Tuesday, May 29, 2012

"Interim" Guidance for private maritime security companies agreed by IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee

Reported by the IMO as "Guidance for private maritime security companies agreed by IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee":
Following further debate during a working group, the MSC agreed Interim Guidance to private maritime security companies (PMSC) providing contracted armed security personnel on board ships in the High Risk Area.

The guidance covers:

• PMSC Professional Certification, including the recommendation that PMSC should seek certification with relevant national and international private maritime security service standards when these are established;

• PMSC Company requirements, including the recommendation that PMSC should establish procedures to provide maritime security services to ship owners and ship operators and comply with all relevant legal requirements;

• Management, including recommendations on selection, vetting and training of personnel for a PCASP team;

• Deployment considerations, addressing the specific aspects of PCASP deployment and the role of the PMSC in ensuring efficient and successful deployments, including communications with the ship owner or operator, and including recommendations relating to management of firearms and ammunition from embarkation to disembarkation and use of force. (The PMSC should recognize that laws governing the use of force may differ over time and according to location. The applicable national law, including any criminal laws, for an incident on a ship from which PCASP will be operating will be principally that of the flag State. It may also include the laws and regulations of coastal, port and other States.)

Somalia: Insurgents Claim to be "Repulsive" to Warships

Reported as AFP: Somali Islamists fire on foreign warships:
Somalia's Al-Qaeda linked Shebab insurgents said Tuesday they had fired on two foreign warships that came in close to the key rebel port of Kismayo, the first such reported incident as they face growing military pressure.

"The mujahedeen fighters opened fire and repulsed two military ships that approached the coast of Kismayo, they were coming close to the coast when they were attacked," said Sheikh Hassan Yaqub, a top Shebab official in Kismayo.

USS St. Paul (CA-73) comes under shore fire in a long ago war
"They have sped away from the coastal areas after the shooting and they are not there anymore," Yaqub added, saying the vessels returned fire before heading away.

"Those war vessels also returned fire," he said, adding that a boy had been wounded in a neighbourhood close to the shore, but that no other casualties had been reported.
"There was heavy fire aimed at military ships that came close to Kismayo port, the Shebab fired artillery and anti-aircraft guns at them, but we don't know if there were casualties," said eyewitness Mohamed Isak.
As noted in the article, the Shebab has other issues to worry about.

In the meantime, my dog claims to have "repulsed" attacks on the home front by the U.S. Postal Service, UPS, FedEx, the city trash pickup crew and several neighbors out walking their own dogs.

As far as I know, he did not use anti-aircraft guns.

China Accuses Japan of "Buying Friends" to Thwart China

China Daily report: Checkbook diplomacy aimed at reining China:
Japan is boosting financial aid and urging cooperation in maritime security with Pacific island countries to curb China's increasing presence in the region, analysts said.

Tokyo promised on Saturday to provide up to $500 million in aid to Pacific island countries over the next three years, as the two-day Sixth Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting in Japan's Okinawa Prefecture drew to a close.

In the Okinawa Kizuna Declaration, Japanese and Pacific island leaders at the summit agreed to strengthen ties regarding maritime issues and disasters.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said that over the past three years, Japan had fulfilled its pledge to provide $493 million in aid for the island countries.

However, the phrase "containing China" has been in the headlines of Japanese media reports on the meeting. Nippon News Network said on Saturday that China is currently expanding its influence among the Pacific island countries and that Japan should take countermeasures.
Small trouble.

Slicing the Baloney: Congress Stalls Expensive Navy Bio-Fuels Project

Money pit of algae
Remember the hoopla about the "Green Fleet" and the alleged need to ween the Navy from a dependence on foreign oil (see Baloney at the Navy Top: "We use too much fossil fuel", An Unimportant Navy News Release, Background: "Biofuels of No Benefit to Military" says Rand. Navy rejects report., More Defense Money Baloney: "New Biofuels "Market" to Reduce Foreign Oil Dependence", Algae Fuel "Investment" Baloney).

Well, it seems various members of Congress are not as enamored with this sort of expensive "forward" "change" enough to believe in it and have, so far cut off its funding, as set out in Noah Schactman's Danger Room piece,
Senate Panel Cuts Off Navy's Biofuel Buys:
The Navy’s ambitious renewable-energy plans aren’t sunk quite yet. But they took a major hit Thursday, when the Senate Armed Services Committee voted to all-but-ban the military from buying alternative fuels.

The House Armed Services Committee passed a similar measure earlier this month. But the House is controlled by Republicans, who are generally skeptical of alternative energy efforts. Democrats are in charge of the Senate Armed Services Committee. And if anything, the Senate’s alt-fuel prohibition goes even further than the House’s. If it becomes law, if would not only sink the Navy’s attempt to sail a “Great Green Fleet,” powered largely by biofuels. It would also sabotage a half-billion-dollar program to shore up a tottering biofuels industry.
Tottering? You bet, because it makes no rational economic sense and they can't find any "greater fools" to toss money to the wind - except for, you know, the well-meaning U.S. Government spending your tax dollars to try to create a market where one does not exist at the prices this algae fuel demands.

Hey, the screwed up nature of this mess is evident to nearly everyone. See Congress torpedoes Navy, Pentagon agrofuel plans:
Both houses have approved legislation that blocks the Navy from buying agrofuels — petroleum substitutes derived from plants, typically grown on industrial Third World plantations — unless they cost no more than conventional fuels.

Their action also bars the Pentagon from funding agrofuel refineries, a major blow to the Obama administration embrace of plant-based fuels, driven largely by Energy Secretary Steve Chu.
Just how important is the Pentagon’s agrofuel agenda? Swell, consider one simple fact: The world’s largest single consumer of oil is the U.S. military.
What might the impact of the Congressional action be?

Consider the case of Amyris, the local company started by Chu protégé and former employee Jay Keasling with the help of some Bill Gates money.

Amyris hopes to make synfuel with the help of genetically engineered microbes, but the diesel fuel they’ve churned out costs a whopping $29 a gallon, no sale under the pending legislation.

If the measure makes it into law, we can expect a major shakeup in the already rickety agrofuel industry.
Amyris stock in the tank, as Mr. Brenneman notes in his post.

Rickety industry? Like stepping into quicksand.

Because its number don't add up.

Might as well just throw dollars into a pond full of scum.

Timely action by Congress on this one.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Memorial Day Weekend

Thanks to my dad, the late Lieutenant Colonel Rone B. Tempest, Jr. ,USAF (ret), my father-in-law, the late Lieutenant Colonel John D. Sterrett, USA (ret) and to the other men and women of all services who served in defense of this country.

To the many who gave their lives during that service. And to those who have now crossed that bar to join their comrades in arms.

We remember.


Rest in peace.

A new generation has assumed the watch in defense of the Constitution of the United States. They're pretty good.

Keep an eye out for them.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Law of Piracy: Broader Definition Under U.S. Law - Somalis Take a Hit

A three judge panel of the 4th Circuit out of Richmond, VA, is responsible for the news: "US appeals court clarifies piracy definition":
The court's ruling gives prosecutors wider latitude to go after people who attack U.S. vessels, U.S. Attorney Neil MacBride said. "For decades, the international community has considered violent attacks on the high seas as an act of piracy, and today's ruling will strengthen our ability to hold those who attack U.S. vessels by force accountable, regardless of whether they are successful or not," said MacBride, whose office handled both cases.

In one case, a lower court judge dismissed charges against five Somalis in an attack on the USS Ashland, ruling since the men had not taken control or robbed the ship their actions did not rise to the definition of piracy. The ruling sends that case back to U.S. District Court for trial, the government said.

In the other case, prosecutors convicted five Somali men who attacked the USS Nicholas. It was the first piracy conviction in a U.S. courtroom since 1819. The ruling by the three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld those convictions and the life sentences the men received.
You can take look at the decision by going here.

Or read them below:
US v. Dire and US v. Ali

US v. Said

Somali Pirates: Maersk vessel fights off pirates in Gulf of Oman

Reported as "Maersk vessel attacked by pirates in Gulf of Oman" by Reuters:
The Maersk Texas, a multi-purpose dry cargo ship, was attacked by pirates in the Gulf of Oman but guards repelled the attack, Maersk Line Ltd, a unit of Danish shipping and oil group A.P. Moller-Maersk , said on Wednesday.
Private armed security guards win again.

 Photo of Maersk Texas (click on it to enlarge) from
© Rogério Cordeiro

UPDATE: Location should not be all that surprising - as you can see from the nearby weather maps (thanks, Weatheronline!), the winds off Oman are not so helpful for small boat ops, but inside the Gulf of Oman, the conditions are better. This situation was predicted by ONI in its Piracy Analysis and Warning Weekly issued 17 May 2012 from which the following weather guesser map of areas of likely pirate operations was obtained:
The white arrow is my attempt to point to the area of the Gulf of Oman that ONI pointed out as high risk.

Here is the WeatherOnline map of the Gulf of Oman from today:

 As you can see, it's pretty brisk out there except fairly well up into the Gulf of Oman.

UPDATE2: gCaptain has some more which may correct part of this interesting (but perhaps misleading) Bloomberg article identifying the area of the attack as being in the Gulf of Oman north of the port of Fujairah - roughly the area I pointed that white arrow to.

Global Shipping Worry: "China is living hand to mouth . . ."

A "Bulker"
In the past, we have looked at the world of "dry bulk" shipping to gauge the direction of the global economy - high demand for such shipping equates to a growing economy, low demand, well, not so much.

China, measured by dry bulk shipping, has become a matter of some concern in certain circles, as reported at here":
The Baltic Exchange's main sea freight index, which tracks rates for ships carrying dry commodities was flat on Monday, as weak Chinese demand weighed on rates for dry bulk vessels.
China is the world's biggest consumer of iron ore, coal and other base metals, but recent data has shown the economy cooling more quickly than expected, with industrial output growth slowing sharply in April.

Analysts expect the dry bulk segment to face short-term weakness as Chinese buyers are deferring delivery or have defaulted on coal and iron ore deliveries to weather the current slide in steel and raw material costs.

Well, there was a brief bump up a day or so ago on the Baltic Dry Index when China announced a continuation of its "growth" plan, but . . . here's graph of the BDI:

Which means that the demand for hulls to ship stuff is weak and that means that a key leading indicator is not looking good for an improved global economy. Keep an eye on this and in the trans-Pacific container shipping business.

UPDATE: Oh, that title quote? From The Guardian here:
Chinese consumers of thermal coal and iron ore are asking traders to defer cargos and defaulting on their contracts, the Financial Times reported on Monday.
The newspaper cites traders as saying the deferrals and defaults, which have only emerged in the last few days, have contributed to a drop in iron ore and coal prices.
"We have some clients in China asking us this week to defer volumes," a senior executive with an unnamed global commodities trading house is quoted as saying.
The deferrals are described by the FT as the clearest sign yet of the impact of the country's economic slowdown on the global raw materials markets.
"China is hand to mouth at the moment," the unnamed source is quoted as saying.

The BDI described here:
Baltic Dry Index is a daily average of prices to ship raw materials. It represents the cost paid by an end customer to have a shipping company transport raw materials across seas on the Baltic Exchange, the global marketplace for brokering shipping contracts. The index is quoted every working day at 1300 London time. This index can be used as an overall economic indicator as it shows where end prices are heading for items that use the raw materials that are shipped in dry bulk.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Practicing Retirement

First, let me thank all of you for visiting EagleSpeak!

Over on the "About EagleSpeak" section, I describe myself as being a "mostly retired."

The past few days I have been working more on the "retired" than the "mostly."

I'm already finding myself doing more reading and doing more research down those rabbit trails I never had time to explore before.

I am doing volunteer work for the Red Cross. You meet some nice people in the volunteer world with interesting life stories.

This blog will continue - perhaps with the long-promised return of "Sunday Ship History" and with some field research. After a couple of days off from blogging, my "need to blog" sense (akin to "Spidey-sense") still begins to ping.

There is this 1968 MGB sitting in my garage that belongs to my younger son. My work on it to date has been sporadic. It is time to work to get it ready for his college graduation next Spring. Maybe if it turns out well, I can get one of my own.

Our old house needs work. Lots of work. Time to get to it.

If the right hugely paying gig pops up, well, I might just, under the right conditions, go back to the "mostly." By the same token, if I win the great big lottery, there will be no "mostly" involved.

So, no great revelations here, just wanted to say thanks for dropping by.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Midrats May 20, Episode 124 "Return to Russia" on Midrats at Blog Talk Radio

Join us on Sunday, May 20, 2012 for Episode 124 "Return to Russia" by Midrats at Blog Talk Radio:
The USSR may be gone ... but Russia has not gone anywhere.

While the news seems to be all around Russia from the rise of China, the incredible success of the Baltic states, Afghanistan and Central Asian Republics, to the European edge of the "near abroad" - Russia continues to be a major player.

Is it still feeding off the corpse of the USSR, or is there a new dynamism and potential? If not a democracy in the Western sense and not Communist either - what is it?

Where does it see its role beyond a seller of weapons and energy? Is Putin just about Putin - or does he have a larger vision for Russia?

Why has Russia taken the position it has from Syria to Iran in the face of world opinion?

To discuss this and more, for the full hour we will have returning guest Dr. Dmitry Gorenburg, Senior Analyst, CNA Strategic Studies, an Associate at Harvard’s Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, and author and host of the Russian Military Reform blog.

If you can't listen live, you can listen later or download the show here or from Midrats on iTunes.

Somali Pirates: Sore on the Shore

Reported inside Al Arabiya's article, "Somali fishermen beg to anti-piracy airstrikes" is an angry demand by some pirate spokesman that, well, the attacks stop or "else."

The "else" is not reported.

Further, some Somali fishermen want to see an invasion force to take out the pirates.
But fishermen on the impoverished coast said that their boats had also been destroyed, and that they feared being caught up in further attacks aimed to damage pirate operations.

“The pirates cannot be easily identified, as they mingle with the fishermen -- the boats are the same and the people look alike unless they are armed,” said Mohamed Hassan, a local fisherman in the Harardhere region.

“The fishermen are also victims -- some of the boats destroyed by the international forces belonged to local fishermen, and we are very much worried that fishermen will die in such operations,” he added.
However, fisherman Kahin Abdurahman said that forces should instead send ground troops capable of distinguishing between pirates and civilians.

“The international forces should stop flying helicopters and firing missiles from the sky,” Abdurahman said.

“If they need to, then their operation must distinguish between local fishermen and pirates, so they must deploy foot soldiers on the ground.”
The EU naval force said no Somalis were injured in Tuesday’s strike, and that the attacks were focused on “known pirate supplies” -- prompting a furious response from pirates.

“If they continue attacking Somali coastal villages, then there will be terrible consequences,” said Abdi Yare, a pirate chief in the notorious pirate base of Hobyo, on the central Somali coast.

“The so-called anti-piracy forces are now engaging in a very dangerous part of their mission.” (emphasis added)
Typical Somali fishing/pirating craft
If I were a Somali fisherman, I don't think I'd be holding my breath waiting for the "foot soldiers" to arrive.

I would, on the other hand, move my boat to an area away from the pirates.

Or paint a big red "X" on each of the pirate boats for easier targeting from the air.

Just saying.

IMO | Maritime Safety Committee re "Arms Aboard Ships"

IMO | Maritime Safety Committee (MSC), 90th session, 16 to 25 May 2012 (High-level segment on arms on board):
Opening address by IMO Secretary-General Koji Sekimizu
May 16, 2012
MSC 90
Secretary-General Koji Sekimizu's opening address to the High-level segment on arms on board
16 May 2012

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Excellencies, distinguished delegates,

As I mentioned in my opening remarks to the meeting, this is the first ever high-level segment of the Committee and its importance is underscored by the presence here today of the President of the Assembly and the Council Chairman. I am particularly pleased to welcome and receive the support of the host Government through the participation of the Secretary of State for Transport – the Right Honourable Justine Greening MP – and of many Ambassadors, High Commissioners, Vice Minsters and others who have indicated their wish to participate in this very important debate – I wish to express my sincere appreciation to you all.

Reports received by the Organization indicate that, although the number of attacks by pirates continues to increase, the proportion of attacks that are successful has decreased. This may be due to a number of factors, including naval protection and better implementation of IMO guidance and Best Management Practices, including the use of Privately Contracted Armed Security Personnel (PCASP). There is anecdotal evidence that the number of ships carrying firearms has increased. On the basis of declarations of weapons carried and on their observations, naval forces estimate that around 25% of ships in the High Risk Area are carrying firearms, however it is also believed that a number of ships are not declaring the presence of private armed security for various reasons, including the lack of flag State approval.

The carriage of firearms on board merchant ships is a complex legal issue with Member States taking diverse positions. The Committee has determined that the carriage of armed personnel is a matter for flag States to authorize, however it has also accepted that their carriage has legal implications for coastal and port States, particularly with respect to the carriage, embarkation and disembarkation of firearms and security equipment in areas under the jurisdiction of such port or coastal States.

Resolution A.1044(27) on piracy and armed robbery against ships in waters off the coast of Somalia endorses the position of this Committee that seafarers should not carry firearms and that the carriage of armed personnel on board ships for enhancing their protection should be left to flag States to decide, once a thorough risk assessment exercise has been carried out and following consultations with the shipowners concerned.

Amongst other things, the resolution strongly urges Governments which have not already done so:

.1 to decide as a matter of national policy, whether ships entitled to fly their flag should be authorized to carry privately contracted armed security personnel and, if so, under what conditions; and

.2 in their capacity as port or coastal States, to decide on their policy on the embarkation, disembarkation and carriage of privately contracted armed security personnel and of the firearms, ammunition and security-related equipment, and to promulgate it widely to other Member Governments, to industry, and to the Organization.

As a truly global industry with many stakeholders, shipping benefits from harmonization of procedures, adoption of common minimum standards and clarity with respect to national legal regimes. However, while progress has been made on developing general guidance, policy on the use of Private Security Guards is not common among Member Governments and, across the shipping industry. There are no agreed minimum performance standards for Private Security Guards and ships using them are subject to many, diverse legal regimes at present.

In order to stimulate debate on this important subject, we have issued MSC 90/20/5, which describes the current situation and outlines a number of related policy issues requiring further deliberation by this Committee. While recognizing the reality of the situation in which Private Security Guards are employed and the diverse positions of Governments, there is a need to consider how the international community should deal with the issue of Private Security Guards and, in particular, the need to arrive at practical solutions to the issue.

Since the issue of Private Security Guards on board ships is of utmost sensitivity and requires detailed consideration of the policy issues involved, I considered it particularly helpful and appropriate, under this agenda item, for the Committee to engage in a high-level policy debate on this topic.

I invite all Member Governments representing flag, port and coastal States and States of seafarers, and shipowners to share their views on this issue of arms on board which is now critical for the international maritime community.

The outcome of your discussions today will provide the clear policy direction required for subsequent discussions on related, technical documents that the Committee and its Maritime Security and Piracy Working Group will be considering under this agenda item.


We have been dealing with piracy problems off the coast of Somalia for 5 years now.

Despite serious efforts by Governments, navies and the industry, the international community has not been able to stop Somali piracy.

We have seen significant developments over the last 4 years:

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Somali Pirates: Counter-Piracy Heat

MOD Photo
More counter-Somali pirate operations revealed at "We're coming to get you! Somali pirate boat blown up by chopper as Navy frigate crew arrest 12" from Mail Online:
Flames erupt into the sky from a skiff floating adrift in the Indian Ocean, a powerful demonstration of the Royal Navy’s might as it fights the scourge of Somali piracy.
HMS Westminster

The boat was blown out of the water by a Merlin helicopter, flown from HMS Westminster, which strafed the vessel, setting fire to fuel tanks.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Somali Pirates: Counter-Piracy Action!

First, from the NYTimes, European Forces Strike Pirate Base in Somalia:
European Union forces on Tuesday attacked a Somali pirate base for the first time, using a combat helicopter to strafe several of the signature fiberglass skiffs that the pirates use to hijack ships.
Lt. Cmdr. Jacqueline Sherriff, a spokeswoman for the European Unions anti-piracy force, said that the European forces destroyed at least five skiffs that were still on land with small arms fire and that the attack lasted a couple of minutes. This is a fantastic opportunity,’’ she said. “What we want to do is make life more difficult for these guys.’’
No "boots on the ground" - but a necessary move to slow down the pirates. Now, pirate whining as reported by the AP at Somali pirate: EU airstrike destroyed equipment:
A burning pirate skiff from a previous counter-piracy event
A Somali pirate says an airstrike by the European Union naval force patrolling the Indian Ocean has destroyed speed boats, fuel deports and an arms store.

Bile Hussein, a pirate commander, said Tuesday the attack on Handulle village in the Mudug region will cause a setback to pirate operations. The village lies about 18 kilometers (11 miles) north of Haradheere town, a key pirate lair. There were no reports of deaths in the attack, Hussein said.
Oh, no! Not a "setback!"

Meanwhile, out at sea, Turkish forces took on an apparent pirate "mother ship" - as reported here:
Turkish commandos have arrested 14 pirates thought to be from Somalia off the coast of Oman and freed seven Yemeni sailors they were holding hostage, the army said on May 13. A helicopter of the frigate Giresun, which operates with NATO forces in the region, spotted the boat on May 11 around 190 nautical miles from the Omani coast, the army said in a statement on its website. Commandos stormed the boat and seized nine assault weapons, a rocket launcher and other materials, said the statement, which was accompanied by photographs showing the suspects with their arms in the air as the raid began.
More from Saturn5 over at his blog, Bosphorus Naval News (more photos at his site and here):
The S-70B Seahawk helicopter attached to TCG Giresun spotted the dhow at 14:50, 190 nautical miles off the coast of Yemen. The dhow acting as a mother ship was stopped by the helicopter and TCG Giresunarrived at the dhow and the naval special forces team boarded the dhow at 17:00. 14 Somali pirates were arrested and 7 Yemeni fisherman, the original crew of the dhow were freed by naval commandos.
Taking the fight to the pirates!

Well done to all involved!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Sea Shepherd leader arrested - attempted murder

Reported as Sea Shepherd leader arrested by thetelegraph.com.au:
THE controversial Sea Shepherd leader Paul Watson has apparently been arrested in Germany and could be facing extradition to the Central American nation of Costa Rica over the ramming and water-canon attack on a commercial shark fishing ship a decade ago.

Costa Rican media are reporting Watson, labelled an eco-terrorist for his anti-whaling campaigns, is facing attempted murder charges for ramming and then attacking the fishing ship as it was disabled and adrift.
Sea Shepherd asserts it's all a big misunderstanding of some sort. Their version is here:
On order of the Guatemalan authorities, Sea Shepherd instructed the crew of the Varadero to cease their shark finning activities and head back to port to be prosecuted. While escorting the Varadero back to port, the tables were turned and a Guatemalan gunboat was dispatched to intercept the Sea Shepherd crew. The crew of the Varadero accused the Sea Shepherds of trying to kill them, while the video evidence proves this to be a fallacy. To avoid the Guatemalan gunboat, Sea Shepherd then set sail for Costa Rica . . .
When last heard from the vessel involved in this incident, Farley Mowat (pictured above), had been arrested by the Canadian government and then sold to cover a portion of its berthing fees.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Somali Pirates: "Private" Counter-Pirate Navy?

The East African reports: "Privately armed ‘navies’ to protect ships off Somalia coast":
Privately armed patrol boats aimed at deterring Somali pirates could be up and running by as early as next month, after a prominent insurance firm agreed to provide financial support.

Following the successful introduction of armed guards aboard several merchant ships plying the waters of the Gulf of Eden and the East African coast, Martin Reith, the founder and former chief executive of the Lloyd’s of London insurer Ascot Underwriting, has taken the protection business one stage further with his plans for a Convoy Escort Programme, which will complement the overstretched naval forces in the region.


The investors are hoping that once the funding is in place, they will buy around seven secondhand naval patrol vessels; the money will also help to finance the armed security guards that will be on board.
Not a new idea and even the first effort of implementing the idea (remember Blackwater's anti-pirate escort? - well, there are several agencies offering private escort vessels already).

What law will rule the surrender of pirates to private companies?
There are a lot of questions floating about -exactly where these forces will operate? Under what laws? To whom will their "force" be accountable? Some of these issues are touched on in the book Maritime Private Security: Market responses to piracy, terrorism and waterborne security risks in the 21st century", edited by Patrick Cullen and Claude Berube and in a whole bunch of posts on this blog.

More from the article:
“This is not a navy,” he said. “What we’re trying to be is a deterrent force. Prevention is within our reach.”

The backers of the idea have stressed that it complies with maritime law. They say it will observe the International Maritime Organisation conventions, such as the Safety of Life at Sea treaty.
The Royal Navy fades away
The more the merrier and it is timely, I suppose, now that the Royal Navy has announced it is now too small to be able to play in the Somali anti-piracy business on a full time basis - see Cuts force Royal Navy to drop Somalia piracy patrol:
The UK has had to scale back its commitment to counter-piracy because the Royal Navy no longer has enough warships to dedicate one to Somalia all year round.

While the US, France, Italy, Denmark and other nations still send frigates to thwart criminals who cause havoc with international trade, the Guardian has learned that Britain has quietly withdrawn its ships from these patrols, even though David Cameron has made Somalia's piracy problem a foreign policy priority.
Maybe the Brits can still afford to rent a maritime patrol aircraft to send, like Luxembourg and lend "top cover" to the private forces in the Gulf of Aden.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Who is "Big Oil?"

From the Wall Street Journal:

Somali Pirates: Tanker Hijacked

Reported as Tanker Operator:Piracy returns - Suezmax hijacked:
Pirates boarded Dynacom’s Liberian flag Suezmax ‘Smyrni’ on Thursday some 430 miles northeast of Yemen’s SocotraIsland, Jacqueline Sherriff, a EUNAVFOR spokeswoman confirmed by phone to Bloomberg. “They are on board the vessel with guns,” Ody Valatsas, Dynacom Tankers Management chartering manager, said by email, declining to comment
NATO Shipping Center Map
further. The vessel was laden with 135,000 tonnes of crude oil reportedly loaded at a Turkish loading terminal. The seized tanker is the largest vessel to be hijacked since February 2011, according to Sherriff and the IMB.
NATO Shipping Center report:
Alert 040/12 - Pirated10 /05/2012 09:30 15.97 61.05 Pirated Pirated At 0930 UTC on 10 MAY 2012 a merchant vessel was reported under attack by 2 skiffs in position 15 58 N 061 03 E. ***Vessel is now confirmed as PIRATED***
© Igor Torgachkin

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Somali Pirates: Spawning Silly Concern Over Their Well-Being

A small boat full of? (not from this incident)
For a couple of days my "news feeds" have been full of this Bloomberg piece, "Shooting to Kill Pirates Risks Blackwater Moment on High Seas", which was spawned, in turn, by a video that I have refused to post because it seems to show armed guards on a ship blazing away at suspected pirate boats (and the suspected pirates in them) somewhere at sea.

My refusal to post the video is because the video takes everything out of context, being but a piece, I assume, of all the activity that led up to the action portrayed.

Assume that the ship had hired the guards to protect the ship, that in the course of that protection some suspicious boats began acting suspiciously like pirates and began to head in toward the protected vessel and that the suspected pirates in said boats were either waving weapons about or actually firing weapons in an attempt to force a boarding of the ship by the suspected pirates. Assume that the senior manager of the vessel, the Captain, was keenly aware of all these goings on and at some point, authorized the use of weapons to deter the apparent attack. Now, take a look at what the video does show - that, despite the gun fire coming from the vessel, the suspected pirate craft continued their approach to the ship, traveling at high speed, even to the point where a suspected pirate boat came alongside the ship in an apparent effort to allow boarding of the ship by some persons riding in the small boat. Further note that the apparent assault on the ship seemed to involve more than one small boat, and that as one boat was being engaged on one side of the ship, another boat was apparently making a run in on the ship on the other side.

So, if you are with me so far, it is not unreasonable to assume that the armed security guards were engaged in providing "self defense" for the ship as directed by the Captain in a situation where only the people on the scene had full knowledge of what they perceived to be a threat to their lives and their safety in an area known for its piracy.

Well, if you thought that way, you are not thinking of the safety of those poor gentlemen in the small boats - you were not properly concerned that, although the small boat operators could have simply turned around and driven their boats and themselves out of rifle range, the onus was somehow on the ship and its security team to "play nice." As set out in the Bloomberg piece:
Reckless gun use at sea could put the whole industry at risk of reputational damage, said Stephen Askins, a partner at the London-based law firm Ince and Co., who has negotiated with Somali pirates for the release of hostages. "You can't have a Blackwater out in the Indian Ocean," he said, referring to the 2007 incident in which Blackwater Worldwide security guards allegedly fired on and killed civilians in Baghdad. ***
What? No, with all due respect to Mr. Askins, it is not "reckless gun use at sea" unless you ignore all the other circumstances, as set out by the president of the private security company involved:
He said the incident on March 25 last year was the second attempt to hijack the Avocet in three days. After spotting rocket-propelled grenades on the first skiff, the guards feared for their lives. The shootings were justified and the guards acted responsibly, Rothrauff said, firing warnings before aiming at the boat.
So, not "wild, wild west" - and it is almost criminally silly to use this video fragment to raise doubt of the need for actions undertaken by men at sea in a tight spot.

As for the safety and well-being of the suspected pirates - well, as I said earlier, the men operating the boat had full control of the situation. They chose to drive in toward the ship, so spare us the bleeding heart comparisons to an incident in Iraq under much different circumstances.

UPDATE: One problem with the rule of law with these pirates is that seems to be mostly a one-way street, tying the hands of counter-piracy forces while letting pirates go free, as set out in The Guardian's Outgunned Somali pirates can hardly believe their luck:Few countries are willing to prosecute and most captives suspected of sea piracy are eventually released

Commanders estimate that for every pirate captured and sent for trial, another three or four are released. This year dozens of pirates have been put quietly back to shore, despite good evidence to support prosecution.
So, without fanfare, more and more of the suspected pirates are being freed, the incentive to hunt them is slightly diminished, and the Somali criminals can hardly believe their luck. "When I have told them [the pirates] that we are putting them back to shore they are more or less celebrating," said Commander Anders Friis, captain of the Absalon. "They are very, very happy."
Of course they are.

UPDATE2: Another note of concern sounded at the Christian Science Monitor's Does a military solution for Somali piracy work?:
Since 2008, Somali pirate gangs have launched more than 800 attacks on commercial ships, with 170 ships hijacked, and 3,400 sailors held for ransom. Shipping firms have paid more than $530 million on private security firms during that time period, and $160 million was paid out to pirate gangs last year alone.

That, clearly, is the reason Somali gangs get into the pirate business. Do a few well-armed security guards onboard commercial ships, or a few naval patrol ships deter those pirates from taking to the high seas? Some point to the dropping number of pirate attacks – from 45 attacks in 2010 to 24 in 2011 – as a sign that naval patrolling and private security may be working.

It's unclear just why pirate attacks have dropped. Private security firms credit their use of guns and razor wire, while the European Naval Force takes credit with their increased patrols. The truth may be more complex, and even proponents of military force admit that the battle is far from won.

Indeed, there is no evidence that pirates are either staying home, or that they are being more selective about which country’s ships to attack and which to avoid, based on that country’s past tactics against pirates.
The article concludes, as has been long asserted here, that any "solution" to the Somali pirate problem begins on the beaches of Somalia.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Monday, May 07, 2012

The 9-11 Trial

If you are looking for my thoughts on the Gitmo Trial, here they are so far:

  1. Theater of the Absurd
  2. Not worthy of further comment

Cole Bombing Suspect Bites the Dust

NYTimes reports Militant Tied to Bombing of U.S.S. Cole Said to Be Killed:
A senior Qaeda militant in Yemen linked to the deadly bombing of an American warship there in 2000 was killed in an airstrike on Sunday, the Yemeni government said, in the latest sign of an escalating American campaign to counter the terrorist threat there.
Drone attack. Yemen seems to be a counter-terrorist free fire zone.

He will be missed by others who are now being targeted.

As always with such scum, we sing a little song:

Odd Ideas: Sea "Life Style"

So, for all of you who want to have an "ocean view", there's a plan afoot to help you out. Take look at VentureBeat's tale of the "Ship of Dreams:
Blueseed is a conceptual floating island-ship intended to house technology startup founders and employees only 30 minutes from California’s northern coast. The founders, who include an ex-Yahoo software engineer, plan to open the ship to inhabitants by the third fiscal quarter of 2013. Because the ship will be located 12 miles outside California in international waters, a visa is not needed, hopefully drawing in international entrepreneurs.
There are some interesting aspects of such an idea, which is not, after all, all that much different then that proposed cruise ship that was going to stay at sea forever, with permanent housing for the wealthy who choose to live aboard.

On the other hand, well, my recollection of sailing off of the SF area is that it can be cold and unpleasant much of the time.

As you can see at the link, there are several proposed designs.

This idea seems to have been floated several times - see here, which describes an Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged motive.

I hope Galt doesn't get seasick.

More on "seasteading" from, of course, "The Seasteading Institute." They have a conference coming up at the end of the month. On dry land.

I once had a plan to buy a few acres with a pond and instead of putting up a cabin, I planned to put a houseboat in the pond. Call it "pondsteading."

Not an original idea as you can tell from this "Redneck Houseboat" link. Redneck? I call it "creative engineering" and "thinking outside the box."

Maybe we need a conference. Bring your own trailer trailerboat "pondstead."

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Midrats Episode 122 Spring Free For All May 6, 2012

Join us 5pm Eastern U. S. for our Episode 122 Spring Free For All 05/06 by Midrats on Blog Talk Radio:
No guests on this week's show - just open phone and open topic. Join Sal from the blog "CDR Salamander" and EagleOne from "Eagle Speak" for the full hour as they discuss the full range of maritime and national security issues. Shipbuilding, procurement programs, maritime strategy, piracy, and larger national security trends - we'll cover it all. This is also the listener's chance to ask Sal and EagleOne about the topics and issues they would like addressed, or to amplify topics from other shows. Here's your chance .....

Friday, May 04, 2012

Energy: A Way to Mine Methane Hydrates for Natural Gas?

Interesting research into potential new source of natural gas reported at Field [trial] to safely extract steady flow of natural gas from methane hydrates successful:
U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced today the completion of a successful, unprecedented test of technology in the North Slope of Alaska that was able to safely extract a steady flow of natural gas from methane hydrates – a vast, entirely untapped resource that holds enormous potential for U.S. economic and energy security. Building upon this initial, small-scale test, the Department is launching a new research effort to conduct a long-term production test in the Arctic as well as research to test additional technologies that could be used to locate, characterize and safely extract methane hydrates on a larger scale in the U.S. Gulf Coast.
So, what the heck are "methane hydrates?" See here:
Methane hydrate is a cage-like lattice of ice inside of which are trapped molecules of methane, the chief constituent of natural gas. If methane hydrate is either warmed or depressurized, it will revert back to water and natural gas. When brought to the earth's surface, one cubic meter of gas hydrate releases 164 cubic meters of natural gas. Hydrate deposits may be several hundred meters thick and generally occur in two types of settings: under Arctic permafrost, and beneath the ocean floor. Methane that forms hydrate can be both biogenic, created by biological activity in sediments, and thermogenic, created by geological processes deeper within the earth.
One concern stirred by any long-term warming in the Arctic is that deposits of methane hydrates might warm enough to naturally release methane - which, according to some theories, might contribute to global warming because methane is a "greenhouse" gas. Being able to tap into such methane hydrates and mine them for their natural gas would provide another, potentially huge, source of natural gas. Natural gas is, of course, considered a "clean" fuel. So, using the gas trapped in the methane hydrates might work to preclude the "methane hydrate" disaster some have predicted:
Paleoclimatologists now believe that large scale, natural methane hydrate releases have been partly but significantly responsible for short-cycle global warming and global cooling cycles in the past. The recent discoveries in the Arctic, in fact, are thought to suggest that methane releases have contributed to the global warming that has occurred since the last ice age 15,000 years ago. [2]

The problem is that these methane releases have a strong positive feedback loop. As they increase the warming of the atmosphere that warming in turn increases methane release which in turn increases warming which in turn releases more...... You get the picture. Acceleration of global warming through this positive feedback loop, by increased methane concentration in the atmosphere, far more than CO2 concentrations, represents, to paleoclimatologists, a far greater risk of pushing us into the Venus effect, runaway global warming.
Additional research has been conducted in the Gulf of Mexico:
On May 6, 2009, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL)in collaboration with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the U.S. Minerals Management Service, an industry research consortium led by Chevron, and others completed a landmark gas hydrate drilling expedition. The objective of the 21-day expedition was to confirm that gas hydrate can and does occur at high saturations within reservoir-quality sands in the Gulf of Mexico. This objective was fully met, with highly saturated hydrate-bearing sands discovered in at least in two of three sites drilled.

Gas hydrate is a unique substance comprised of natural gas (almost exclusively methane) in combination with water. Gas hydrate is thought to exist in great abundance in nature and has the potential to be a significant new energy source to meet future energy needs. However, prior to this expedition, there was little documentation that gas hydrate occurred in resource-quality accumulations in the marine environment.

Running out of energy, are we? Seems like we are not.

Just learning to develop the resources better.

DOE press release on Arctic work here. All images from DOE.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Reading: The Admirals: Nimitz, Halsey, Leahey and King- The Five Star Admirals Who Won the War at Sea

Reading a review copy of Walter R. Borneman's The Admirals: Nimitz, Halsey, Leahey and King- The Five Star Admirals Who Won the War at Sea - full report to follow, initial reading is impressive.

Fleet admirals - a rare breed.

Some Countries Offering "Insurance" Money for Evading the Iranian Sanctions

Short report from PennEnergy on a couple of countries offering "insurance" money to support tankers which evade economic sanctions against Iran at India offers $50MM in coverage for Iranian tanker runs:
Indian oil transportation companies will be able to receive some limited coverage from the government for oil tankers making trips to Iran, according to Reuters. The recent sanctions imposed against Iran for its continuing efforts to develop its nuclear program, and as many Western nations fear nuclear weapons, have largely prevented Indian oil companies from finding insurance for their oil ships.
In response, the Indian government has offered to insure as much as $50 million for any "Indian flag carriers" traveling to Iran. This amount falls well short of the actual liability incurred by oil tankers on any given trip, but it comes to more than six times as much as the Japanese government has offered its companies, illustrating India's interest in continuing the flow of Iranian oil.
Insurance Insight provides some background:
The concern for Asian nations such as India, China and Japan has been that their ships, which are highly dependent on the International Group of Protection & Indemnity Clubs and its reinsurance programme, will be unable to sail if they cannot obtain cover.

Another Insurance Insight report on limitations placed by Japanese insurers on tankers carrying Iranian crude:
Japanese oil buyers will be forced to coordinate schedules after insurers warned they will cover only one tanker transporting Iranian oil at a time after the 1 July sanctions deadline.
According to Reuters, the three insurers together can provide only up to ¥30bn ($370m) at one time in hull and machinery cover, which protects vessels against physical damage, without relying on the European reinsurance market to hedge the risk.

This is enough to cover insurance for only one tanker travelling in the Gulf with Iranian crude oil, Insurance Insight understands.
So, India and Japan as "sanction busters?"

Earlier report here, where China is added to the list of Iranian oil carriers.

Somali Pirates: Impact Graph

For those of you who like graphics that someone spent much time on, from Travel Insurance.org:

Update: (7/17/13) Links removed at request of site owner.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Gulf of Guinea Pirates: Gasoline Tanker Hijacked Off Togo

AFP report Tanker with valuable cargo 'hijacked' off Togo:
A Singapore-managed product tanker with valuable gasoline cargo has gone missing and is suspected to have been hijacked by pirates while at anchor off Lome, Togo, a maritime watchdog said Tuesday. Potengal Mukundan, director of the London-based International Maritime Bureau (IMB), told AFP international warships and navies from neighbouring countries have been alerted and are searching for the ship, which has 24 crew members and was reported missing by the operators Tuesday.
"Here we have criminal gangs whose main purpose is to steal multi-million cargo which is gasoline as it has a ready market. It is very easy to dispose of it. There has been an underground trade in the Gulf of Guinea for decades."

Mukundan said so far in 2012 there have been 19 attacks off the Gulf of Guinea on the west coast of Africa, with two vessels hijacked. Forty-two crew have been taken hostage, two crew members killed and two kidnapped by pirates.
For those of you have forgotten, Togo is in the oval between Benin and Ghana, near Nigeria.