Archive for the 'Piracy' Tag
Well, what do you know? Somalian pirates are adapting to multinational forces. An “unbelievable” spurt of attacks have marked the past couple of days. This past Saturday a German vessel was seized 400 miles off the coast, bringing the total to 5 vessels captured over a span of 48 hours. And of course today the Maersk Alabama was attacked.
Check out this map of pirate attacks for 2008. Attacks are heavily concentrated in the Gulf of Aden with some attacks off of the east coasts of Somalia and Kenya.
Now check out this map for 2009. Attacks still occur primarily in the Gulf of Aden but a quick glance seems to reveal more attacks four months into 2009 off the eastern coasts of Kenya and Somalia than in all of 2008. I’d love to get my hands on the raw data especially distance from coasts but even a qualitative glance reveals the attacks are shifting further from the coast with more action off the coast of Kenya.
They’ve changed it up. Will we?
OK the title is a little bit of an exaggeration. Here is a recent photo related to the release of the cargoship MV FAINA by pirates this week. Something tells me that the machine gun mounted on the bow didn’t come as standard equipment.
Here is the whole photo:
090206-N-3931M-158 SOMALIA (Feb. 6, 2009) A watch stander on the bow of USS Mahan (DDG 87) monitors the fleet ocean tug USNS Catawba (T-ATF 168) as it makes preparations to transfer provides fuel and fresh water to Motor Vessel Faina. Somali pirates released the Motor Vessel Faina Feb. 5, after holding it for more than four months. The U.S. Navy has remained within visual range of the ship and maintained a 24-hour, 7-days a week presence since it was captured. The Belize-flagged cargo ship is owned and operated by “Kaalbye Shipping Ukraine” and is carrying a cargo of Ukrainian T-72 tanks and related equipment. The ship was attacked on Sept. 25 and forced to proceed to anchorage off the Somali Coast. U.S. 5th Fleet conducts maritime security operations to promote stability and regional economic prosperity. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Michael R. McCormick/Released) – US Navy
The Navy has taken a couple hits for not being more aggressive in it’s handling of the pirate situation. This criticism has been directed at all the navies patrolling in the area for being soft on pirates, at least to this point, except for the French, who have shown a real willingness to actively pursue pirates that cross their path. At least this photo is evidence that the Navy is prepared to deal with the pirate threat if they encounter it.
So, maybe one of our more knowledgeable readers can comment on whether this is an ad-hoc setup or if this is something standard.
A Photo of the ransom drop as well as a post release US Navy visit to the ship can be found posted on my blog here: MV FAINA Ransom Drop (Photo)
For some analysis on the possible US anti-piracy strategy, look to fellow USNI guest blogger Galrahn and his post ‘Observing the Strategic Success of US Policy Towards Somali Piracy’, posted on his blog Information Dissemination.
Posted by Fred Fry:
Here is a little diversion from some of the recent good conversations going on at the USNI Blog. I am going to take things in a slightly different direction. Partly to give a little appreciation as to how things look from the viewpoint of the ships being attacked, and partly to see what kind of other ideas this fine group of readers might come up with as ways to keep or delay pirates from boarding a merchant ship.
Sure, most of these ships are flying foreign flags and not directly America’s problem, but the cargo they carry might just be needed by US forces somewhere in the globe. Or, as in the case of the M/V FAINA which is currently being held by pirates, the cargo carried, tanks and weapons, is best kept out of the hands of pirates and their network ashore. Like it or not, merchant shipping comprises part of the US Military’s supply lines, just like those truck convoys attacked in Pakistan comprises part of the supply lines for US and NATO troops in Afghanistan.
I look forward to constructive criticism of what some might consider goofy, stupid or even dangerous suggestions. Just keep in mind that the obvious defense, arming merchant ship crews, is forbidden or too difficult rules-wise to be a valid option. That leaves either doing nothing and welcoming pirates aboard, diverting traffic away from the area entirely, or some other form of defense.
So, here is a revision of a previous article I wrote concerning my thoughts on Defending Unarmed Merchant Ships Against Pirates. This is just some ideas to get people thinking on just how best to beat back armed pirates.
Keep in mind the following three stories when reading the article below:
The Admiral talked about the “golden thirty minutes”. If the allies can get a ship or an aircraft to a threatened vessel within thirty minutes of notice the pirates can usually be deterred and the attack averted. – America’s North Shore Journal
PIRATES have today hijacked an escorted German LPG ship with 13 crew in the Gulf of Aden.
The 4,316dwt Longchamp was en route to Asia from Europe, escorted by a naval convoy, when it was boarded by seven armed pirates this morning, owner MPC told Fairplay.
The crew are 12 Filipinos and 1 Indonesian, a company spokesman said.
He told Fairplay that no injuries were reported and that company satellite data shows that the ship is approaching the Somali coast.
MPC would not confirm reports that the ship was fully laden.
Longchamp is managed by Bernhard Schulte. – Fairplay
Ship captain reported ‘executed’ – PIRATES executed a ship’s captain after he resisted capture off the coast of West Africa, Fairplay can confirm today.
“A guerrilla attack on a commercial vessel retaliated on the captain and executed him, a source delivering a high-level briefing on piracy told Fairplay. “We are worried about the transfer [of piracy] from East Africa to West Africa.”
The Greek ministry of shipping named the captain as Theodoros Mastaloudis.
A news agency report said yesterday that pirates had killed a Greek master of an unnamed ship on Saturday off the coast of Cameroon but gave no details.
His vessel had come to the rescue of another ship being attacked by pirates, Reuters reported on Monday. - Fairplay
From these three stories we have: Confirmation that there is a price to pay for doing anything that might upset a pirate’s plans; That the Navy sees as one of their main challenges/goals is getting to a ship under attack within 30 minutes; And that even nearby naval protection/escort is not 100 percent protection from being taken by pirates. So at the end of the day, some merchant sailors are finding themselves with nothing to defend the ship except their best creativity.
Given the information above, a merchant ship should plan on having to defend their ship on their own for at least 30 minutes while waiting for help to arrive. Recent attacks on merchant shipping off Somalia show that determined pirates can take over a ship in minutes, if there is nothing standing in their way. This means that they need some short-term solutions that they can deploy to delay attacking pirates from getting onboard. In this most recent hijacking of the LONGCHAMP, being part of a convoy escorted by naval forces was not enough to prevent being taken over by pirates. In the end, they also needed to be able to protect the ship themselves in addition to having a naval vessel acting as their bodyguard.
Most merchant ships do not carry firearms but they do carry other sorts of projectiles. One merchant ship managed to disable a pirate boat by hitting it with a distress flare (or flares or perhaps even other flaming projectiles). The pirate boat caught fire and the pirates ended up being rescued/captured by the Danish Navy and are currently facing prosecution in the Netherlands. All ships have flares and many probably also carry extra expired flares. These are not little flares that you find on weekend warriors in harbors around the US, but pretty impressive ‘industrial strength’ flares that probably make pirates pause after having one shot at them. (However, doing so, might subject you to execution as noted in the story above.)
OK, that is a good start, but you are going to need a lot of flares to put up a sustained defense for a half hour. Your going to need something else.
One suggestion that I have made before was to use ‘Pepperball’ paintballs:
The PepperBall® system is unique in the industry as the first non-lethal weapon to combine multiple effects to accomplish its objective safely and without permanent injuries or death. Since late 1999 PepperBall has been deployed in thousands of situations around the globe, successfully filling a gap in the use of force continuum where no other tools are available.
The PepperBall system consists of a PepperBall launcher and projectiles. The launchers are high-pressure air delivery systems. PepperBall projectiles are hard plastic spheres built to burst on impact. Live projectiles are the foundation of the system and are filled with enough PAVA (Capsaicin II) powder to irritate a suspect’s eyes, nose and throat. As such, the PepperBall system combines a unique kinetic impact technology with pepper powder irritant as a non-lethal deployment device for peace officers. We call this combination of affects Chem-netics™ and hold multiple patents protecting our technology.
Chem-netics makes PepperBall systems effective tools for gaining target compliance. PepperBall projectiles are launched from several types of launchers appropriate for the intended use. These launchers use high-pressure air (CO2) to launch the projectiles. Because the projectiles break upon impact they do not penetrate skin, making this weapon safe even at contact range. – Link
One reason that this looks like an effective defense is that the PepperBalls can be ‘delivered’ through a fully automatic paintball gun. (Video link here) A paintball ‘gun’ is not a firearm and most likely would be easier to carry onboard.
Hell, looking at the following video, any sort of fully-automatic paintball gun is sure to have a good deterrent effect. (Video link Here) Even better if you can get them to fire marbles as well, not that paintballs don’t already hurt. And unlike when playing paintball as a sport, there is no rule against hitting pirates in the head with paintballs.
One drawback to these items is that they need to be sourced from ashore, including an adequate supply of compressed gas bottles, ammunition and spares. So, until you can get your hands on something like this, what can your engineering crew build onboard? How about some sort of potato gun. Not for chucking potatoes, but instead to shoot Molotov cocktails, nuts and bolts, ice blocks, sections of pipe, or whatever that will force them to duck for cover.
Taking a page from the Sea Shepherd eco-terror group, how about tossing bottles of butyric acid onto the pirate skiffs? No, maybe not that. After all, if it won’t stop the Japanese from whaling, it certainly is not going to stop a pirate from attacking. One recent lesson learned from a repelled pirate attack on the Chinese ship was that broken glass on deck prevented the pirates from moving around freely because many of the pirates had no shoes and they were afraid of damaging their feet. So, how about showering approaching pirate boats with crushed glass?
Then of course there is the LRAD acoustic device. This is the weapon that the unarmed security team on the M/V BISCAGLIA unsuccessfully used to defend the ship against the pirates. The security company panned the device as ineffective but given that the devices are in use in Iraq and elsewhere, I am going to discount their panning the device as nothing more than an attempt to shift blame.
It was the M/V BISCAGLIA incident that reminded me of a list I had made up a while ago of how to defend a ship against Greenpeace protesters:
Greenpeace keeps getting away with this because ship’s crews are not given the GreenLight to repel them. Here are some ways to protect the ship if you find yourself being attacked by Greenpeace: (Note: Anything you do is your responsibility, although it is Greenpeace that forces you to act.)
- Use fire hoses and fire monitors. Add Foam or soap to make everything slippery. Deliver the soap inside water balloons and then use the hoses to foam it all up.
- Use the anchor wash if there is an attempt to secure themselves to the anchor chain.
- Use paintball guns. For more effect, shoot Pepper balls. [Noted above]
- Have the engineers whip up a couple potato cannons. Instead of potatoes, you can try ice cubes for a shotgun effect.
- Make use of expired flares. Just don’t shoot them skyward.
Originally Posted on Maritime Monday 76
Of course Somali pirates are not Greenpeace protesters, but the list above is a little better than nothing at all and sending a constant stream of material/scrap metal their way might be enough of a deterrent for them to seek a less challenging target, or at least delay them until naval forces arrive to take over the situation. So thinking about this failed defense of the M/V BISCAGLIA, I came up with a couple more ways to defend against pirates if they manage to get alongside:
- Molatov cocktails thrown onto the deck as they come alongside
- Drop the pilot ladder into the sea with a pirate or two, three still clinging to it
- Drop twistlocks and whatever else that is heavy on them
- Fabricate gravity-powered ‘missiles’ out of large diameter pipe that can shoot through the pirate vessel’s hull with the front end cut at an angle like a hypodermic needle to hole the pirate boat. (Not too large that it is not easy to move around the deck and deploy, but large enough to fly through the hull when it hits.)
I would think that the pirates are at their most vulnerable when they are alongside trying to get onboard so this is probably where they should be hit if they cannot be kept away. They are also in a position where if they were to attempt to damage the ship they would most likely become casualties in the process as well.
The suggestions above are of increasing effectiveness as the freeboard of the vessel increases, giving gravity a greater punch as whatever is tossed over the side strikes the vessel.
One option that does not seem to have been seriously discussed yet is having the Navy offer to place armed marines or other military teams onboard some merchant ships for the transit through the pirate area. They can board on one end, ride to the other end and then catch a ride back on another ship. Now lets say you could get these armed teams onboard merchant ships. Just how well armed should these security teams be? Technically, there are two targets. The pirate vessel itself and the pirates onboard the vessel.
To this point, most defensive actions seem to target the pirates. Perhaps the better move is to target their boat with enough firepower that can disable or sink it. This probably means deployment of a heavy machine gun or some sort of rocket or missile that can hole their boat with one shot. Or how about a couple Marines with a 40 mm grenade launcher as part of their gear?
The MGL (Multiple Grenade Launcher) is a lightweight 40 mm semi-automatic, 6-shot grenade launcher developed and manufactured in South Africa by the Milkor company (renamed Rippel Effect in 2007). The MGL was demonstrated as a concept to the South African Defence Force in 1981. The operating principle was immediately accepted and subjected to a stringent qualification program. The MGL was then officially accepted into service with the SADF as the Y2. After its introduction in 1983, the MGL was gradually adopted by the armed forces and law enforcement organizations of over 30 countries; it has since proven its effectiveness in harsh environments ranging from rain forests to deserts. Total production since 1983 has been more than 18,000 units.
The MGL is multiple-shot weapon, intended to significantly increase a small squad’s firepower when compared to traditional single-shot grenade launchers like the M203. The MGL is designed to be simple, rugged and reliable. It uses the well-proven revolver principle to achieve a high rate of accurate fire which can be rapidly brought to bear on a target. A variety of rounds such as HE, HEAT, anti-riot baton, irritant or pyrotechnic can be loaded and fired at a rate of one per second; the cylinder can be loaded or unloaded rapidly to maintain a high rate of fire. Although intended primarily for offensive/defensive use with high-explosive rounds, with appropriate ammunition the launcher is suitable for anti-riot and other security operations. – Wikipedia
Using military personnel will overcome a major obstacle in the way of arming merchant ships, namely, it is damn near impossible to get private armed security teams to and from these vessels due to weapons restrictions.
There are already a number of naval vessels in the area conducting anti-pirate operations. Just have a couple stationed at the edge of the pirate areas and then have willing ships embark defensive teams onboard who can ride the vessel through the area and then be collected on the other side by another naval vessel stationed for that purpose. The team can then hitch a ride back to their ship on another cargo vessel going the other way. But this is how it would need to be done, at sea deployment, if done at all. As a bonus, naval vessel can better be tasked for hunting the pirates down and less so on escort duty as these boarding parties essentially turn the ships into additional units to protect the rest of the convoy. There is no need to place them on all the ships. Just having them on some ships (Such as the most vulnerable targets) will make pirates act more cautiously, never knowing if the ship they are about to attack is armed or not.
There is no simple answer here but surely there is more that can be done by the vessels to better prevent more ships from being taken by pirates. So what other ideas are out there?
Kennebec Captain‘s post “The (Unarmed) Defense of the Biscaglia” was the inspiration for this post.
Originally posted here: On Defending Unarmed Merchant Ships Against Pirates – 1 Dec 08
Galrahn; Shipmate …. you should have emailed me first. I don’t want to get in a sniping war with you – but you called me out and I have to defend my good name. I don’t know who you are responding to, but it isn’t me.
I also think CDR Salamander couldn’t be more off the mark with his analysis that this represents the US Navy going it alone in theater.
What you will read is this,
This is a classic “opt-in” set up. Only a few will play varsity football – send the non-swimmers to the JV squad.
We must always work with allies – but you need to be ready to go on your own.
That is not a statement of exclusivity – but reality. “Few” means more than one – “must” means must – and if no one shows up to help, you need to be prepared to….
If the National Command Authority says, “We need to do X.” The answer at sea should not be, “We can’t because we need the Duchy of Grand Fenwick’s replenishment ship and they just left because the Grand Duke wants to take the problem to the United Nations again. One of our replenishment ships can get underway from Norfolk in 48 hours – they should be there in a few weeks – we need to be patient. Anyway, maybe the Grand Duke’s Ambassador will have some success by then. Hope right now is COA-1.”
What both of my posts are about is that individual nations have their own individual interests. When you work with allied forces, some ships in your operation will do some things, some will not – if you can get them to join your operation to begin with. As a result, a commander may have 8 units of which he can only effectively utilize 2 or 3 in a highly kinetic environment due to national ROE and caveats. As a result, a commander cannot do his job. The only other option to maintain some sort of unity of command and unity of effort is to create a “Coalition of the Willing” at sea that will do what needs to be done – and give you units and commanders you can rely on. Hence the Varsity Team (CTF-151) and the Junior Varsity Team (CTF-150).
We don’t need to dip deep into the well of history to see where these lessons are. Right now there are Americans, Canadians, Dutch, British, Danes, Poles, Romanians, and probably even an Estonian or two that are dead or wounded because of the national caveats placed on the German, Italian, Spanish and other nations forces that will not fully commit to the fight outside their ‘lil neighborhood in Afghanistan. That is without even starting down the road with what Spain did after the Madrid bombing.
The fact that CTF-151 had to be created to have a “CTF of the Willing” demonstrates this reality YEARS after HOA piracy became an issue – and proves the epic failure of the construct of CTF-150 to address the festering problems of HOA piracy. We cannot go alone in the world – but we cannot depend on the spine of others to support our national security or national will when we have the ability – or should have the ability – to do it ourselves or with just a few nations’ support. Some of the piracy SME Eagle1′s comments are worth a review (Eagle1 BTW has been banging the drum about Somali pirates since early-2005 – the time from then to now that it took to fight WWII, BTW).
Ask the Brits how many ships, aircrew, and ground forces her allies put in harm’s way during the Falkland Islands War. Then ask them if they could do it again, and are they comfortable with that.
One last bit of snarky covering fire. In your otherwise excellent post, you took another swipe at me (…world view and all…)
Depending upon your point of view, or world view, the reasons regarding why the US Navy is developing CTF-151 may very.
No variance here – my reading on the creation of CTF-151 is perfectly aligned with VADM Gortney.
“Some navies in our coalition did not have the authority to conduct counter-piracy missions,” said Vice Adm, Bill Gortney, CMF Commander. “The establishment of CTF-151 will allow those nations to operate under the auspices of CTF-150, while allowing other nations to join CTF-151 to support our goal of deterring, disrupting and eventually bringing to justice the maritime criminals involved in piracy events.”
Hey, CDR Salamander is on the side of a 3-star staring back at Galrahn! I knew this USNIBlog would be fun!
XOXO and all Gal – you know I love you like a brother from another mother. Fun thing is, when you strip away the misunderstanding, we are mostly in violent agreement. For a Mercantile Republic, free trade along the SLOC is an international concern regardless of whose ships are threatened. Partnership with other nations to facilitate that security has been a mission since our nation’s birth and remains so now. This is nothing new. However, in a broader sense, to make the fickle nature of international partnerships a foundation stone to your nation’s security without a clear-headed understanding and acceptance of the Strategic Risk that brings is foolhardy.
Welcome to our very first Across the Water post of the Naval Institute Blog!
As Editor of the Naval Institute Guide to Combat Fleets of the World, I specialize in international navies. Thus starting today, and hopefully once a week from here on out, I’ll be posting a couple of international naval news items that I (and hopefully you) find interesting and noteworthy. The purpose of these posts is to inform, discuss and most importantly, whet your appetite to get the discussions started.
Not just news …In this section of the blog, we’ll also try and maintain focus on maritime photography, so each week I’ll select, highlight and link to one photo from the U.S. Navy’s foreign photo gallery. The great thing about this gallery is that the photos are all considered, “public information and may be distributed or copied unless otherwise specified.” So feel free to click, save and use lawfully.
Have fun and be sure to write in. Thanks for reading and contributing!
From the United Kingdom: “Royal Navy Admiral to lead EU anti piracy mission”
An interesting article describing the European Union’s “Operation ATALANTA,” a major EU effort to counter piracy off the coast of Somalia. Let’s hope it helps …
And from Russia this week: “Russian naval task force heads for Indian Ocean”
You can expect to see lots of Russian naval news here during the coming months. As Russia seeks to regain its global sea legs, the news should prove quite interesting.
And finally, this week’s International Navy photo is …The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force submarine JS Mochishio (SS 600) underway in the Pacific Ocean at the culmination of ANNUALEX 2008. Taken last month by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Brendan Morgan.
Congratulations to USNI for joining the blogosphere! This is a great forum to expand the outstanding strategic and independent discussions that USNI is renowned for. I am honored to be a part of this and hope to do my part to encourage interesting and impactful thought and dialogue.
I also discussed this issue in detail with the Army Times Publishing Company’s editorial board. Here is a video of that discussion:
Army Times Ed. Board