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.