Archive for the 'Piracy' Category
Thursday morning, Under Secretary of the Navy (and more importantly, former Marine artilleryman) Robert O. Work skilfully executed his own “pivot”. Secretary Work had intended to deliver remarks regarding the program choices associated with the recently-released Defense budget. Well, you go to the podium with the speech you have, not the one you wish you had. It seems SECNAV was not going to publicly comment until later in the day, so Secretary Work chose not to publicly do so ahead of that, and instead delivered an enthusiastic and decidedly upbeat address on the challenges and opportunities facing the Navy-Marine Corps Team in the coming century.
Secretary Work referenced former CJCS Admiral Mullen’s talk of the previous day, and lived up to his well-deserved reputation for his grasp of history and its relevance to future events. Diverging from Admiral Mullen’s views of the uniqueness of the path ahead, Secretary Work outlined the challenges faced by President Eisenhower in 1953, an ongoing war far larger than the current and recent conflicts combined, an existential threat from a peer enemy about to detonate a thermonuclear device of their own, faltering allies asking for assistance in remote regions of the globe, and an electorate very tired of war. Indeed his example speaks to the tendency to consider present challenges as groundbreaking and unprecedented, when in point of fact, they are usually not nearly quite so.
Secretary Work proceeded to provide a Huntington-esque perspective on the history of America’s military eras, as defined by salient policy events. That perspective is worth summarizing here.
The Continental Era
July 4th 1776 to December 1, 1890
America’s Army was dominant, with an intermittent and largely coastal (with notable exceptions) Navy and small Marine Corps, no overseas bases, and a focus on western expansion across the North American continent. The era ended with the tragic events at Wounded Knee, which was the last of the frontier fights. During the Continental Era, for every month the United States was at war, she spends approximately six months at peace.
The Trans-Oceanic Era
December 1, 1890 to March 12, 1947
America becomes a two-ocean Mahanian maritime nation once and for all, and after massive military commitment to winning two world wars, is a world power with overseas bases, with far-flung interests, and security commitments to allies and former adversaries (whom we have to build up from virtual ruin) on almost every continent. The era ends with the announcement of the Truman Doctrine, and the beginning of the Cold War. For every month of war during the Trans-Oceanic Era, there are 5.2 months of peace.
The Cold War
March 12, 1947 to May 12, 1989
Containment of the Soviet Union, a peer adversary, which dominates Eastern Europe and makes serious inroads in Asia, southern Europe, and Latin America. Large wars in Korea and Vietnam, the respective growth and contraction of the US Military in the aftermath of those wars, and lots of little wars by proxy, and an existential threat of Soviet first strike. The Cold War is declared over on May 12, 1989, by President George H W Bush. Indeed, in 1990-91, forces from Europe are sent to Saudi Arabia for the Gulf War, more than a year before the final collapse of the Soviet Union. In this increasingly active era, aside from a Cold War for the entirety, for each month of hot war, the United States is only at peace for 2.67 months.
The Global Era
May 12, 1989 to December 31, 2011
Two wars in Iraq, 9/11, the war in Afghanistan, protracted and expensive efforts at nation-building are the events of the most active time for America’s military in her entire history. For every month at war during this Global Era, America will have just 1.08 months of peace. The Global Era ends, according to Secretary Work, with the end of the war in Iraq
The beginning of 2012 is the beginning of the “Naval Century”.
This era, says Secretary Work, will be one of global American sea power, focused on the western Pacific, always a maritime region, and the Middle East, which is becoming increasingly so.
Secretary Work asserts that this nation’s military, its people and equipment, are tired out. They need to be refreshed, revitalized, and allowed to recover from the strain of two protracted wars. And the military needs to shrink. Especially in manpower, the single highest cost category.
I reproduce Secretary Work’s perspective in near entirety because I believe it is cogent and well-thought, from someone whose grasp of history is superb, and because it is worthwhile. It also allows us to put current conditions in context. Some of his points are excellent, and provide an insight into how Mr. Work thinks of what he calls the Total Force Battle Network and its shape in the coming decades.
This Total Force Battle Network will be characterized by a Navy-Marine Corps team capable of forcible entry and power projection globally, and an ability to keep vital SLOCs open to freedom of navigation. This Naval force will be characterized by thoroughly networked platforms and weapons, unmanned systems in all three dimensions, with technology-enabled combat power second to none. An increased emphasis on SOF throughout the services, Navy and Marine Corps included, and a more capable maritime domain awareness using unmanned and manned platforms to cover vital areas nationally and globally. Forward presence in vital regions will be credibly maintained. This force will be maintained and sustained by personnel strengths equal to the task, a break from the “optimal manning” experiment that went “too far”.
This will also be a force that is used less frequently than were forces in the Global Era, allowing for time to train and maintain, and to test and experiment with new technologies and new methods of employment. And, passionately, Mr. Work reminded us that the people who make up our Naval forces, Sailors and Marines, will remain the single greatest asset the Total Force Battle Network can employ. They will remain the professional, motivated, educated young warriors that are exemplified by CDR Ernest Evans, who told his crew of Johnston (DD- 557) “This is a fighting ship, and I intend to take her into harm’s way!”. And at Samar, when eight Japanese capital ships appeared on the horizon, turned his destroyer toward the vastly superior force and interject his little ship in between the Japanese and the escort carriers of his task force. The decision cost him his ship and his life, but helped save the Task Force and possibly the Leyte landings further south. It also earned CDR Evans a posthumous Medal of Honor. Our people and our Navy and Marine Corps will do the things that are required to be the best in the world, because, as in the past, they will be “great by choice”.
Secretary Work’s words should be inspirational to any Sailor or Marine who takes pride in his service. The Navy Undersecretary is definitely on our side. He is a man who says what he means and means what he says. The coming cuts, the $480 billion in the next ten years, are challenging but workable. They represent a drawdown of some 24% of the US Military, which Mr. Work points out is rather less than that of other post-war draw-downs, including the years of the “Peace Dividend” following the Cold War and Desert Storm. His was definitely a tone of confidence in the future of our Naval forces.
I hope he is correct. I hope we have a strategy commensurate with our capabilities, and our reach doesn’t exceed our grasp. And that our focus on SOF and unmanned systems will not require the “Plan B” of conventional forces in great numbers, because they simply will not be there. Whatever the numbers of ships, systems, and personnel we settle on, that cannot be the starting point for the ill-conceived concept of further pinching of pennies by chasing temporary savings (“Optimal Manning”, deferring maintenance, retiring warships at half their service lives) that result in driving up long-term costs and reducing effectiveness.
And I hope he is right about sequestration. Because, as upbeat and slightly sanguine as Secretary Work’s words were, even he admits that the cuts that would come in that event will devastate our nation’s defenses and make any meaningful National Military Strategy impossible.
Just when you thought that the ARCTIC SEA piracy story couldn’t get any weirder, comes news via Fairplay of an arrest warrent being issued in the case, for the former head of Estonian Intelligence:
The decision to put out an international warrant over the hijacking of the timber carrier Arctic Sea in August 2009 stemmed from Erik Niyles Kross’s refusal to answer a Russian summons for questioning in December.
Kross, former head of Estonian intelligence, has been charged with planning and directing the month-long pirate takeover.
Arctic Sea had been under way off Sweden’s Baltic coast when nine Russian and Latvian men took the vessel. They were convicted of piracy in Moscow and Arkhangelsk and given stiff prison terms – after reportedly naming Kross as the mastermind.
Estonia’s government has said that Russian prosecutors are welcome to interrogate Kross in Talinn. The 4,706dwt ship later found and taken back by the Russian Navy off Cape Verde. – Fairplay
Just why would the former head of Estonian Intelligence want to hijack a ship full of timber? Maybe he’s crazy? Given his involvement, maybe there is something to the rumors that the ship was carrying something much more interesting than just timber. I can understand Mr. Kross’s refusal to travel to Russia for questioning. However, he can’t be feeling much safer sitting in nearby Estonia. I suspect the level of danger he is in depends on what he knows and how embarrassing it is to the Russian Government.
One question I would like answered is just where the ‘hijackers’ were planning to take the ship. They did not appear to be taking the vessel anyplace when the Russians arrived. Apparently, thanks to Russian threats, the crew is still not talking.
Surely this is not the final chapter.
This week in San Diego, USNI/AFCEA West 2012 will be examining the issues and challenges associated with a US Military that has reached a “crossroads”.
As has happened so many times in the last century, the signposts to that crossroads are fiscal and not operational. Even with the drawdown in Iraq, and the war in Afghanistan employing just a small fraction (about 90,000) of the 1.44 million US servicemen and women, the driving forces for the coming cuts are budget shortfalls, and spiraling national debt.
Panel sessions include discussion of the future of the Navy-Marine Corps Team (which doubtless will encompass amphibious capabilities), information and INFOSEC requirements for Naval forces, the balance between the warfighting head and the logistics tail, and the looming question of our new Pacific orientation, China.
Speakers include former CJCS Admiral Mullen, Navy Undersecretary (and former Marine Artilleryman) Robert Work, David Hartman, and Medal of Honor Winner SFC Leroy Petry, USA.
As usual, USNI will have a reinforced fire team of bloggers to tell you about it. The unit symbol is below. We will begin in a wedge formation for all around security and flexibility, and then we will do whatever SWMBO tells us to.
If you are going to ask tough questions, and give tough answers, San Diego in January is a pretty good place to do it. The forecast in Vermont is for snow.
Sharp’s told the Telegraph that “The Typhon force will be the first of its kind for probably 200 years and will protect private shipowners’ assets at sea.” The statement is incorrect since several other companies have either attempted to provide this type of private security or have actually conducted operations. The former company Blackwater offered a decades-old NOAA ship, the M/V McArthur, RHIBs and an embarked helicopter with the intent to protect ships from pirates. But the ship arrived in the Red Sea without clients; absent business, the ship left the region and the industry. Since then several companies have either claimed to have vessels or intended to procure them for the purpose of maritime security specifically in the Gulf of Aden. Others, like Protection Vessels International (PVI) have operated several security vessels.
According to the Telegraph article, Sharp “hopes to have 10 vessels on the water within 24 months.” This is an ambitious number particularly since other companies have made similar unfulfilled projections, such as one U.S.-based company which initially claimed it had fourteen vessels. It isn’t clear if the current level of piracy will support additional vessels. To date, no commercial ship with an embarked private security detachment has been taken by Somali pirates. The threat of piracy in the Gulf of Aden may have already peaked. According to the International Maritime Bureau’s just-released 2011 piracy report, annual actual and attempted piracy attacks in the Gulf of Aden were as follows: 2007 – 13; 2008 – 92; 2009 – 117; 2010 – 53; and 2011 – 37. This downward trend can be attributed to the increased use of private embarked armed security (as well as private armed escort vessels), improved Best Management Practices by the shipping industry, and the creation of Combined Task Force 151 as well as other international maritime operations in the region.
While piracy attacks in the heavily-trafficked Gulf of Aden have decreased, incidents have increased elsewhere in the Indian Ocean. If Typhon and other firms are interested in filling that maritime security gap, they will have to identify larger ships that have the range and speed or improve their logistics that can support clients in a broader region.
LCDR Claude Berube, USNR, is the co-editor of Maritime Private Security: Market Reponses to Piracy, Terrorism, and Waterborne Security Risks of the 21st Century (Routledge, 2012). The views expressed are his own and not those of the U.S. Naval Academy or U.S. Navy.
Early report and not much in the way of details, but there is this from NATO Shipping Center Daily Piracy Update:
The M/V LIQUID VELVET, the previously pirated vessel that may have been used as a mothership, was disrupted by naval Counter Piracy forces in the evening of 10 January. This mothership is no longer considered a threat to merchant shipping.
|RN Lynx helicopter|
I expect more details will be forthcoming.
Should be interesting reading.
UPDATE: Looks like a blocking move by a Royal Navy force as set out here:
RFA Fort Victoria
Fort Victoria, which is operating as part of Nato’s Operation Ocean Shield in the Indian Ocean, cut off the vessel’s progress when it was 90 miles from the coastline and forced it to return to Somalia.
Fort Victoria approached the Liquid Velvet under cover of darkness, before circling the vessel at speed. The ship’s Lynx helicopter was also used. Fort Victoria then followed Liquid Velvet as she retreated towards Somalia.
From gCaptain (one of the best Maritime blogs and Facebook feeds out there).
Captain Seog Hae-gyun was confronted not by the elements that nature can throw at men and ships, but an even more insidious danger: that of pirates threatening him, his crew and his ship. In response, he acted with quick thinking, courageously, decisively and with extreme bravery to protect all those whose lives depended on him and his decisions. His selfless reaction left him with severe injuries and nearly cost him his life,
This is one of the more amazing stories I’ve heard coming out of the international campaign against piracy in the Western Indian Ocean, and This happened nearly a year ago, and this is the first I’ve heard about it (but it is very comfortable, living under this rock).
Bravo Zulu to Captain Seog Hae-gyun. From the IMO Website
When the Samho Jewelry was boarded by pirates, in January 2011, the crew took cover in the designated citadel but the pirates broke in, detaining them on the bridge. Over two days, Captain Seog steered the ship on a zig-zag course, so that the pirates would not realize that the vessel was actually heading away from, instead of towards, Somali waters. He contaminated the fuel so the engines would not work normally, pretended the steering gear was malfunctioning and slowed the ship’s speed from 14 knots to six, to keep her out of Somali waters for as long as possible, thus maximizing the potential for units of the Republic of Korea Navy to attempt a rescue. However, the pirates became suspicious that some of Captain Seog’s actions were intended to outwit them and they brutally assaulted him, causing serious fractures to his legs and shoulders.
In keeping with the finest traditions of any Maritime Service…
Somalia: U.S. Citizen Kidnapped
Question: What is the status of the American kidnapped in Somalia? Have we confirmed citizenship? Are we in touch with the family? What are we doing to assist?
Answer: The Department of State can confirm that a U.S. citizen has been kidnapped in northern Somalia. We remain concerned about the individual’s safety and well-being. We are working with contacts in Kenya and Somalia to ascertain further information and have been in contact with the individual’s family to provide all appropriate consular assistance.
The United States condemns kidnappings of any kind, and we call for the immediate release of all of the victims involved. Due to the privacy laws, we have no further information at this time.
Taking Diplomatic Action Against Piracy
Piracy off the coast of Somalia is a crime of growing global concern. Piracy has significant and direct implications for every nation, from rising danger to seafarers to impacts on humanitarian aid deliveries and global commerce. To address this shared security challenge, the United States is actively pursuing a broad, coordinated, and comprehensive multilateral approach to combating piracy focused on security, prevention, and deterrence.
The United States is proud to be a founding partner in the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia. Established in January 2009 pursuant to the UN Security Council Resolution 1851, the Contact Group is a voluntary ad hoc international forum of more than 70 countries, organizations, and industry groups with a common interest in bringing pirates, their financiers and facilitators, to justice.
Among its accomplishments to date, the Contact Group has:
- Facilitated the operational coordination of an unprecedented international naval effort from more than 30 countries working together to protect transiting vessels.
- Partnered with the shipping industry to improve and promote the full implementation of Best Management Practices that merchant ships and crews can take to avoid, deter, delay, and counter pirate attacks.
- Worked to build the capacity of Somalia and other countries in the region to combat piracy, in particular by contributing to the UN Trust Fund Supporting Initiatives of States Countering Piracy off the Coast of Somalia; and
- Launched a new Working Group aimed at disrupting the pirate enterprise ashore, including its associated financial networks, through approaches similar to those used to address other types of organized transnational crime networks.
EUNAVFOR warship FGS KÖLN has today, 28 September, stopped and boarded a suspicious group of two small boats, a whaler and skiff.
The suspicious boats were located by FGS KÖLN 70 nautical miles South West off Mogadishu, Somalia, 30 miles off the coast. A helicopter was sent to inspect the group of boats and 12 people with equipment usually associated with piracy were seen on board. The boats refused to stop when hailed. KÖLN’s helicopter fired warning shots ahead of the skiff which caused the boat to stop.
Before the boats could be boarded by teams from FGS KÖLN, the crew of the boats started to throw weapons and other items overboard. The skiff, whaler and their engines were destroyed to prevent any potential future use for piracy and the men released close to the shore.
UPDATE: Another anti-pirate move by FGS Koln reported here:
On September 29 the EU NAVFOR warship FGS KÖLN located and destroyed a suspicious whaler close to a beach off Somalia, 100 nautical miles SW of Mogadishu.
Koln’s counter-piracy action end result (EUNAVFOR photo)
A helicopter was dispatched to inspect and found the whaler loaded with equipment usually related to piracy on board.
No crew was seen on board. Consequently, the whaler was destroyed to prevent any potential future use for piracy.
More interdicting of pirate boats like this are needed. Blockade the pirates.
Vietnam Firm Pays ‘Millions’ to Free Pirated Ship
Agence France-Presse (09/26/11)
The Vietnamese shipping firm Hoang Son Ltd. has paid a $2.6 million ransom to free its hijacked carrier and the ship’s crew. The vessel, known as the Hoang Son Sun, was captured by Somali pirates about 520 nautical miles southeast of Muscat, Oman, on Jan. 20, along with its crew of 24. Somali pirates still hold at least 49 vessels and more than 500 crewmembers hostage, the monitoring group Ecoterra says. Meanwhile, the Denmark-based firm Risk Intelligence is reporting that the ransom for an average-sized merchant vessel captured by pirates has risen to roughly $5 million.
One of the arguments made against arming merchant ships as defense against pirates is the claimed threat that doing so will merely escalate the violence deployed by pirates. I have disputed this argument in the past (See ‘Armed Merchant Ship Crews Will Not Escalate The Pirate Problem‘). Here is another article that takes aim at the escalation of violence theory, nicely pointing out that the military forces in the area are the ones who are escalating the violence.
ON May 16, 2011 a US military helicopter opened fire on a skiff attacking crude carrier Artemis Glory in the Gulf of Oman, killing four suspected pirates.
Although the US forces were not directly fired upon, the engagement took place under a term called ‘extended unit self-defense’. An American term, it seeks to identify an increased frequency of action or engagement that equates to increased “opportunity” or “crossing of paths” between pirates and coalition forces.
While this demonstrates the Combined Maritime Forces’ resolve in the fight against piracy, it also displays a further example of an escalation of violence, a phrase often used by the detractors of the armed deterrent. There is strong opinion that to counter pirate attacks with the threat and delivery of lethal force puts the masters and crews of vessels under ever more danger of injury or loss of life. More often than not the risk of an ‘escalation of violence’ is used as an argument against the use of private security companies, perhaps unfairly so.
In order to analyse the ‘escalation of violence’ risk, the differences between rules of engagement and rules for the use of force should be considered. Arguably, this is where the difference between state and non-state stakeholders is most acute. ROE is a commonly understood term in the military. It is a set of guidelines to determine when, where and how force should be used. The UK’s Ministry of Defence defines ROE as: “Directives issued by competent military authority which delineate the circumstances and limitations under which UK forces will initiate and/or continue combat engagement with other forces encountered.” However, the UK’s military contribution to EU Navfor is governed by UK domestic and international law as its anti-piracy operations are not defined as ‘armed conflict’, restricting their rules of engagement to self-defence. Contrast this with RUF, which apply to non-state actors, stipulating when a security operative can exercise proportional use of force, also underpinned by ‘self-defence’. Reputable private maritime security companies provide a deterrent with rules for the use of force and not engagement.
Interestingly, between the state-sponsored international naval presence off the Horn of Africa and the privately contracted security personnel, it is the latter who are often criticised for their use of force which needlessly escalates violence. There is no evidence for this and yet there are examples of state actors doing just that, albeit under different ‘rules’, but often taking a difficult situation into something with fatal consequences. One only has to recall the events on board the French yacht, ‘Tanit’, in April 2009, where French Special Forces boarded the hijacked yacht, killing the pirates but also one of the hostages. Similarly there was the killing of four US citizens on board the yacht ‘Sea Quest’ after the pirates suspected they were about to be boarded. In all the subsequent media reports, there was little mention of state actors escalating violence to an unacceptable level. Perhaps state actors are immune from accusations of ‘escalation of violence’, but private actors are not?
Contemporary piracy is widely accepted as a highly organised criminal activity. Shipowners know that the only effective deterrent to this problem is private armed security. Per Gullestrup, chief executive of Clipper Ferries/Ro-Ro said recently: “We took the decision three to four months ago that we could not defend our ships without contracting-in armed guards with light machine guns and who will shoot back.” Even the US acknowledged at the recent US Committee on Foreign Affairs’ Sub-Committee on Terrorism, Non-proliferation and Trade Hearing on “Confronting Global Piracy” (June 15, 2011): “It is notable that no vessel with an armed security team embarked has been successfully hijacked.”
While private security companies are providing a credible deterrent, as non-state actors, they cannot and should not utilise ROE methodology. As is predominantly the case across the maritime security sector, the deterrent operates under clearly defined RUF and tries very hard to detune situations with the minimum use of force. Reputable security companies are only too willing to provide prospective shipping clients with detailed guidelines their teams operate by, from the identification of hostile intent and hostile acts and the appropriate responses deemed necessary to counter the threat. This information is also specified within the recent International Maritime Organization guidelines for the selection and use of private maritime security contractors. The emergence of the Security Association for the Maritime Industry, a trade organisation establishing minimum standards for security companies to operate by, is making it much simpler for shipowners considering armed security to understand the rules for the use of force that PMSC’s should abide by.
Lamentably, the same recent US hearing openly admitted: “We should have no illusions: there is no simple solution to modern-day piracy off the Horn of Africa.” Mr Gullestrup describes the situation more forcefully: “Despair is a good word to describe the way shipowners feel about the whole piracy issue … it is 2011 and we are five years into this and we are still being run around by a bunch of criminals.” While the international community moves toward more asymmetric tactics against pirates, without careful scrutiny and consideration the difference between the rules of engagement and the use of force at sea could be lost in the armed deterrent debate. This could be bewildering for shipowners, charterers and insurers keen to safeguard vessels, content and crew. Perhaps more importantly, it is unhelpful in promoting a clear understanding of state and non-state players’ responsibilities and authority to deliver maritime security, further limiting a coherent solution to contemporary piracy.
The ongoing threat of pirates has resulted in a steady shifting towards greater acceptance of the use of arms onboard ships. This makes sense as it is the vessels that are the high value targets. And as such, they should have the means to defend themselves. So far, there seems to be little in terms of escalation on the part of the pirates. Instead, they continue searching for the less defended vessels.
Photo courtesy of PVI LTD