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Monday, April 02, 2012

Somali Pirates: The Pirates Get a Vote in Counter-Piracy

Strategy Page makes the point that for every announced counter-piracy move there's a counter counter-piracy move, especially when if the pirates are media savvy - as set out in Sea Transportation: Pirates Preparing For The Worst.

Followed to its logical extreme, saying "There is no easy solution to the Somali pirates" is to acknowledge that the real solutions to Somali are hard - - because these answers involve killing people and breaking things.

If the counter-piracy forces are more afraid of bad publicity than they are willing to pay this hard price, then we might as well just bundle up a few million dollars every year and start paying "tribute" to the pirates to buy them off and cut out the pretense of fighting pirates using military force. It would probably prove cheaper in the long run.

Speaking of responses to piracy, if you go here, you can read a presentation by Andrew J. Shapiro, Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, to the Center for American Progress on 27 Mar 2012, after a discussion of how piracy was "snowballing" during the administration in office prior to the current one and making a list of the international diplomatic and military efforts set in place (during which time the piracy continued to "snowball"), he hits on a key to the slowing of successful piracy of bigger ships due to the efforts of - well, you can guess - :
However, we must also recognize that even when fully implemented best management practices do not guarantee security from pirates. As a result, we have also supported the maritime industry’s use of additional measures to enhance their security – such as having armed security teams on board. To date, not a single ship with Privately Contracted Armed Security Personnel aboard has been pirated. Not one.

These teams serve as a potential game-changer in the effort to counter-piracy. While many expected these teams to be made up of undisciplined “cowboys” that would cause an increase in the violence at sea, from what we have seen so far this has not been the case. We have not seen cases of pitched battles at sea between pirates and armed security personnel. In fact, in most engagements, the situation ends as soon as pirates are aware an armed security team is on board. In most cases, as pirates approach a ship the armed security teams will use flares or loudspeakers to warn the pirates. If the pirates keep coming, they will fire warning shots. That is usually when the interaction ends. Pirates break off the attack and turn their skiffs around and wait for another less protected ship to come by. These teams therefore have served as an effective deterrent.
To his credit, Mr. Shapiro also gets it right on the impact "mother-ships":
This demonstrates how pirates are constantly adapting their tactics in response to international efforts. One example of this is their expanded use of mother-ships – which are themselves pirated ships with hostage crews aboard. These ships launch and re-supply groups of pirates who use smaller, faster boats for attacks. They can carry dozens of pirates and tow many skiffs for multiple simultaneous attacks. This has made pirates more difficult to interdict and more effective at operating during monsoon season, which previously restricted their activities. Mother-ships have extended the pirates’ reach far beyond the Somali Basin. Somali pirates now operate in a total sea space of approximately 2.5 million square nautical miles – an area equivalent to the size of the continental United States. Pirate activity has even extended as far as the waters off the coast of India. This increase makes it difficult for naval or law enforcement ships and other assets to reach the scene of a pirate attack quickly enough to disrupt an ongoing attack. There is just too much water to patrol. (emphasis added)
Well, then he describes one part of the effort to shrink this "water":
Since discovering the use of mother-ships, international navies now seek to identify and interdict mother-ships when possible.
Well, as I have said before "shrink the ocean" available to the pirates by Make the Somali pirates’ sea smaller…. Yes, Somalia has a long coast line, but it is clear that not all that coast is used by pirates - in fact, we have long known the bases from which the majority of pirates operate.

I suspect that knowledge is one of the factors in the EU's announcement that the counter-pirate fight will be taken ashore . . .

Oh, and from the ICC CSS IMB Live Piracy Map, a look at the pirate's efforts so far in 2012 in the Indian Ocean and its tributaries:
 Finally, from the NATO Shipping Center, pirate activity over the last 3 months:

That yellow bar over there in the Gulf of Aden is the "transit lane."


  1. Anonymous4:41 PM

    Center for American Decline

  2. We'll see if these changes actually make it into ATALANTA's ROE. I'm skeptical that, even if EU forces are willing to take the fight on shore, that their mission planners will allow them to operate in a fashion that will complicate PAGs' logistics. Somali settlement patterns are turned away from the coast already.