously.
***This vessels is Safe***
*** The Pirate Attack Group is still in the region***
This is in the same area as Alert 001, Alert 002, and NSC 1/12.

Masters are advised to proceed with extreme caution while transiting this area.
ALERT 003/2012 05/01/2012 04:45 22.45 60.98 Attacked ALERT 003/2012 --WARNING WARNING WARNING--- Alert number 003 / 2012.
At 0446 UTC 04 JAN 2012 a merchant vessel was attack by 1 skiff with 6 POB in position 22 27 N 060 59 E.
**This vessel managed to evade hijack***
*** Vessel is SAFE***
The Pirate action group is still in the area.
Alert 002/2012 04/01/2012 08:20 12.28 44.16 Attacked Alert 002/2012
A piracy alert has been raised by the Maritime Security Centre.
Date of Alert: 04 Jan 2012
Location: [002] GULF OF ADEN 12 17 N 044 10 E
Latitude: 12 17 N
Longitude: 044 10 E
Alert Details:
Alert number 002 / 2012.
At 0822 UTC a merchant vessel was reported under attack by a skiff in position 12 17 N 044 10 E.
***This vessel managed to evade hijack***

The Pirate Attack group is still in the area.
ALERT 001/2012 04/01/2012 04:20 13.16 49.2 Attacked Alert 001/2012
A piracy alert has been raised by the Maritime Security Centre.
Date of Alert: 04 Jan 2012 Location: [001] Gulf of Aden 13 10 N 049 12 E
Latitude: 13 10 N Longitude: 049 12 E
Alert Details:
Alert number 001 / 2012.
At 0200 UTC a merchant vessel was attacked by 1 skiff in position 13 10 N 049 12 E.

**This vessel managed to evade hijack***
*** Vessel is SAFE***
The Pirate Attack group is still in the area.
NSC 001/12 04/01/2012 03:45 12.12 44.18 Approached WARNING - SUSPICIOUS APPROACHES There have been reports of 4 skiffs in the Gulf of Aden/ Bab al Mandeb region. This Pirate Attack Group has attacked 1 vessel, and approached 3 vessels.
Approaches occured:
0345Z in vicinity of 1205N 04423E
0753Z in vicinity of 12 14N 044 11E
0817Z in vicinity of 12 17N 044 10E
***These vessels are Safe***
*** The Pirate Attack Group is still in the region***

Masters are advised to proceed with extreme caution while transiting this area.
Small boats ops are easier when the weather is good and the maps show areas where small boat operations may be more likely, if the pirate mother ships can make it to the areas (red circles are my guesses - feel free to make your own):

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Somali Pirates: Royal Danish Navy Frees Hostages, Nabs Pirates

Following on the U.S. Navy's rescue of an Iranian fishing boat crew and capture of pirates (see here), comes this report, "Danish Warship Frees 14 Hostages in Somalia Action":
A Danish warship freed 14 Iranian and Pakistani hostages following a seaborne action against alleged pirates off Somalia's coast, the Danish Navy said late Saturday.

"The operation took place as planned and without harm to the ship's crew, the hostages or the pirates," said Carsten Fjord Larsen, Captain of the warship Absalon, which conducted the action, in a press statement.

The Danish Navy is now considering what further action to take with the 25 alleged pirates who were found on board, and how to send home the hostages.

HMDS Absalon
On Saturday morning, the Absalon, which is part of a NATO-led anti-piracy operation, pursued a fishing boat it had suspected of being a pirate mother ship for some time, off Somalia's coast in the Indian Ocean.

"After three hours, the 25 pirates gave themselves up. Some began to throw their weapons overboard, and others followed," Larsen told DR News, Denmark's public broadcaster.

The Absalon fired warning shots and gave verbal instructions to the pirates to surrender, he added.

On inspection, the fishing vessel, which was previously hijacked by pirates, was found to contain small motor boats and fuel, allegedly used by the pirates.

Both alleged pirates and hostages are now being registered and questioned, while the fishing vessel is held alongside the Absalon with a view to returning it to its rightful owner.

Fearless Navy Bloggers Take to the Air: Midrats Epsiode 105

Today at 5pm Eastern (U.S.), it's a special anniversary show! Join us at Midrats Episode 105 for a sort of a cocktail party conversation.Or, as CDR Salamander put it:
Yes friends, believe it or not we are on our 105th episode!

Two years behind us, and a third in front. Though we already have some great guests lined up in the upcoming weeks, as a way of saying thanks to everyone for tuning in, for our 2nd Anniversary show we are going to try something a little different - we are going to turn the tables on ourselves.

This time, it is our friends, listeners and regular guests who will get to ask the questions and visit for awhile.

What would you like the hosts to talk about? Is there a topic you would like us to address that we don't? Well here is your chance.

Look at the top of the showpage - that's our call in number.
Remember, click here to join in the fun.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

How Iran Says "Thanks"

The photo is a message from me to the FARS propaganda machine.
BBC News report here;:
According to a New York Times reporter who boarded the captured Al Molai with the US forces, the Iranian fishermen expressed great gratitude for their rescue, with one saying: "It is like you were sent by God."

But Iran's Fars news agency expressed suspicion about the operation, saying it was "like a Hollywood film" which "seems to have been pre-organised". (emphasis added)
"Fars" should be pronounced "farce."

UPDATE: Official Iran says "humanitarian" rescue, Fars gets caught in another misrepresentation here - read the last paragraph for the smack down.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Well, it just adds to the Kharma! U.S. Navy aids Iranian hostages held by pirates

U.S. Navy Photo of Rescue
U.S. Navy Press Release U.S. Navy Rescues Iranian Fishing Vessel from Pirates in Arabian Sea:
Forces assigned to the John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group, rescued an Iranian fishing vessel from pirates in the northern Arabian Sea, Jan. 5.

At approximately 12:30 p.m local time, an SH-60S Seahawk from guided-missile destroyer USS Kidd (DDG 100) detected a suspected pirate skiff alongside the Iranian-flagged fishing dhow Al Molai. Simultaneously, a distress call was received from the master of the Al Molai claiming he was being held captive by pirates.

A visit, board, search and seizure team from Kidd boarded the Al Molai and detained 15 suspected pirates who had been holding a 13-member Iranian crew hostage for several weeks. The Al Molai had been pirated and used as a "mother ship" for pirate operations throughout the Persian Gulf, according to members of the Iranian vessel's crew.

The pirates did not resist the boarding and surrendered quickly.

"The Al Molai had been taken over by pirates for roughly the last 40-45 days," said Josh Schminky, a Navy Criminal Investigative Service agent aboard the Kidd. "They were held hostage, with limited rations, and we believe were forced against their will to assist the pirates with other piracy operations."

According to members of the Kidd boarding party, the Iranian crew said they were forced by the pirates to live in harsh conditions, under the threat of violence with limited supplies and medical aid.

"When we boarded, we gave them food, water, and medical care," said Schminky. "They had been through a lot. We went out of our way to treat the fishing crew with kindness and respect.

"After securing the ship and ensuring the safety of all persons on board, we began distributing food and water to both the crew and the suspected criminals as is our standard practice in counter-piracy operations," said Schminky.
Video from U.S. Navy helicopter:

I'm sure the Iranian Navy was standing by . . . somewhere.