Former Marine and Special Agent Kevin Doherty is the owner of Nexus Consulting Group of Alexandria. He founded the company in 2005 to focus on US law while actively protecting US citizens, equipment and cargo from the threats of terrorism and criminal activity.

In shadow of the second attack on the Maersk Alabama and the murder by pirates of the Captain of the Singapore based MV Theresa VIII in the process of her hijacking, I interviewed him last Friday focusing on the role of private security companies, their efforts to defend American merchant ships from piracy, and the evolving threat going forward.


Salamander: How many people do you have working for you? Are they employees or are independent contractors?

Doherty: The operational people we bring in are independent contractors. Due to the nature of the contracts we get, they are very short term and therefore we cannot bring in full-time employees.

Salamander: Due you work with American flagged shipping companies, or are you international in scope?

Doherty: Currently we are only dealing with American flagged companies. We are looking to expand and are looking at a variety of companies that are interested in our services. For now though, we have dissected US lay enough that we are comfortable enough with them. We think we can work internationally; it is just that we haven’t focused a lot dissecting those laws.

Salamander: When you are executing your security contracts, are you operating under US laws, international laws, or does it depend on the contract you have with the individual companies?

Doherty: It’s actually, “all of the above.” We are all US citizens, we are responsible to US laws when on US flagged vessels, vessels are under international law when in international waters, but they follow the laws of their flag of origin. When our personnel are in transit through the territory of foreign countries, then you have to follow those laws as well.

Salamander: There are a lot of questions out there about arming merchant ships, with the two sides arguing if it is a good idea or a bad idea. There is a large difference of opinion and perspective between what you do and what many European and international organizations feel is the right path to take when it comes to keeping merchant ships away from predation by pirates. Why do you think they have the view that they have?

Doherty: I have to question what their agenda really is. Just this week we have the example of Somali pirates using deadly force. They shot and killed the Captain on one of the vessels. They are using deadly force to terrorize merchant mariners transiting the Gulf of Aden, who are just exercising innocent passage – trying to do their job.

The people who say, “Let’s not use weapons. Let’s not go there yet.” I question their agenda. I think a lot of that attitude comes from the fact that a lot of these organizations and a lot of those people who are supporting that stance are in the United Kingdom.

As I mentioned earlier, I used to be Special Agent Kevin Doherty. In my work, I used to travel through the UK. Even then, on official business with a diplomatic passport, I was not allowed to bring my firearm into the UK. They have some of the strictest firearms laws in the world, and you look that the IMO and you look at the shipping companies and you look at the insurers, they are mostly based in the UK.

You really have to question the agenda of those who know clearly that the Somalis are using deadly force, from AK-47s to RPGs. They are saying, “Don’t arm yourself against that.”

“What is your agenda?” That is my question.

Salamander: Having spent some time in the UK, and worked with the British military, I am very familiar with trying to deal with the point of view that they have.

Doherty: The thing is, they are not saying that we shouldn’t; they are saying that we can’t. They want us to maintain their standards – because they can’t maintain ours. I don’t understand how people can say, “Kevin, you can’t put weapons on ships, you escalate the situation.”

How much higher can I escalate? The pirates are already using deadly force. They are firing RPGs.

Salamander: I know that what you do is defensive in nature, but the company that used to be known as Blackwater was trying to do something quasi-offensive with their own ship, but that went nowhere.

One thing that we have talked about on our blog and that I would be interested in getting your point of view on is addressing piracy from an economic aspect.

Throughout the history of piracy, and written about as far back to Roman times, a common thread is the economic calculus of piracy that is closely involved with what risk is involved for the pirate to engage or not to engage in piracy.

If the pirates know that certain ships with certain flags have a defensive capability; economically, it makes no sense for them to make an effort to go after those ships. So, those flagged ships that do not defend themselves, or as we saw recently with the Spanish, come from nations that have a habit of paying ransom, one would think that the pirates would target those ships and nations.

Do you see that level of sophistication in the pirate operations, or are we giving them too much credit for economic literacy?

Doherty: Until the Maersk Alabama this week, I would say that you were giving them too much credit and sophistication. However, for them to be able to attack the Maersk Alabama twice in six months, is either statistically phenomenal or they deliberately targeted that vessel.

We have seen them indiscriminately attack ships, as we saw with the attack on “Grey Hull” German Navy ship that in the dark that they could not distinguish from a merchant ship at night. So there is an aspect of randomness to their attacks.

We have heard that there is an intelligence component coming out of London where insurance company sources are sending information to the Somalis telling them what different ships’ insurance thresholds are. The Somalis are asking for exactly the right amount of money that insurers will pay. They are not asking for $20 million, they’re not asking for $20,000; they are asking for $2.47 million dollars that just happens to meet the threshold of that specific contract.

Do I have the link analysis to prove that? No. Do I think it is suspicious? Absolutely.

Do I think that in light of the incident with the Maersk Alabama – where the Maersk Alabama was attacked by armed pirates twice in a six month period; like I said – it is statistically unfathomable or they were specifically targeted.

Salamander: Moving back from the broad view of piracy, let me ask you a few specific questions about your security teams.

What type of weapons or defensive equipment do they bring with them, or is that something you wish to keep close hold?

Doherty: We are transparent. I believe that the greatest threat to the merchant mariners out there is the RPG. We are seeing it deployed by the pirates more and more. It is a nasty weapon that can be used out to almost 1,000 meters. With that, when you are talking about armed security teams, you have to mitigate that threat, you need to be able to reach out to ranges up to and greater than 1,000 meters.

The weapon systems we are talking about are at a minimum a 7.62 round and higher. We have .50 caliber sniper rifles, semi-automatic, that we employ on some of our vessels because we need the ability to stop the pirates from using the RPG against the protected vessel.

Salamander: During the Iran-Iraq War, the Iranians used the RPG very effectively against very large merchant vessels. Do you know if any shipping companies have looked at that experience toward any possible steps they can take, if any, to mitigate that threat through how they load their ships – or any damage control assets they may carry?

Doherty: No, not that far. We saw in Iraq that RPGs can stop M-1 Abrams. Those are heavy armor vehicles. Merchant vessels make their money by shipping as much as they can at the smallest cost. If they start reinforcing their ships, they will not be able to operate that merchant vessel as a commercial enterprise.

We are going back to the old Soviet model of dealing with the RPG when they were fighting the Afghans. They realized that they could not stop the RPG, so the decided that they just needed to avoid them. To do that, we try to create a bubble around our vessels.

Salamander: Obviously you want to keep them away from the ship, but like we saw recently with a Chinese ship where the crew, for a lack of a better phrase, repelled boarders; if your security forces found themselves in a situation where pirates have made it on board a ship and in the course of defending the ship took some of the pirates prisoner – what type of legal ramifications are there for taking prisoners? Do you follow US, host nation, international, or some other legal arrangement?

Doherty: Piracy is a universal crime. The semantics though break down into if this is a pirate attack, or is this an armed attack, or is this just a trespasser. That is important. In defining someone as a pirate, which we can clearly do in the Gulf of Aden, because it is a universal crime, you can try them in any particular venue that has nexus to that piracy.

If it happens on a US flag vessel, they can be tried in the US. If it happens on a US vessel in international waters, they can be tried either in the US, or under the Tribunal in Kenya where there is an agreement. If it happens in Saudi waters on a US vessel, they could be tried in Saudi Arabia, they could be tried in the US – or even perhaps in the Tribunal set up by the UN.

The problem is that the threshold for evidence you need for something like a crime scene. We haven’t reached the point where the Captain and his crew can process that like a crime scene.

Salamander: The Chinese example is an outlier, but has there been any occurrences where a crew has successfully repelling pirates without a security detachment on board, or is that simply beyond the skill set or training ability of these merchant mariners.

Doherty: No, it happens daily if you look at some of the UK TMO reports. My last transit was made the 10th through 20th and there were seven reported attacks. All of which were repelled, none of which had armed security at the time they were attacked.

You will see the gambit; a potential pirate vessel close; merchant vessel speeds up or creates a large enough wake; goes to fire hoses; tries to make itself a tougher target; then the pirate probe breaks contact. We have seen this happen a lot in the last month.

The US Navy has put out best practices, and that is good. The problem is that the pirates are reinvesting their money. They are becoming better, faster, stronger, more sophisticated. They used to say, “Stay 800nm off the coast and you will be OK.” Well, last week we had a vessel get hit 1,000nm off the coast.

Then they say, “Do 16kts or better and you will be OK.” Well, Captain Phillips said he was doing 18kts or better when he got hit on the Maersk Alabama. The Sirius Star, I think, was doing 23kts when she was taken down. So they give you a list of best practices, but it still isn’t a silver bullet.

Salamander: That leads us right into my next question that you already answered to a certain extent; but I want to throw it out there anyway. It’s a two-parter in a way. There is always an arms’ race with piracy, and Darwin’s theory applies. With the money they are getting from the ransoms being paid – Spain being the last one to pay – and the pirates reinvesting that money like you said, I think that obviously a concern you would have would be the escalation in both equipment – for instance moving away from fishing old boats to something that can go faster then 23 kts – and weapons that as the RPG is the greatest challenge you have now – what could make the challenge even greater?

Doherty: It isn’t what we could see, it is what we do see. Last month the US Navy reported that it was shot at with a heavy caliber weapon. If they have the ability to reach out beyond 1,000 meters, if they start pulling out DShK, if they start pulling out true military assault weapons on these vessels – the DShK is the Russian equivalent of the US .50 cal machine gun – it is a nasty weapon. They clearly have those weapons available to them.

One of my biggest concerns is when one of those guys in Mogadishu decides that, “Hey, this is a good business model.” I think we can fairly say that to this point it is just the normal pirates, but when the battle hardened fighters in Mogadishu decide that they want a bit of that action, then it could get real ugly.

Salamander: The experience we have already had on the ground in Somalia is what it is, but a lot of what we are doing right now is strictly defensive; we are defending ourselves from the arrow and not going after the archer.

Doherty: Absolutely.

Salamander: So, the problem is that these pirate nests along the coast that everyone knows about.

When you look at the previous experience with piracy, when you are talking about the Mediterranean, the Caribbean and other places, that you do not really solve the problem until you clean out the nests. That means going ashore as a military action.

Doherty: Or diplomatic.

Salamander: Or diplomatic, exactly. I know you aren’t a diplomat, but I know you talk with people whose expertise is in this area. Do you see this progressing in the diplomatic area in any way, or is it one of these unfortunate areas where things will have to get worse until the international community finally says, “Enough.”

Doherty: I caveat this slightly by saying when I was Special Agent Doherty, I did carry a diplomatic passport and I do have a bit of a grasp on it. But to be diplomatic, there has to be an entity to talk to. At this point however, they are just too fragmented. You have Somaliland, Puntland, the Islamic Republic of Somalia, in addition to various clans who claim their particular areas. So, the destabilized nature of that nation is such a challenge, and unfortunately that destabilization is part of the problem of trying to deal with the diplomatic path to solve it.

Sadly, what we see in the end is that it takes some military force to come in and hold the ground and not let the factions to terrorize and fragment. To literally put boots on the ground, have curfews, etc. That is what we did in Iraq. We secured the area and then we gave space for the diplomats to come in and attempt to build a better situation both politically and tangibly. That is the model.

I don’t think though that this is the case here. It is such a quagmire in Somalia that no one is willing to dive in to that hornet’s nest. As a result, it is a Petri dish over there, where the fungus is growing tremendously.

Salamander: Do you see passive defenses, like the LRAD they used on the Maersk Alabama, or fire hoses in conjunction with evasive maneuvers as an effective long term tool in defeating an attack by pirates today? As part of your kit, do your teams include passive defense devices? What are your feelings going forward in light of the escalation of force by the pirates as we discussed earlier?

Doherty: Some of those systems are very expensive. I love the fact that those tools are in the toolbox. I love that the appropriate tools are available for the right level of attack. As those pirate vessels are trying to come alongside and they have a ladder and you have a firehose, then that is great and that is appropriate and correct.

However, as we saw with the LRAD last November, on the Biscaglia there was an unarmed British security team of four who were using the LRAD as their final protective line. The pirates we shooting AKs at the vessel, and the security team had to literally jump overboard, and the pirates took the ship.

The LRAD is not effective as a deterrent system as part of your protective barrier. It is effective as an alert system. I think the problem is when people look at these levels of escalation; they try to use these things you would use at Levels 2 & 3 when things have escalated to Levels 5 & 6.

It is analogous to a police officer using mace to stop someone who is shooting at him. It doesn’t work. It isn’t what it was designed for.

Salamander: As we wind things up, is there something that we haven’t covered or that you wanted to add, something you think would help the readers at USNIBlog get a better handle on what you do and what you see going forward concerning the security of our merchant ships?

Doherty: Well, we could talk about this for days because I believe in it, it is the right thing to do. It is bucking the system though, because the old ways as held by the old dogs are saying, “Don’t arm. Don’t arm.”

Well, it’s not about barbed wire; it’s not about halogen lights. It is about stopping the RPGs and the pirates who want to do harm to our mariners. Moreover, as former Special Agent Doherty as part of the intelligence community, I firmly believe that the US mariners are not going to be treated as part of this old model.

The Somalis still have a bone to pick with us dating back to 1993. I am convinced that the pirates are going to be paid the same in by the folks in Mogadishu, as they will by Lloyds of London.

We know this, as when the pirates got on board the Maersk Alabama the first time and they found out they had Americans, Captain Phillips stated that they were full of joy. I don’t think they will treat Americans the same as they will Filipino crews.

With that, we need to recognize that it is a mortal issue when you are going through those waters. We can’t be talking about fire hoses and barbed wire when the Somalis are talking about AKs and RPGs.




Posted by CDRSalamander in Foreign Policy, Maritime Security


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  • Grandpa Bluewater

    Most impressive. Thank you. Cuts through the foolishness I have been hearing for the last two decades like a hot knife through soft butter.

  • Byron

    I’ll second that. Damn fine stuff, CDR.

  • Mike M.

    Outstanding work.

    I’ll add that it is becoming increasingly clear that the only real solution will be to strike at the bases ashore.

  • http://www.tritoninternationalltd.com Simon

    It’s a view! I agree with some of the points that Kevin states, however, I have to say that his view is a somewhat blinkered and limited view of the Maritime Industry and the reasons why the Merchant Fleet Organisations are stating “No Arms”. These reasons are due to operating limitations of the vessels and Crews, varying types of hazardous cargo’s and more importantly, the liability of the Crews, Ship Owners and Charterers. This is without taking the legal ramifications of actions by Armed Security Teams, which, outside of any US Flag legislation or US Flag vessel contracted tasking, severely limits security companies in their legal ability to provide services and implement proactive measures in a Lethal or Armed capacity.

    Furthermore, the luxury of having the US decision to allow Armed Protection is not universal and the stigma of Blackwater and other companies in Iraq has had a monumentally negative impact on the industry, which we are all still working to correct.

    Engaging potential Pirates at 1000m with a Barratt is great practice for their ex-USMC or equivalent Snipers, but unless you have confirmed evidence that said Pirates are intending to target you, engage with you and hit your vessel, then any premeditated action against them is not only illegal, but in itself an act of Piracy! The use of UAV or Drones to confirm contents of vessels is one thing and interdiction, followed by permissive stop and search by Authorised Forces is the correct follow up, but although a pre-emptive strike can prevent an attack, it is still an unlawful act.

    I have a 20 year consolidated background of practical experience in this subject and although I empathise and agree with Kevin’s views, they are from a specific and limited position (US Legislation) and in the wider requirement for effective response and a definitive capability that counters AK47 and RPG within an internationally recognised Legal framework, we find ourselves (those outside the US legislative framework)both cautious and ready to implement measures that Kevin is able to count as normal for his clients, but in our environment, we have to exercise both Armed Protection with a large and frequently used container full of diplomacy!

    We are the partners of the Somaliland Coastguard and I work with our joint operations teams out of Berbera, in Somaliland, which is still considered by some, to be in Somalia, so I know the rules of the game, the space to act in International Waters, the impact when you do and what happens when you actually engage, arrest and detain Pirates (we have arrested 56; 47 are in Somaliland Jails and 9 are awaiting trial, based on our collective evidence and exhibit gathering).

    This capability will have to become an essential component for PMSC’s doing this work and it is vital that the Armed capability is used concurrently with Arrest and Detention skills (oh! and that has further impact on the client relationship and capacity to provide on-board services and their/your Insurance).

    Food for thought!

  • sid

    Painted fake gunports on Merchants were a tradition for a reason…

    Seems like pirate hazards to trade at sea are pretty much back to where they had been up until the late 19th century…

  • sid
  • MR T’s Haircut

    Great Story CDR Salamander!

    I want to be a pirate hunter when I grow up…

  • http://bowramp.blogspot.com William Powell

    Yeah, I’ve always thought that the only way to curtail the problem was to change the risk vs. benefits ratio. We can’t do much to reduce the ratio for a young single man with nothing to begin with. He essentially has nothing to lose but his life, and is still at that “I am immortal” age. However, these young men are hired, trained, supplied, and paid by people who DO have something to lose. Unfortunately, I think the most likely way to get at those people involves some loss of innocent life. Like the Iran situation, no country seems willing to break the eggs necessary to make the omelette, so instead, we just dither, and let the situation get worse. One day, a whole lot of people will die, and then everyone will suddenly get 20-20 hindsight.

  • http://xbradtc.wordpress.com XBradTC

    Simon does indeed bring food for thought, but the concept that you can’t counter AKs and RPGs outside a recognized legal framework is merely working to the advantage of those who refuse to exist inside any legal framework.

    Rome, with all its laws, fell to barbarians with none.

  • Byron

    Sometimes, you just have to sail under a black flag. Dealing with the next best thing to barbarians, no matter how sophisticated they seem, is a good time to hoist it up and let the pirates know that there are things on the sea more fearful than a pirate.

    Solomon, is the Somolialand Coast Guard planning to head up to the pirate Hqs and do a little house cleaning? Some nation building? Hows that going?

  • http:/bostonmaggie.blogspot.com Maggie

    Silly MR T’s Haircut!! We all know you will never grow up!

  • http://www.ncga.us Kevin Doherty

    Simon, I think it is great that your entity is attempting to secure the coastline. I have kept close tabs on the many successes that Mr. Yahgub, Chief of Police in Sahil has made in Somaliland.

    I very much look forward to the day when there is no need for delineation between Somaliland and Somali, or at least the delineation between the Somaliland Coast Guard and a Somali Coast Guard.

    The issue of criminal prosecution is one I whole heartedly agree with. These pirates need to be arrested and charged with crimes against humanity. Since piracy is a universal crime, I can’t wait the first Captain or security detail to walk a legally arrested pirate down a gangplank and turn them over to the local US embassy or authorities to be tried as pirates and face life in prison. The problem we are seeing is that even the CTF-151 Navies can’t garnish enough evidence to establish probable cause, and we have seen many Navies implement the “catch and release” program, where known pirates dump weapons into the sea and when the boarding takes place, there is not enough evidence to effect an arrest. “Every pirate’s a fisherman, and every fisherman a pirate”

    But we have to remember the mariners are there for reasons of commerce or recreation, it’s not the mariners’ job to police the high seas. The mission of my security details is purely to defend the crew against death or serious bodily harm while the vessel is performing its task of international commerce.

    The model Nexus follows is strictly use of force only in defensive measures. We are well versed in the use of force and articulation of escalation. There is obviously the requirement of Positive Identification (PID) of a threat, as well as articulation of ability, opportunity and jeopardy of life presented by such threats.

    The Nexus solution may be a new way to look at the problem of keeping seafarers safe while transiting these high-threat waters, but just at the pirates are escalating their use of force to including the killing of a Master just last week, so too must the maritime community adapt to be able to detect, deter and defend if necessary against these threats.

    I think it is also important to state that it is absolutely legal for our teams to be on-board the vessels we are on and at no time does any seafarer give up their inherent right to sovereignty in their own bodies. The right to self-defense is a nearly universal principle of law that when attacked, a person has the right to defend themselves.

    When minutes matter, the Navies are taking hours to respond. For targeted vessels there is no chance to run and nowhere to hide, only confrontation, which means that innocent ship captains are forced to pick one of two very difficult choices; surrender the ship, or defend it.

    I earnestly look forward to the day my teams are not needed due to the great successes of the Somali Coast Guard and the international community, but until that day, neither my firm, nor myself are willing force mariners to become Marines.

  • http://analysis.williamdoneil.com/ Will O’Neil

    This is a nice sales pitch for Mr. Doherty’s no doubt excellent services, except that it doesn’t deal with what actually matters: money. Sure, a highjacking is expensive for the insurers, but the loss rate is still very low because only a small fraction of ships in the region actually fall afoul of pirates. So the insurance rates remain pretty modest, and that means that operators cannot save anywhere near enough to pay for an armed security detail, even if the insurers would give them a rate break in return — which they definitely have no intention of doing. Until that changes drastically there isn’t going to be any arming of these ships, except maybe at the expense of the taxpayers. Since the number of U.S. flag ships that pass that way is infinitesimal, discussions of what ship operators and their governments “should” do on a U.S. forum are almost entirely futile. As for the threat Somali pirates pose to the survival of Western Civilization, I leave that to others.

  • Grandpa Bluewater

    Hoses of any size projecting non incendiary fluids of any type are about equally effective against heavy automatic gun fire and RPG’s. Which is to say, not.

    Just to start the ball rolling, a few modest suggestions.

    Go ugly, soon (too late to be early). To wit:

    A show of (sufficient) force and defensive hardening should be enough to encourage pirates to seek easier prey. Gun tubs and manned crew served weapons should be fine, along with some over the side electric fencing (insulators prominently displayed, along signs with a skull and lightning bolts over fouled barbed wire in red). Smaller the ship, the fewer gun tubs, but 100% perimeter overwatch, guards in uniform.

    Then a distinctive light array (red strobe over red strobe?) to warn “armed guards on board, attempted piracy will be resisted with deadly force. Do not approach closer than 500 yards.” Distinctive day shape where best seen, design left to a Coast Guard Academy senior class project.

    ROE – At sea: RPG’s will be engaged on sight. AK’s will be engaged on sight. Grapnels in conjuction with small arms will be engaged on sight. Vessels within security zone (500 yds) with boarding ladders or weapons at the ready will be engaged on sight.

    Covert, armed borders attempting to embark at sea are as good as being fired upon if you have them on lowlight video.

    Have the entire perimeter on low light and daylight video. All the time.

    Seal the house at sea except for lifeboat route exits, one per boat, put an armed guard overwatch on each door and a chime which actuates n the bridge when door opened , camera coverage.

    Personnel costs? Hire Ghukas, be generous by Nepalese standards.
    In general, they don’t goof off and they don’t fool around, if supervised by their own folk or those they respect, like retired senior NCO’s with combat experience from elite infantry. They all speak, read and write english. Man for two watches, 4 privates (icluding one specialist sniper private or corporal per watch section)and a corporal of the guard for each watch. One sgt/armorer and a first sgt (the watch supervisors), one ship’s guard OinC. Superstitious? Add an guard officer of the watch for the night watches.

    Exercise the guard force at dusk and dawn. Every day. Security theater.

    Publish armed guard presence and basic shoot on sight portions of ROE in Notice to Mariners. Ships with other flags, especially those of convenience? Don’t care. International law? Follows established usage, like USCG best practices. Make the above a best practice, then put on the ugly american face (in the original meaning of the term, read the book), go visit the potential allies. Inform the IMO, be polite.

    Who is an potential ally? Any nation with a common interest.

    Or convoy with corvettes. Helo capable, well armed corvettes.

    I will lurk now. I’m sure somebody has better ideas.

  • Grandpa Bluewater

    Will:

    The longer you do nothing the bolder and more rapacious pirates become. It all depends on how much of their criminal behavior one is willing to tolerate.

    As for myself, I’m more or less with Captain David Porter, USN.

  • SCOTTtheBADGER

    Perhaps putting the ASHVILLE class PGs back in production might help. They were fast and well armed for the job, with one 3″/50, a 40MM Bofors, and 2 twin M2HBs. Use them in groups of 4 to escort convoys through the danger zones. Faster, cheaper, and better armed than an LCS.

    I have advocated the purchase of Norwegian NANSEN class DDGs as a modern DE for the USN, calling them the JOHN C BUTLER class, to ressurect an honored name for USN DEs. A convoy escort of one BUTLER, with it’s helo assets, and 4 ASHVILLEs would provide a great deal of muscle at far less cost than most other forms of escort. I do agree with the arming of the merchies. Bring back the Armed Guard! Sometimes the solution to a problem has been arounf dor a long time. I think Captian Preble would agree

  • SCOTTtheBADGER

    I should like to advocate putting the ASHVILLE class PGs back in production. They were fast, sea going, and well armed for tasks such as these, with a 3″/50, a 40MM Bofors, and 2 twin M2HBs. They could do both interdiction patrols, and, if so desired, convoy escort.

    It is also, perhaps, time to bring back the US Navy Armed Guard, to provide professional gun grews for the Defesively Equipped Merchant Ships. Armed Gurad crews with M2 HBs, and MK19 grenade launchers could be put aboard before entering the danger area, and be swapped out before entering the Suez Canal, or the Srait of Hormuz, perhaps being airlifted out by helo. Sometimes the answer to modern problems can be found in the past. And, like Commodore Preble, I think Grandpa Bluewater’s idea has a great deal of merit as well.

  • leesea

    Scott I have already proposed bringing back the NAGs, but no one is interested. See my postings eleswhere.

    My belief is fighting pirates is a US Navy job at least as far a the US merchant fleet is concerned. This is the key statement from above:
    “But we have to remember the mariners are there for reasons of commerce or recreation, it’s not the mariners’ job to police the high seas.”

  • MR T’s Haircut

    Maritime Security is going to be a growth industry. my two pieces o eight…

  • http://www.goagt.org Nick Davis

    This is incorrect reporting and NOT factual!

    “”However, as we saw with the LRAD last November, on the Biscaglia there was an unarmed British security team of four who were using the LRAD as their final protective line. The pirates we shooting AKs at the vessel, and the security team had to literally jump overboard, and the pirates took the ship””

    The team was 3 and the LRAD was on the stern of the vessel and was not used at all in the attack as the pirates came from the port bow and boarded at the midships point on the starboard side.

    The attack was all over in 11 minutes, however the team did not jump from the vessel till 40 minutes later when the helo was overhead – there was injuries to the pirates from the countermeasures and defenses my team placed onboard and did to prevent them boarding and they eventually had no option from the compass roof other than to preserve their own lives as the pirates were very very upset and were hunting for them onboard.

    if you would like the full debrief then please email me.

    Kind regards

    Nick Davis

  • http://www.ncga.us Kevin Doherty

    Thanks for the correction Nick.

    I recall reading the interview with your security guards at http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/top-stories/2008/12/07/heroic-brit-trio-take-on-somali-pirates-before-escaping-into-sea-115875-20951441/ where your guy Mike Kelly was quoted as saying regarding the L-RAD:

    “We thought it would make the pirates back off, but they just laughed. It was a total waste of time.”

    With that quote I assumed they used the device, but you also make a great point about the L-RAD and fixed fire hoses… Fixed defenses don’t allow for much movement and become moot when attacks happen outside their fixed scope.

    I agree with your security guard Carl “Rocky” Mason when he stated later in that article about what the pirates may have done with them due to nationality: “At best we’d have a beating and, because of our British passports, be high-value hostages. So we decided the only option was to go over the side.”

    Clearly, we have to keep the pirates off our vessels, because the pirates will see the US crews as high valued targets, not just bargaining chips in the currently successful business model.

  • Svejk

    Stomp the living —- out of pirates….terrorists….PERIOD!

    These people respect force, not perfidy not “diplomacy” not appeasement not negotiations not “here in my hand with signatures upon it”….bull…

    So lets show them force!

  • J.Johnson

    The LRAD is a tool in the vessel’s tool box but also has many limitations. It is not all that mobile, it’s heavy and makes for a reasonable defensive counter measure from a fixed position. Multiple pirate boats can counter the LRAD. Fire hoses can’t be relied on as an effective counter measure either. The change of course or wind can blow the hoses in a different direction requiring constant maintenance, the ratio of hoses vs access points and water preassure on the vessel.

    An armed and professional security team makes the daily operations of a vessel passing through pirated waters safe and more proficient. When the crew does not have to live in fear, work is not affected, schedules are met and overall tension on the vessel is kept to the minimum.

    I wish everyone travelling though rough waters a safe passage.

  • No snake oil salesmen

    Hey Nick, thanks for the “great” support on our ship. I remember clearly your marketing material your past company sent me, that is right before you changed your companies name after getting run off the Biscgalia…

    “So you never engage the pirates with more violence than that? You never use any type of weaponry to attack them physically?

    No. If in the unlikely event that they might actually get on board, these ex-Marines and Special Forces are all trained in close quarters combat. They will all have their own personal knives on them and obviously it will probably end up in fatalities of the pirates if they did try to board the vessel. Because, while our crews don’t have firearms, they don’t necessarily need firearms to be able to look after themselves in self-defense mode.” -Nick Davis

    Quit trying to push your snake oils on salty dawgs who know better.

    We need guns to fight guns. Period.

  • http://fredfryinternational.blogspot.com/ Fred Fry

    “Will O’Neil Says: This is a nice sales pitch for Mr. Doherty’s no doubt excellent services, except that it doesn’t deal with what actually matters: money. Sure, a highjacking is expensive for the insurers, but the loss rate is still very low because only a small fraction of ships in the region actually fall afoul of pirates. So the insurance rates remain pretty modest, and that means that operators cannot save anywhere near enough to pay for an armed security detail, even if the insurers would give them a rate break in return — which they definitely have no intention of doing.”

    Well it seems that this is not actually the case. Lloyd’s List is reporting:
    “SHIPOWNERS face some tough bargaining with insurers as the cost of buying ransom cover soars and some underwriters start to exclude this risk from standard policies.

    The amounts being charged vary enormously from one owner to another, depending on the type of ship travelling in pirate-infested waters, the actual route or destination and the negotiating power of the vessel’s operator. To complicate matters further, some insurance markets include piracy risks in hull and machinery policies, while others such as London and Oslo regard piracy as a war risk.

    As annual war risk policies expire, underwriters are beginning to separate kidnap and ransom and charge a far higher premium for bespoke cover for ships travelling in specified areas.” – Shipowners face battle with insurers over soaring piracy cover, by Janet Porter

    Insurance did not help the owners of the ARCTIC SEA given that they went bankcrupt over the hijacking of their ship.

  • Grandpa Bluewater

    Every payment to a pirate improves the pirate’s ships and weapons, increases the bribes they can pay for information, and emboldens them. Raising the price in blood and treasure to suppress them again.

    Fifteen years ago they were stealing lines and brass fittings off the deck after moonset. Now they demand millions in ransom.

    Absent the will to pay for security (and at the moment it is absent in most cases) next year it will be bloodier and more costly to live with. And every year there after until the tipping point (likely in blood) is reached. The price for squeamishness and denial will be very high.

    “The only thing new is the history you haven’t read.”: Harry Truman

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Amen, Grampa.

    Wonder if the hijacking of the Greek MV Maran Centaurus is the beginning of a transition to choking off crude supplies, either on their own initiative or at the suggestion of their AQ associates.

    “Millions for tribute, but not one cent for defense!”

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