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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Somali Pirates: "Pirates kill 2 hostages on hijacked vessel" - 16 Freed by Danish Navy

Headline: "Denmark: Pirates kill 2 hostages on hijacked vessel". Rest of story reveals a rescue effort by the Danes that saved 16 hostages and prevented another Somali pirate "mothership" from getting to sea to hijack more ships:
Two hostages were killed and 16 others freed when a Danish warship intercepted a cargo vessel that had been hijacked by pirates off Somalia's coast.

Navy spokesman Kenneth Nielsen said Tuesday that 17 pirates were detained in Monday's anti-piracy operation. He declined to give the nationalities of the hostages.

HDMS Absalon
Danish ship HDMS Absalon had been following the hijacked vessel for several days, Nielsen said. The cargo ship had been used as a mothership from which pirates sailed out in smaller boats to attack other vessels.

He said HDMS Absalon intervened when the vessel tried to move away from the coast on Monday. "(It) stopped the mothership before it could become a threat against the shipping on the open sea."
Good on the Danes. Sorry for the hostage life loss, but the Somali pirates are to blame for hijacking the ship in the first place. From the Danish Navy (Google translate version):
Dnaish Navy photo of pirated vessel
ABSALON has stopped another pirate mothership The ship was stopped by ABSALON yesterday. The Danish warship Absalon has on 27 February 2012 halted a pirate mother ship. During the incident two hostages on pirate mother ship killed. ABSALON has for several days been watching a pirate mother ship off the Somali coast. Sunday night attempted pirate mother ship to sneak away from the coast. ABSALON was inserted and stopped the mother ship before it could pose a threat to shipping on the high seas. As neither the call, or cry unto warning shot to bring the pirate mother ship to a stop, was ABSALON strength of the NATO head allowed to firing equipment aboard the mother ship piracy, with a view to bringing the vessel to a stop. This fire was on board suspected pirates to surrender. ABSALON crew could then take control of the pirate mother ship. On board the pirate mother ship took ABSALON crew 17 suspected pirates and 18 hostages from the mother ship's original crew. Two hostages were found badly injured, and even with a rapid assistance from ABSALON doctor stood their life to save. The circumstances that led to the two hostages were killed is not yet known. Military Auditor Corps investigates the facts surrounding the incident. Danish authorities will, in line with the actual course of events relating to the hijacking of the mother ship clarified assess the possibilities to prosecute suspected pirates. Anyone from ABSALON's crew is in good shape.

Gulf of Guinea Pirates: 2 Dutch Sailors Taken Hostage

Pirates off the Nigerian coast have repeated an old trick in the area and grabbed a pair of hostages, as reported in "Sea pirates take 2 Dutch seamen hostage":
On Tuesday, sea pirates attacked a Dutch ship off Nigeria’s coast and took the Captain and Engineer-in-Chief hostage.

According to the France Presse news agency, one crewmember was injured. No ransom demands have been reported.

Somali Pirates: Hijacking

NATO reports a hijacking here:
016/12 28/02/2012 12:05 15.02 54.93
Pirated Alert 016/2012 - Pirated

At 281206Z FEB 12 a merchant vessel is currently under attack by 1 skiff in position 15 01N 054 56 E

*** Vessel is hijacked ***

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Strait of Hormuz Pirates?

The IMB reports an attempted attack at the mouth of the Strait of Hormuz here:
Attack Number: 062-12
Date: Sat Feb 25 2012
Type of Vessel : Container
Attack Posn Map :
IMB map of attack. I added the arrow to point out Somalia.

Location detail: Northern approaches to Straits of Hormuz.
Type of Attack : Attempted
Narrations: 25.02.2012: 0315 UTC: Posn: 26:08.9N - 056:42.1E, Northern approaches to Stratis of Hormuz, Gulf of Oman (Off Somalia) {Wow! Way off Somalia!}.
A container ship underway noticed three skiffs at a distance of 2nm approaching her at high speed. Master raised alarm, activated SSAS, altered course, non-essential crew mustered in the citadel and the onboard armed guards took their position. The armed guards fired warning shots when the skiffs closed to a distance of 1nm resulting in the pirates aborting the attack and moving away.

Ask Mr. Travel: Are there any good deals on Italian cruise ship tours?

Ask Mr. Travel get many questions about cruising the high seas. Most recently, these questions have focused on what cruise lines to sail.
Well, I am pleased to say that the Italians have come up with something completely different in international travel, the "Voyages of the Damned Accursed Adventure Cruise Series."

Perhaps you've seen some exciting articles in the travel press about the "we'll be talking about this forever" adventure cruise off Kenya in which the cruise ship catches fire and loses power in "pirate-infested" waters and has to be towed back to port. Like this one, "French Tugboat Reaches Italian Cruise Ship Adrift In Pirate-infested Indian Ocean After Fire".

Or the long-running "Let's Drive Ship on the Rocks" adventure, which ends in a flurry of lawyers trying to beat the contractual and international law governing recoveries for survivors! Talk about exciting!

Yes, while thousands board ships hoping to have a little romance, a little over indulgence in wine and food and a trip to some beach where they can stare at the some ocean they were just riding on, most come home with perhaps with only a norovirus to talk about.

These new adventure cruises are really making headlines! So, sign up now for one of these cruises before the adventures are all gone.

The prices are low now, but once this new form of "adventure cruising" catches on, well, book early and book often.

The Forever Airplane

When I was small child living on a Air Force base near Yosemite, one day all the huge B-36 bombers flew away. They were replaced by the first B-52's in 1955. Fifty-six years later, it appears the B-52 will not soon be fading away. In fact, they may just go on and on and on . . . as reported at The B-52 Gets a 21st-Century Upgrade:
The B-52s tasked with this mission will fly until at least 2040, representing nearly a century of active duty. The airframes and engines will remain the same, but the birds will be upgraded with new hardware (as well as with the nuclear brawn) to extend their service lives.
Now, if I can only find a way to get that sort of upgrade . . . perhaps I can make it to 2040, too.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Sea Pirates: Mystery Ship of Armed Men Off the Comores Islands

Red circle is around the Comoros
Actually, the original headline is better than mine: "Interpol asked to help after arrest of ‘pirate’ ship captained by Bulgarian".

Interpol has been asked to assist in the investigation that has followed the arrest of an alleged pirate ship crew, captained by a man reported to be a Bulgarian, off the coast of the Comores on February 18 2012, media in Mauritius said.

Security forces carried out the arrests of the 10 armed men, who said that they were Kenyan police escorting a vessel to South Africa.

However, they had no documentation to prove this and were not wearing Kenyan police uniforms, reports said.
The presence of weapons on board the ship had raised concerns, given the history of coups in the Comoros, the report said.
I'm sure there is good explanation.

Just probably not a legal one.

My Review: Act of Valor

ACT OF VALOR is a movie about Navy SEALS that highlights and honors Navy SEALS.

Along the way, the rest of the Navy - the submariners, Special Boat Units, helicopter units, ships and other things are shown off. Lots of good pictures.

If you have a warrior ethos, you will get this movie.

If you are a conflicted film critic who sits watching cinema all day - probably not so much.

Good guys, bad guys cleanly divided.

Not "nuanced" in the liberal sense.

Recommended for the 9% warrior class of the U.S.

Will probably make Nancy Pelosi's head explode if she were to see it.

So, good flick.

P.S. Don't worry about the acting, it suffices. Actually, it's better than in a lot of "big" movies you've seen.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Midrats Sunday: Episode 112 February Free For All

Episode 112 February Free For All 02/26 by Midrats on Blog Talk Radio:
We do this a couple of times a year - yes, my friends, it is a "Midrats Free For All."

Radio Central
Is there a topic we have not covered that you want Sal from "CDR Salamander" or me to address? Better yet - do you have a question you want them to answer?

Well, now is your chance. We'll cover the topics of the week on our own - but for a change you can jump the line.

Call in or hop in the chat room this Sunday from 5-6pm EST, you never know what topic will come up.
Click here to join us. If you miss the show, you can listen to it or download from that same location or on iTunes.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Somali Pirates: The Week of 19 Feb 2012

A summary of the week of Somali piracy from Office of Naval Intelligence's Piracy Analysis and Warning Weekly:
(U) Vessels Hijacked:
(U) ARABIAN SEA: Vehicle carrier M/V LEILA reportedly hijacked on 15 February while underway 50 nm south-southwest of Sadh, Oman. (Press)
(U) Vessels Boarded: No current incidents to report.
(U) Vessels Fired Upon/Attempted Boardings:
(U) INDIAN OCEAN: Chemical tanker attacked on 18 February while underway near position 05:29 S - 064:02 E, approximately 500 nm east of the Seychelles. One skiff was noted approaching ship from 2 nm. As the skiff closed to a half nautical mile, it stopped and five to six pirates with RPGs and automatic weapons were seen by bridge crew. The onboard armed security team fired warning shots; pirates aboard the skiff returned fire with automatic weapons then moved away. (IMB)
(U) ARABIAN SEA: Tanker attacked on 22 February while underway in position 13:30 N – 050:22 E, in the Arabian Sea. One skiff sighted approaching the ship from 1.6 nm from starboard bow. The onboard armed security team came to the bridge and identified weapons in the skiff and fired one warning shot. The pirates then fired upon the tanker with AK-47s. An exchange of fire took place with the security team. Master took evasive maneuvers, sent a distress message, contacted relevant authorities, and mustered non-bridge crew personnel in a safe room. A nearby warship dispatched a helicopter to the location. The pirates aborted the attempted attack after firing 50-60 rounds and moved away. (IMB)
Captured vessels:

And the "pirate weather warning" - the redder the better for pirate small boat operations:

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Somali Pirates: Disposable Vessels Prompt Hijacking?

Maritime Executive Magazine says "UAE Cargo Ship Hijacked Off Oman, Somali Pirates May Have Needed Ship Repair and Parts" :
MV Leila (Neptune Marine Security photo)
Maritime security officials have confirmed that MV Leila, built in 1973, was hijacked by Somali pirates last week. The International Maritime Bureau reports that the vessel was captured off Oman. [See here]
It is also being reported that the pirates may have just needed help repairing their own ship, resulting in this hijacking. {Ship reportedly is now in in a Puntland, Somalia port]
A second ship owned by a UAE-based firm, the MV Savina-Fahad, is also said to have been hijacked this week. According to the Somalia Report {here, the vessel was seized in the Indian Ocean while carrying charcoal from the Somali town of Kismaayo.
What ships are the pirates grabbing? Low, slow and unarmed, that's what.

Sidebar Update: Nice BBC piece on the air war against the pirates - featuring a look at an Australian aircrew and the UK Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) here.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Headline Asks the Right Question

From BBC News Somalia conflict: Why should the world help?

My question is: "Before they lay claim to my wallet, exactly how are the Somalis trying to help themselves?"

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Armed Guards on Merchant Ships: The "Flag-State Endorsement"

Who will be responsible for Barney?
Interesting update to the Italian armed guard mess off India at The Hindu "Business Line" Ships with armed guards: Govt may fix responsibility on flag-state:
India's maritime administration may make ‘flag-state endorsement' mandatory for foreign merchant ships entering Indian waters with armed security guards on board. The idea is to make the Government of the country in which the ship is registered (flag-state) also responsible for any action on the part of the armed guards deployed on the vessel.
Currently, flag-states give a general approval for shipping companies to engage private security guards. The contract is between the ship owners and the security agency which provides the armed men. With rising incidents of attacks on cargo ships by Somali pirates, many countries, including India and Italy, have allowed their merchant ships to have armed guards on board. Ships have to follow the policy (on deployment of guards) of the country in which they are registered. The policy is based on the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) guidelines.

Problems can arise when the ship is owned, managed and operated by people of different nationalities. Typically, a ship may be registered in one country and its owner based in another. Further, the private security agency that provides the guards could be operating from a third country. Adding to this, there is every possibility of the security men belonging to different nationalities. Given such complexities, Government officials here said it needs to be made mandatory that flag states should shoulder the responsibility of ensuring that any liability arising out of reckless acts by armed men on board are honoured.
Of course, there are problems with such an "endorsement," too. What if the foreign merchant ship is not in "Indian waters?" In fact, what if the entire act complained of occurs on the "high seas?" How do you hold the government of some "flag of convenience" state like Tuvalu responsible? Somewhere I once dug up the info that about 35% of shipping sails under a "flag of convenience." Is India going to forbid entry to its waters for such ships - not that it may matter all that much because many of those ships can't afford or won't hire armed security guards.
UPDATE 22 Feb 12: "It was an accident, not manslaughter" - an opinion piece.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Somali Pirates: Hijacking Off Oman

Reported at NATO Shipping Center:
Alert number 013 / 2012.

***This vessel has been hijacked***

At 1939 UTC / 17 FEB / a merchant vessel was reported Hijacked by pirates in position 18 10 N 057 21 E.

Midrats Sunday 5pm Easter: Episode 111 Returning to a Constitutional Military

Episode 111 Returning to a Constitutional Military 02/19 by Midrats | Blog Talk Radio 5pm:
The large standing Army and active duty military we have known in our lifetime may seem the norm - but it isn't. Is there a way to maintain a strong military capability - available and scaleable if needed - without the structure we have become accustomed to? Is there a better way to balance our Reserve and National Guard forces that is better in line with our economic, national security, and yes - Constitutional requirements? This Sunday, 19 FEB from 5-6pm EST, join us with our guest, General Ron Fogleman, USAF (Ret) for the full hour. Using his recent article in Defense News, Going Back to the Future: Militia Model Could Cut U.S. Expenditures as a starting point, we will discuss these ideas and more as we look for a way to maintain strength and options as the budget crunch starts.
 You can listen live by clicking here.You can listen later by getting the show at that site, or from the Midrats podcast on iTunes.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Indian Ocean Mistake: Armed Guards on Italian Cargo Ship Shoot at Fishermen, Kill 2

Worst case scenario for armed guards on merchant ship, reported as Italian ship fires on fishing boat mistaking it for pirate vessel, killing 2 Indian fishermen:
An Italian cargo ship fired at an Indian fishing boat that it mistook for a pirate vessel, killing two fishermen, India’s navy said Thursday.

The ship identified as the Enrica Lexie fired at the fishermen in waters off India’s southern Kerala state on Wednesday, a navy statement said.

The Indian coast guard and navy vessels escorted the Italian ship to the nearby port city of Kochi and were questioning the captain and crew.

The owner of the fishing vessel, who goes by the single name Freddy, said Thursday the firing was unprovoked. The boat was fishing when the ship opened fire, killing the two fishermen instantly, he said.
The incident reportedly occurred 40 miles off the Indian coast.

More from here:
India on Thursday summoned the Italian envoy and voiced concern over the killing of two fishermen by security officials of the Italian cargo vessel and underlined that the captain of the ship should cooperate with local authorities.

M Ganapathi, secretary (west) in the external affairs ministry, met Italian ambassador Giacomo Sanfelice di Montefort and told him that the captain has to cooperate with Indian officials probing the incident.

The captain of Enrica Lexie, who has been ordered to anchor near a local port, told officials the fishermen were mistaken for pirates after they sailed close to the tanker in a motorised boat, navy spokesman Roy Francis said.

"The security wing fired at the fishermen and the captain has alerted the coast guard about the firing. We are making a detailed investigation," the naval spokesman said.
Freddie Louis, who owns the Indian fishing vessel, said gunmen on board the tanker fired at the boat "without provocation," killing the two unarmed men aged 50 and 21.

The boat with 11 men had sailed out to trawl for tuna fish on February 7.

"We were returning after the fishing and all of us were were sleeping except Valentine and Pinki," Louis told AFP, identifying the victims by their first names.
One report has the armed guards as being "Italian navy personnel."
Enrica Lexie
© Nathan
This type of event has been much discussed in concerns over placing armed security teams on merchant ships, with liability and control over the guards being major issues.

UPDATE: An interesting legal question arises about what law will apply to this shooting and that may turn on the location ship when the shooting occurred. Did this incident occur in Indian waters or on the "high seas?"

UPDATE2 (19 Feb 12): Italian guards now in Indian custody as reported here. India has has custody of the guards, the Italian government asserts that a trial, if any, should occur in Italy:
The Italian government maintains the case should be handled by its own judicial authorities “since the deeds happened in international waters on an Italian-flagged ship,” the statement said. The Italians contend that the presence of military personnel aboard the cargo ship is governed by an Italian law conforming to U.N. anti-piracy resolutions, and that such personnel are part of the Italian state and thus immune to the jurisdiction of foreign states.
The law on this is unclear - and this aspect of the matter properly is now less a legal issue than a diplomatic one.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Gulf of Guinea Pirates: Ship's Captain and Officer Killed

IMB Map of attack area
Two dead crew in a reported pirate attack off Nigeria on Monday, as set out in Ship's Captain Killed in Pirate Attack off Nigerian Coast
Pirates attacked a cargo ship 110 nautical miles off the Nigerian coast in the Gulf of Guinea this morning killing the ship's captain and another officer, the International Maritime Office reports. Two other reports of piracy were reported in past few days without causing casualties or taking over any ships. The first incident took place on Saturday about 80 nautical miles off Lagos and the second took place off the coast of Benin, which borders Nigeria. Shipping companies raised the threat level last August, and with it the value of ships' cargos to pirates, for vessels transiting the Gulf of Guinea, bringing them up to the level of ships traveling near Somalia.
More detail here:
Cyrus Mody, a manager at the IMB, said the vessel's captain and chief engineer "were killed in the shooting." . . . The group [IMB} believes the attackers were "Nigerian pirates" said Noel Choong, head of the IMB's Kuala Lumpur-based piracy reporting centre. *** Unlike the explosion of piracy off the coast of Somalia on the eastern side of the continent in recent years, those involved in the recent west African attacks have so far not appeared to be after ransom payments.

Fuel or oil cargo has been stolen for sale on the region's lucrative black market, while robberies have also occurred. Crew members have been beaten and the pirates tend to be heavily armed.

The theft of such cargo tends to be relatively sophisticated, with tankers often being directed to another pirate-controlled ship, where the fuel is transferred and then taken elsewhere for sale.
IMB Map of other Gulf of Guinea 2012 attacks
From the IMB Live Piracy Report site:
Around 110nm south of Lagos, Nigeria.

Armed pirates chased and fired upon a drifting bulk carrier. Vessel raised alarm and headed towards Lagos. All crew except the bridge team took shelter in the citadel. Due to the continuous firing the Captain and the C/E were shot. The IMB Piracy Reporting Center immediately informed the Nigerian authorities who sent out a rescue team. Due to rough seas the Nigerian naval team could not reach the location. A French Warship in the area which received the warning broadcast went to the aid of the distress vessel and despatched a helicopter. A boarding team boarded the vessel and escorted the vessel to Lagos port. The vessel is presently at Inner anchorage Lagos port. The authorities boarded the vessel and a medical team gave medical assistance to the crew. Later all crew members and the two bodies were taken ashore.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Swarming Tactics: Some views on fighting the "swarm"

Some older thoughts on resisting the sort of "swarm attack" being threatened by Iran in the Persian Gulf from the Canadian Naval Review: "Swarming Tactics". First, from Ken Hansen, referring to the incident in which several British sailors were captured by Iran -
USV Protector
Ships that are employed in these inshore waters should be small and manoeuvrable (and expendable, if need be), armed with close-range weapons capable of generating devastating stopping power in all four quadrants, and equipped with at least a couple of types of boats. One of these should be a remotely-controlled and armed robotic vehicle, akin to the Protector (built by BAE, Lockheed Martin, and Rafael), or an unmanned but unarmed vehicle of which there are now several types available. Air support should come from a 'mother ship' that will have to stand off in order to avoid unnecessary risk (and embarrassment).

The age of robotics is upon us. If Canadian naval vessels are to be deployed into coastal areas plagued by instability, the threats they will face will look a lot like those in the northern Arabian Gulf. The 'answers' about how to deal with these threats should provoke significant changes in force structure, operating concepts and equipment.
Armed H-60 (hey, look -Marine Mavericks!)
Another thought from Eric Lerhe:
Helicopters provide a way of giving transiting warships maximum warning against small boat forays.
Of course,as I have said before, I prefer standoff, massive firepower in layered defenses including something like:

And, you know, carrier air, ship weapons and the use of UAVs to track the swarm.

Forewarned is forearmed.

Real armaments are good too.

One advantage of not using one way suicide weapons is that you can reload and shoot again and again.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Iran and its man-guided bomb boats

Okay, the ultra-sophisticated weaponeers of Islamic Republic of Iran are apparently getting ready to introduce a new "one time" weapon system that wastes the lives of young men and the hulls of perfectly good boats in a effort to reduce the "Great Satan" and its allies into boots filled with quivering jelly. And, of course, the media dutifully reports the story as if this sea-launched VBIED was (1) unique and (2) hard to defeat.

A tempered reponse from NAVCENT is contained in this Reuters report U.S. Navy: Iran prepares suicide bomb boats in Gulf:
"They have increased the number of submarines ... they increased the number of fast attack craft," Vice Admiral Mark Fox told reporters. "Some of the small boats have been outfitted with a large warhead that could be used as a suicide explosive device. The Iranians have a large mine inventory."
Asked if he took Iran's threats seriously, Fox Said: "Could they make like extremely difficult for us? Yes they could. If we did nothing and they were able to operate without being inhibited, yeah they could close it, but I can't see that we would ever be in that position."

He added that diplomacy should be given priority in resolving the tension.

"So when you hear discussion about all this overheated rhetoric from Iran we really believe that the best way to handle this is with diplomacy... I am absolutely convinced that is the way to go. It is our job to be prepared. We are vigilant."
Let me point out that vigilance includes keeping an eye on small boats operating in numbers (beware the swarm) or as singles in the Gulf.

For the Iranian crews I would suggest they contemplate the meaning of "suicide boats."

Gotta love the WWII asymmetric thinking, though.

I wonder if they dug out the old Japanese plans for the Shinyo?

Fighting Pirates with Airships

Ignore the Army markings, an LEMV (Northrup Grumman picture)
Royal Navy looking into bringing back an old tool as reported in 21st century airships may join Navy fleet:
Scientists from the defence company Northrop Grumman have given briefings to the Navy on the latest airship that is about to enter military service.
Commanders are also considering using it as a counter piracy vessel as the LEMV can lower up to 150 commandos along with their fast inflatable boats.

Travelling at over 80 knots the airship is almost three times faster than ships and the Navy’s version can travel for several days without refuelling its four gas turbine engines.
The Royal Navy is not, and should not be, the only Navy looking into this tool for the counter-pirate mission which would seem well suited to this type of aircraft. I have some more thoughts in a draft post I hope to have up tonight, schedule permitting.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Midrats on Sunday: It's Pirate Time Again

As noted in an earlier post, the weather in the upper Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden is beginning to shift from monsoon back to that more favorable to the operations of pirates in the small open attack boats. After several weeks of slowed pirate activity, the pirates have managed to snag a new victim and her crew of 21.

Arrayed against the pirates are warships from the EU, NATO, China, India, Japan, Singapore, Iran, Russia and armed guard teams embarked on many merchant ships and fishing boats.

Naturally, it's a good time to talk pirates. So, on Sunday, February 12 at 5 pm (Eastern U.S.), that's what we are going to do.

Episode 110 The 21st Century Pirate Threat 02/12 by Midrats on Blog Talk Radio:
The problem with piracy is not going anywhere. Each year in places like Somalia it is becoming part of the local economy. In areas near poorlly governed areas, it threatens the free flow of goods at market prices through the world's sea lines of communication.

Is it an economic problem, a global security problem, a political problem, or a mixture of that and more?

What is the impact of international aid, military action, and the paying of ransom? What are the best solutions, and what is working and what is not working to slow the impact of piracy?

Join Sal from "CDR Salamander" and EagleOne (that's me!) from "Eagle Speak" for the full hour to discuss these issues and more with their guest, Rear Admiral Terry McKnight, USN (Ret.), former Commander of the anti-piracy CTF-151 off the horn of Africa.
Here's the link to listen live. If you miss the show you can download it later from here or from iTunes (podcasts under "Midrats").

Friday, February 10, 2012

Cheap Weekend Read: Calcutta Light Horse Goes to Sea

Actually, the book is Boarding Party by James Leasor, an inexpensive Kindle reader book at about $4. The Amazon description of this 1978 book:
. . . [T]his is the story of the undercover exploit of a territorial unit. The Germans had a secret transmitter on one of their ships in the neutral harbour of Goa. Its purpose was to guide the U-boats against Allied shipping in the Indian Ocean. There seemed no way for the British to infringe Goa’s Portuguese neutrality by force. But the transmitter had to be silenced. Then it was remembered that 1,400 miles away in Calcutta was a source of possible help. A group of civilian bankers, merchants and solicitors were the remains of an old territorial unit called The Calcutta Light Horse.
All the stuff of good fiction in a true story. Spies, a vital secret mission, great daring by a gaggle of middle-aged guys.

Made into a movie, The Sea Wolves, which I commend you watch only after reading the book to see the liberties taken with the story and also only if you enjoy seeing what must have been the last gasps of some major movie actors like Gregory Peck, David Niven, Trevor Howard and others. Features Roger Moore, too. If you are a member of Amazon Prime you can watch the movie at no additional cost, which was the right price as far as I am concerned. Still, a good tale of a nearly forgotten event in a nearly forgotten theater of WWII.

Somali Pirates: Pirate Weather Coming

As indicated in the Office of Naval Intelligence's Piracy Analysis and Warning Weekly, the weather in the Somali pirate areas of major activity is beginning to shift to that more favorable to small boat operations (better for the pirates), so an increase in pirate efforts can be expected through the Gulf of Aden, upper Arabian Sea and the Mozambique Channel:

The redder the color, the increased probability that the weather and sea conditions are good for pirate operations.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Somali Pirates: Possible Hijacking

NATO Shipping Center reports a possible ship hijacking at their Alert Details:
Alert 012/12 08/02/2012 14:40 13.53 58.6 Attacked Alert 012/2012 - Vessel Attacked, Suspected Hijacked Alert number 012 / 2012.
***Vessel suspected hijacked***
At 1438 UTC / 08 FEB 12 / a merchant vessel suspected Hijacked by pirates was in position 13 32 N 058 36 E.
And reports of a hijacking (could be the same one) here:
Photo from Neptune Marine press release
Neptune Maritime Security received information via credible channels that the vessel, MV FREE GODDESS (IMO 9107045), has been successfully hijacked by Somali pirates. According to the report Neptune received, the Liberian-flagged bulk carrier came under attack on February 7, 2012, in position 16.03N 062.26E (approximately 520nm NE of Socotra Island) at around 1500 UTC from an unknown number of pirates. *** The last known positional data on the Free Goddess is that she has dramatically altered course and her last recorded position was 11.59N 056.09E at 090533ZFEB12, approximately 110nm south east of Socotra Island.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

U.S. Navy Stands Down MSRON 7, Stands Up MESG-1 Det. Guam

MESG-1 boat
Numbers and name change, downgraded from a command to an officer-in-charge, as Navy Establishes MESG-1 Det. Guam:
Maritime Expeditionary Security Squadron (MSRON) 7 was officially disestablished and Maritime Expeditionary Security Group (MESG) 1 Det. Guam was established during a ceremony on U.S. Naval Base Guam, Feb. 3.
More than 150 Sailors from MSRON-7 will continue their tour under MESG-1 Det. Guam.
. . . Under Suchyta's lead, MSRON-7 protected 10 special mission ships operating in the East and South China Seas, four logistic ships in the Indian Ocean and Arabian Gulf, 26 aircraft visiting high-threat airfields, and securely guided high-ranking passengers during special missions.  . .
Confused about what this is about? Here's part of a mission statement about MESG's:
c. MSRON Mission: To provide MESG commanders, fleet commanders, and Navy component commanders planning, administration, direction, and training of highly mobile, fully capable, and equipped active and reserve forces to deploy as complete squadrons or task-organized units capable of exercising tactical control of assigned C2, waterborne, and landward security assets in order to provide perimeter defense, surveillance, patrol, escort, and interdiction in ports, harbors, and other militarily significant coastal and inshore areas. Provide critical infrastructure and high value asset protection both on land and at sea. Provide centralized planning, control, coordination, and integration of MESF assets for force protection in support of missions as assigned by combatant commanders. (1) MSRONs have an integral C2 capability resident in their staff structures to ensure the readiness and maintenance of resident command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence (C4I) capabilities. MSRONs are also capable of providing and maintaining a tactical picture in support of large expeditionary operations, asset protection, and harbor defense/port security in the littoral environment through the use of associated communications and various ground, surface, and subsurface sensors and unmanned/unattended vehicles in the near shore littoral environment. (2) Inherent in each MSRON is a waterborne security capability that is made up of boat detachments (BOATDET). The boat detachment will provide waterborne interdiction and surveillance assets to the security/antiterrorism officer, seaward security officer, or harbor defense commander in expeditionary operations. BOATDETs routinely operate with other MESF assets and other USN, joint, coalition, and host nation forces. BOATDETs may be assigned within the unified and/or allied command structure.
In other words, the old MIUW units, Harbor Defense Units and Inshore Boat Units brought together as part of the active duty force with the additional mission of Naval Armed Guards tossed in as needed.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Somali Pirates: What do we do with some captured pirates?

Sadly, not a Somali pirate
Here's another article in what seems to be a semi-annual review of the problems of international law and the effort to bring captured pirates to justice - this time from the NY Times "Seized Pirates in Legal Limbo, With No Formula for Trials":
Vessels from several navies collaborating on counterpiracy are holding a total of 71 captured pirates, according to Vice Adm. Mark I. Fox, commander of the United States Navy’s Fifth Fleet. No system has been developed for prosecuting their cases.

“There is not a repeatable international process to bring them to justice,” Admiral Fox said, in a recent interview in Bahrain. “We lack a practical and reliable legal finish.”

The many possible permutations for prosecuting the 15 pirates now locked up in the Vinson almost perfectly capture the puzzle surrounding such cases.

The pirates are Somali. They attacked the motor vessel Sunshine, which is Greek-owned but operates under a Bahaman flag. They were detained in international waters, but in the so-called exclusive economic zone of Oman. And they had commandeered an Iranian fishing vessel and held the crew hostage for more than a month.

The Navy took the pirates into custody. But the former hostages returned to Iran, and the Sunshine simply steamed on, over the horizon and out of sight.

So which country should take the case? And how would it hold the pirates before trial, collect evidence, and arrange for foreign witnesses and foreign investigators to testify?
So, these pirates have become somewhat akin to "The Man Without a Country" , whose punishment was to be forever transferred from one ship to another to another . . .      Of course, Philip Nolan had the benefit of a trial. H/T: Lee.

Breaking Cricket News

Photo of a well-dressed ref from here
I gather this is bad for England but probably good for Pakistan and South Africa: BBC Sport - Pakistan v England: Gul and Ajmal complete series whitewash:
It completed England's seventh losing whitewash in Test cricket and their first series defeat since 2009.
For the uninitiated, cricket is a sport of some sort which has rules of some sort and is as alien to the American mind as U.S. football is to yak herders in the areas where yaks need to be herded.

Except, of course, it is less physical . . . than either yak herding or American football.

News of Rugby Union stuff from the BBC here. Rugby is different than cricket.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Somali and Other Piracy in 2012

From our friends at the Internation Maritime Bureau, Piracy News and Figures:
Please see below figures for piracy and armed robbery incidents as reported to the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre in 2012

Worldwide Incidents: updated on 31 Jan 2012:

Total Attacks Worldwide: 37
Total Hijackings Worldwide: 2

Incidents Reported for Somalia:
Total Incidents: 13
Total Hijackings:2
Total Hostages: 28

Current vessels held by Somali pirates:
Vessels: 10 Hostages: 159
You might note that the IMB definition of piracy, while quite valid, is broader from that of the definition in the UNCLOS (piracy occurs on the "high seas"), which makes the IMB definition more inclusive of activity in the national waters of many states.

This has the effect of increasing the number of worldwide attacks in the IMB statistics. To clarify, by far the largest number of attempted and successful "on the high seas" piracy attacks occur in the Indian Ocean and are the handiwork of Somali pirates.

You will note that the IMB has added "armed robbery incidents" (see highlighted section) to its description of its numbers. This is correct, as some activities that occur in national waters that would constitute piracy if they were committed on the high seas are classified as "sea robbery" because of their location.

Also, the IMB includes robberies that occur on ships at anchor in its numbers. Again, quite proper, but something you should be aware of in looking at the numbers. Highlight added by me.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

National Energy Security: Coming "Golden Energy Era"

Oil and Gas Journal reports "US on brink of strong oil, gas growth, Senate panel told":
“We believe that by 2020, the United States will become the largest producer of hydrocarbons in the world, surpassing Russia,” said Roger Diwan, partner and head of financial advisory operations at PFC Energy. Now that producers have solved the problem of producing oil and gas from tight shale formations, the nation is on the verge of a golden energy era which is reshaping the industry worldwide, he maintained.
The scale of the opportunity to increase US oil production is greater than in most other countries over the next decade, noted James Burkhard, managing director of IHS CERA Inc.’s global oil group.
Howard K. Gruenspecht, acting administrator at the US Energy Information Administration, said the US Department of Energy’s independent forecasting and analysis agency’s initial 2012 Annual Energy Outlook (AEO) reference case forecasts 20% growth in US crude production over the next decade. Net petroleum imports are expected to drop from 49% of total US consumption in 2010 to 38% in 2020 and 36% in 2035 as a result, he said.
So, less reliance on foreign producers, brought to you by the petroleum industry. You know this is much better for national security and our maritime energy security. And, as a bonus, it buys time for all those expensive bio-fuels projects to be perfected . . .

Somali Pirates: Convoy Coordination India, China and Japan

Reported as India, China, Japan coordinating in anti-piracy operations :
China and Japan have started implementing a new mechanism to coordinate the movement of their warships in the Gulf of Aden to provide protection to cargo vessels from sea brigands, Press Trust of India (PTI) reported.

The three countries operate independently in the Gulf of Aden to provide protection to cargo ships from pirates and are not part of the two groupings deployed there– the European EUNAVFOR and the US-led Task Force 151.

“Earlier what was happening was that the convoys of all these three countries would be spaced by few hours and there would be long hours in a day when no convoy was available for escorting the vessels,” Indian Navy’s Assistant Chief of Naval Staff (Foreign Cooperation and Naval Intelligence) Rear Admiral Monty Khanna told reporters here.
He said now the three countries have “evolved a mechanism under which it will be ensured that there is enough gap between the Indian, Chinese and the Japanese convoy and they are well-displaced” to be able to escort a greater number of ships in a day.