There is something in the Annapolis water, because it seems to me the United States Naval Institute has this uncanny ability to align conversations about maritime piracy with major unfolding events and activity related to maritime piracy. That December 2008 issue of Proceedings was precision timing for an issue discussing piracy given the events happening at the time. If you recall, just two weeks before publication the supertanker Sirius Star was hijacked – the first time such an enormous prize was seized by pirates.

Well, here we go again. On October 20th, 2010 the US Naval Institute will be holding their History Conference in Annapolis, and as soon as it was announced the subject would be piracy – we should have known all hell would break loose. I look forward to seeing how the panels address this bit of NATO news in context.

In the northeast there are several mother ships operating east of 55E, including the MV SAMHO DREAM which may be operating in company with two unidentified fishing dhows which may correlate with media reports concerning the pirating of two Iranian dhows near 60 degrees. There is also activity at 60 degrees east probably linked to the last known location of the FV TAI YUAN 227. Pirates frequently force these pirated vessels and crew to be mother ships, thereby extend their range and increase their endurance. The area south of 3 degrees south off the Tanzanian coast is also very active with 3 recent incidents noted and the MV ASPHALT VENTURE pirated in this area today. This area is likely to remain active for some time due to the prevailing weather conditions.

Masters should note that the Tai Yuan 227 is a white hulled fishing vessel, approximately 50 metres long, with the registration numbers BH3Z87 painted in large black letters on the hull.

VLCC SAMHO DREAM is probably being used by pirates as a mother ship in operations near the shipping lanes, approximately 190 nm SE of Socotra Island. The SAMHO DREAM is a 319,000 dwt, crude oil tanker, approximately 333 metres long, with an orange hull and white superstructure.

And oh yes, if it is not mentioned, I will be the guy asking my good friend Dr. Martin N. Murphy what he thinks about the new 319,000 dwt supertanker carrying $190 million worth of crude oil cruising the commercial sea lanes conducting mothership operations for pirates 900nm off the Somali coast. Dr. Murphy, what is the historical context for pirates leveraging a floating crude oil bomb three times the size of a Nimitz class aircraft carrier as a mothership for pirate operations? Would that be like using the USS Iowa to protect fishing rights in Lake Pontchartrain? I admit I am struggling to find the proper historical analogy.

The bad news is, that isn’t even the most important development in piracy that took place this week. Check out my latest roundup of issues taking place in Somalia on Information Dissemination – where the use of pirvate army’s appears to be deploying on the ground, the use of private navy’s is expanding at sea, and the game changer – al-Shabab appears to have conducted their first pirate hijacking.

Piracy just hit a new red line, which we should have predicted now that we are only a few weeks away from a major USNI effort to discuss piracy. The history conference is going to be fantastic – current events appears to have already determined that conclusion for those of us who plan on attending.

Posted by galrahn in Maritime Security, Piracy

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  • Paul

    Can we sit a Predator over the top of this mother ship and just film who leaves and comes back and track to where they’re going?

    Might be worthwhile to make those vessels just disappaear…

    How about a sub underneath her tracking and recording?

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Seems like these pirates are a bit more than poor and starving Somali villagers trying to feed their families, as so many here and elsewhere have asserted. Unless they have found a way to make crude oil sandwiches.

    Can we now finally admit that Al-Shabbab and Al Qaeda and the piracy efforts off Africa’s horn are all related?

  • Byron

    I’d rather see a sub putting two Mk 48 ADCAPs into the tanker..

  • Grandpa Bluewater


    Getting a bit profligate with the ammunition, my friend.

    One regular Mk 48 will do nicely. Set Search: off. Periscope approach. Hit – MOT. Tape the feed from the periscope video. Sonar reports breaking up noises. Log it as GQ training.

    (Overheard between Helm and Stern Planes:)” Well, that was a little different. What’s for lunch? All hands ORSE drill after lunch? Yea, Critique after the drill until the cooks need to set up for supper. Same stuff, different day.

    How many day’s left? 59? Are you gonna go dink in quals this week?…”

  • Byron

    Granpa: I was being thoughtful of the ecological effects of one torpedo, which while breaking the tankers back to a fare the well, two would…obliterate it 🙂

  • Grandpa Bluewater

    The more you burn the less it spills.

  • Sean Quigley

    LOL now were thinking the right way…course I’m still partial to an Old Fletcher class tin can being refurbished and over there showing the flag…5-5’38’s and ten 40mm cannon make an excellent pic-tograph for how piracy will end for anyone who can’t read.That and the fact her name sake JOHN RODGERS was awarded medals and promotion for taking on the Barbary pirates just seem fitting

  • Paul

    Is this tanker full load? Where are the original owners? Why isn’t there some warship bird dogging her every move?

    ‘Course she can always be boarded and then sold off at prize court, right? They are, after all, pirates…

  • Roistacher

    Howsabout a bunch of you retired sailors going to an oil or shipping company and asking them to provide and/or fund a nice yacht/corvette-style Q-ship (Bofors 57mm Mk110 perhaps), and a letter of marque and reprisal from the People’s Democratic Republican Kingdom of West Oingo Boingo. It’s poifect: Antique guys with an antique remedy for an antique problem. (I am a fully-qualified landsman, so read me in.)


    @Roistacher: Sorry, letters of marque have been illegal since the Paris Accords.

    The real question will be when will the pirates start hijacking ships outside the Indian Ocean. Until the someone eliminates the lawless region that is Somalia, no solution will be found at sea.

  • Navigator

    There are 24 crew members in the original complement. Who knows where they are (most likely on board running the ship). Thus, whatever attack is made puts them at risk. The current ‘ransom’ for the ship is $20 million.

    Unless we have a stealthy way of putting special forces on board, there seem to be few solutions that would avoid putting the non-pirate crew at grave risk for the moment. Unless the tanker is used as a ‘floating bomb’…then all concerns are off and down she goes…

  • leesea

    while some would say its easier to sink a OBO, I think that a Level IV VBSS or one of the new MRF units could solve the problem more easily and quickly. Once the ship is on the high seas a different set of laws and ROE apply.
    No Q-ship needed for a feint just an MSC T-ATF which could also tow the ship to port after action if OBO is damaged.

  • Grandpa Bluewater


    Both the Seals and the Marines have recent experience in recovering stolen vessels with the crews on board, without loss.

    I wouldn’t bet against either group.

  • Tirno

    @USNVO: To clarify: Letters of Marque are forbidden by treaty to all adopters of the Paris Accords. The United States of America is not a signatory. Privateering is still an American option.