From the latest ONI Worldwide Threats to Shipping Report (to 6 May 09) here:

1. SOMALIA: EU Convoy Ships ‘Less Likely To Suffer Pirate Attacks’, 5 May 09. Just one vessel registered with the European Union’s anti-piracy operation was successfully hijacked in the first three months of the operation, according to the latest Brussels’ figures. Companies registering ships via the EU Navfor website were less likely to be victims of an attack than those choosing to go it alone off the Somali coast. “Since 12 December 2008, 41 attacks have been confirmed in the area of operations, resulting in seven actual hijackings. Only one of the seven hijacked vessels was following EU Navfor recommendations,” said the EU Council of Ministers, referring to the period to March 1. The EU Atalanta operation, the bloc’s first maritime venture,
escorted 11 World Food Programme vessels over the period, carrying 60,000 tonnes of food each week to the strife-ridden nation. Rather than being escorted, commercial vessels are organized into convoys which are then watched over by EU navy vessels stationed at strategic points. Ship operators register vessels over a website and are given convoy start times and locations. “The EU mission is not alone in the region,” the Council of Ministers pointed out. “Efficient coordination both with the shipping industry and with other naval units deployed by maritime powers (Russia, China and India) or groups (US-led coalition TF 151 + NATO) is therefore essential. “The Maritime Security Centre (Horn of Africa) website, developed by Operational Headquarters in conjunction with the shipping industry, and voluntary exchange of information and best practices are the means through which efficient coordination is being achieved.” The council, which represents the EU member states, is now under pressure to extend the Atalanta mission beyond its 12-month mandate, which expires this December (LL).

Of course, the message is somewhat tempered by the report (see here) of a ship in a EU convoy being captured by pirates while the ready helicopter was, according to some reports, being refueled on deck of an EU ship. This apparently delayed the aircraft’s departure sufficiently that the pirates got on the merchant before the helo arrived. The “Golden 15 minutes” holds true in convoys, too.

Posted by Mark Tempest in Maritime Security, Piracy

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  • Grampa Bluewater

    Mmmmm….Convoys work?….Escorts must be present in adequate numbers and well equipped, not to mention alert?

    Next thing we’ll find out that carrying Armed Guard detachments and arming the merchantmen contributes to the defense of the convoy?

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

    I think this stuff wasn’t new to the Carthagenians.

  • Byron

    Sad to say, Grampa, most people don’t know what Carthage is, where it was at, or what place it had in history, much less know who Harry Truman is. Ask the average high school senior and see the blank look you get.

  • Eagle1

    There is not much new under the sun.

  • The recently captured pseudo-German ship (I forgot the name) was said to have been in a protective formation. The only effective warship was still too far away.

  • Eagle1

    That seems to be true, Sven, and, as noted above the helicopter appears to not in a position to respond.

    What’s your suggestion to solve the problem?

  • Grampa Bluewater

    “What’s your suggestion to solve the problem?”

    Eagle 1: My suggestion: 4 escorts per convoy, screen tactics, 1 helo per escort (some will have 2, some will have none, but 4 per convoy), 1 helo in the air or on 2 min alert, one on 5 min alert, one in light maintenence, one offline for major maintenence. ROE: shot across the bow (unguided rocket or main gun), if craft does not cut engine or immediately turn away – rake with machine gun fire – close aboard first run, shoot to kill second.

    Byron: Today’s high school senior is next summer’s boot seaman.

    “most people don’t know what Carthage is” Well I was only a messcook at the time myself, but I don’t see why we can’t explain it to them.

  • OldRetSWO

    Convoying sounds WONDERFUL but how do yo uforce shipowners to move in convoys? In WWII, with lots of merchant ships flyign flags of the combatants and the cargoes being paid for by the governments, it was pretty easy to compel ships to join convoys.

    In 2009 with the vast majority of ships being owned and registered by other nations and the shipowners trying to squeeze every dollar out of their ships, they are not likely to want to idle around waitking for a convoy and then moving at the speed of the slowest ship for days and days.

    Some of the same reasons inhibit the widespread use of armed guards. Do you realluy think that the US Government should place a guard detachment and weapons aboard a motor vessel owned by a company in Lithuania that flies the flag of the Bahamas and whose crew is made up of Filipinos, Chinese and Indians?

    That is the reality of the situation for the majority of the Horn of Africa/Piracy area.

    Or if we want to convoy US ships, perhaps we can wait for two or three weeks until three or four of them can be collected to move in the same direction.