Friday, April 10, 2009

Pirates of the Gulf

Instant Expert

En route to Mombassa, Kenya.

Assignment – Somali Pirates take an American Vessel. April 8 2009.

Now the assumption is that all of us at all the time are instant experts on everything known to mankind (and or sisterhood kind, if you want to be PC). And often I find myself in a situation where to all honesty I know nothing about.

I have not cared about, worried about or even thought about Somali Pirate’s. In fact the last time I even remember thinking about Pirates was watching “Pirates of the Caribbean”. In which everything ends well and we are left with the glowing image of Captain Jack, being a scoundrel but a nice hero.

Flash-forward to reality, Somali Pirates seize yet another ship…. Oops this one is American flagged and the crew is all American. As opposed to being some foreign vessel crewed by Filipinos with a Greek Captain. Now we have breaking news.

The cold hard fact is as I fly in that when you commence an assignment we are so often totally devoid of knowledge of the story, that you could change names and places and nothing would really change.

However having read twenty articles on Somali Piracy written in the last year, including think tank reports the reality is that I have become an instant expert and will happily discuss any issue regarding piracy around Somali in the last decade.

It is not rocket science to become informed on a subject, but so often people have a preconceived opinion that they never bother to actually take the time to read up on an issue. It does not worry me that before I got on the plane this morning I knew nothing about the background to the assignment I am heading too, the reality is that now I am an instant expert.

For example –

The best method of repelling Pirates is not to throw tomatoes at them as they try to board as one crew did last year to no avail.

If you are taken hostage, relax the kidnappers are more likely to take you out to dinner at a new restaurant in town that has opened as a result of business improving due to piracy.

If you are a pirate and are captured in 99% of the cases the navy that captures you and takes you prisoner will simply take you back home and land you on a beach close by as they have no international law to prosecute you by and also the warships have no prison facilities so it is easier and quicker just to get rid of you.

When the Islamic Party took control of Somalia a year or so ago, it should be noted that piracy fell to 0%, they simply did not allow it. So lets forget the terrorists are controlling the pirates. When the Islamic Courts Union fell, piracy returned immediately.

The good news for Somali is that it is no longer considered a “Failed State”; the international consensus is that it is now a “Post Failed State”.

In the Northern area of Somalia, “Puntland” which accesses the Gulf of Aden, piracy has injected $35 million dollars into the local economy in the last year, not bad for a country whereby half the nation needs food aid.

The area involved with the Somali Pirates extends over 1.1 million square miles of sea; it takes fifteen minutes from a vessel seeing a pirate to being over run and captured. The most elaborate technical gizmos are useless against pirates, the best defense is to simply look out of the windows of the bridge and have eyes on the sea.

There have been no reports of rival pirate gangs (of which the estimate is ten gangs with 1000 members total) ever fighting each other; they just only care about money.

How do Somali Pirates get better? “Practice, practice, practice.”

Chasing Pirates with International Forces is as one serving Italian Officer notes is - “going after them in a 485ft long destroyer bristling with surface to air missiles and torpedoes, is like going after someone on a bicycle with a truck.

It will be interesting to see how the world and especially the US reacts to this issue and whether Islam phobia is bought up as an issue by the right wing commentators, because this is simply a matter of money, nothing else. Pure greed and bling with an AK47 attitude.