Friday, September 19, 2008

Another Example of UN Incompetence?

Ship Owners, Unions Appeal for UN Action Against Somali Pirates International task forces, meetings. Still the problem of maritime piracy is growing.

While poverty no doubt contributes to the problem, the fact that most nations won't do anything is the real issue. For the most part, once pirates seize a ship, no one will do anything, except pay the ransom. "If you give a mouse a cookie, he's gonna want a glass of milk."

One bright light has actually been the French. (Yeah, I know, just plain crazy.)
French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Sept. 16 called for a global effort to combat piracy after French naval commandos freed a couple held by Somali pirates who had seized their yacht. One pirate was killed and six taken prisoner in the raid.
That still leaves 11 ships and about 200 crew held in Somalia by pirates. The principle target is not yachts, but merchant vessels. More money to be had, since the corporations pay the ransoms.

The money they are making enables them to become even more sophisticated. See the images below for a couple of the "mother ships." These larger ships launch small, fast craft armed with automatic weapons and rocket-propelled-grenades. Unarmed merchant ships are over-matched.

Consider the latest from the International Chamber of Commerce Commercial Crime Services.
To all ships transiting the Gulf of Aden

Within the last 48 hours [prior to Aug, 26th] four ships have been attacked and hijacked by armed pirates in the vicinity 12 / 14 degrees north and 046 / 053 degrees east. All ships are strongly advised to maintain a strict visual and radar watch.

Early detection will allow ships to take measures to prevent boarding and request for assistance.

Intelligence sources revealed that there are now three suspicious vessels in the Gulf of Aden believed to be pirate mother vessels looking to attack ships with the intent to hijack.

The description of the suspected trawlers - long white, Russian made stern trawlers with names "BURUM OCEAN or ARENA or ATHENA". One of the trawlers is believed to be operating at approximately 60 NM NE of Bossasso, Somalia in the Gulf of Aden. Also intelligence indicates a blue-coloured tug operating in the same vicinity
The most merchant vessels can do is call for help, and that hasn't worked out too well, or use water cannon. (These are allowed in this no-self-defense-age as being primarily for fire-fighting.) In other words, they are defenseless victims.

A lot of people like to think this doesn't concern them. But the cost of insurance for shipping is going up. Companies are not traveling this route, which means much longer voyages - more fuel and more shipping costs.

And of course, as piracy is seen to be profitable in this location, it will spread. Not that Somalia is the only problem area of course. Indonesia is a notable problem area. You can find the 2008 map of attacks here.

It just seems ridiculous that anyone can seriously believe the UN will solve this problem.
International ship owners and a union representing seamen appealed to the United Nations to take urgent steps to combat piracy in Somali waters.
Self-defense would be nice, but don't expect the UN to endorse that idea. (A couple of .50 caliber machine guns on each merchant ship would probably go a long way to making piracy less profitable.)



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