Modern Day Pirates, No Kidding Matter (Updated)

NYTimes by Matt Rota

Update (April 10, 2009): Almost a year after it was originally published, the below post continues to receive considerable traffic, especially after the pirate attack on the Maersk Alabama and the kidnapping of Captain Richard Philips by Somali pirates.

As of this update the situation remains incredibly tense with reports of a failed escape attempt by Captain Philips around midnight last night and automatic gunfire from the pirate commandeered lifeboat. There are also reports of several previous hijacked ships with a large number of international hostages are steaming to the standoff area in an effort to “rescue” the drifting pirates and move Captain Philips ashore in order to secure ransom.

In the year since this post was originally published, little has been done to try to solve this very serious problem. In fact, the situation has gotten much worse with Somalia pirates getting more experience, becoming bolder in their tactics and raising the stakes considerably. What until now has for the most part been larceny on a large scale, now teeters on becoming much worse.

It’s impossible to imagine the nightmare that Captain Philips and his family are currently enduring; our thoughts and prayers go out to them. We hope that the international community will finally begin to treat the Somali pirate problem with the attention that it deserves. International mariners should not continue to risk their lives while the world stands by waiting for the problem to somehow mysteriously solve itself. Like so many issues in the world today, where’s the real leadership?

Related posts: High Drama, High Stakes, High Seas – The Maersk Alabama Pirate Attack and The Maersk Alabama Pirate Attack from a Unique Perspective

Original Post (April 20, 2008)

While Captains Feathersword and Jack Sparrow may present a friendly face to piracy through kids TV and blockbuster movies, the reality is that modern day pirates are no kidding matter. Make no mistake about it, pirates range from petty thieves to ruthless terrorists but in the end they are all dangerous criminals.

John S. Burnett, author of Dangerous Waters: Modern Piracy and Terror on the High Seas wrote an interesting Op Ed essay for today’s – April 20, 2008 – Sunday NY Times entitled Captain Kidd, Human-Rights Victim. Please read it.

Burnett compares France’s recent show of force in successfully handling the hijacking of the French luxury cruise ship Ponant off the coast of Somalia to the British Foreign Office’s directorate to the Royal Navy not to detain any pirate because doing so would violate human rights. Pirates can claim UK asylum – The Sunday Times (UK) April 13, 2008.

High seas piracy remains a big problem for mariners around the world. Here’s a link to the International Chamber of Commerce’s International Maritime Bureau’s Weekly Piracy Report which demonstrates the frequency, seriousness and breadth of this issue. Below you will find their 2008 High Risk Areas. (Click here for direct access to map.)

Piracy attacks map_1208708119171

It’s difficult to understand and tough to swallow the British Foreign Office’s position on piracy. It’s doubtful that a similar position has been established for would be airline hijackers or subway bombers. Why would a current sea power who in previously eras worked so hard at eradicating piracy across the globe express a position that appears to go soft on contemporary pirates (aka terrorists)?

I’m all for protecting human rights, but this doesn’t send the right message to the good men and women who sail the seas advancing maritime commerce or other important global interests.

Related post: Pirates Invade Wall Street Journal! (Nov. 19, 2008 )

Artwork: Matt Rota for NY Times

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The Maersk Alabama Pirate Attack from a Unique Perspective

Photo by Christiaan Conover

Our friend and fellow maritime blogger Christiaan Conover gives us a look at Life at Mass Maritime During the Maersk Alabama Hijacking. He’s a good kid who writes an interesting blog so make sure you check it out and subscribe!

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High Drama, High Stakes, High Seas – The Maersk Alabama Pirate Attack

image For months Somalia pirates have been wreaking havoc on African and Middle East shipping routes. Today they upped the stakes by attacking the Maersk Alabama, an 1,100 TEU containership built in 1998. (Here’s a PDF of the entire Maersk fleet; you’ll find Maersk Alabama on page 5)

As I write this, reports are that the crew regained control of the ship but Captain Richard Philips is being held hostage in one of the ship’s lifeboats which is drifting nearby. Coalition forces including a US Navy ship is steaming to the scene with an ETA of a few hours.

Earlier in the day, CNN anchor Kyra Philips was somehow able to place a call to the ship and speak with the second mate after the crew resecured the ship. Here’s the video.

The chief mate on the ship is 34 year old 2001 Massachusetts Maritime Academy graduate Shane Murphy, the son of MMA professor Joe Murphy, the author of the popular study guide for merchant marine officers. Here’s a remarkable video interview of Captain Joe Murphy from The Cape Code Times about this incident.

[YouTube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UrrKbtVnsK0]
YouTube – Cape graduate taken hostage by Somalis

This incident strikes very close to home with Mass Maritime just up the road. I also have 2 high school shipmates who currently serve as captains of other Maersk ships that sail in these pirate infested waters. I’ve have also had the pleasure of working with current MMA cadets Christiaan Conover as a guest co-host on Messing About In Ships podcast and Jonathan White as a student blogger over at Weekly Leader.

Somalia piracy is nothing new, but they have raised the stakes considerably by attacking a US manned vessel and holding an American citizen hostage. Hopefully, the good that will come out of this is that it will raise enough attention on the problem that real solutions will be found for mariners of all nations who risk their lives in these dangerous waters.

For great ongoing coverage of this incident, check out gCaptain.com.

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FotoFriday: How to pay a pirate – part II

Remember we showed you how to pay a pirate to get back your $250,000,000 oil filled tanker? Well, it seems it take twice as many parachutes to get your cargo shipped filled with military equipment released. Here’s a picture taken by the US Navy via MarineBuzz via @oldsailor on Twitter.

CLICK FOR HI-REZ - 090204-N-3931M-427 INDIAN OCEAN (Feb. 4, 2009) Ransom money is dropped in the vicinity of the MV Faina off the coast of Somalia near Hobyo while under observation by a U.S. Navy ship. Pirates did not actually leave the ship until Feb. 5, more than 24 hours after this photo was taken. The Belize-flagged cargo ship is operated by Kaalbye Shipping Ukraine and is carrying a cargo of Ukranian T-72 tanks and related equipment. The ship was attacked Sept. 25, 2008 by pirates and forced to proceed to anchorage off the Somali Coast. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Michael R. McCormick/Released)

Photo on official US Navy website plus more photos.

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This is how you pay pirates to get back your supertanker

paying-pirates

Ever wonder how you’re going to pay those pirates that hijack your $250,000,000 supertanker? Drop them $3,000,000 in a parachute from a small plane. Hard to believe but true but they all got away. Here’s the story in the January 10, 2009 New York Times.

Some things never change, IF you believe this:

The pirate named Jama said he was waiting for his share of the ransom. “When the pirates receive the money, they will divide in shares on the spot, so that they will disembark tonight from the ship with everyone’s share in pocket,” he said.

More pictures.

Messing About In Ships podcast episode 31

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(49 minutes)

Download MP3: Messing About In Ships podcast episode 31

Subscribe Via iTunes HERE

Shownotes @ Messing About In Ships blog

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Pirates Invade Wall Street Journal!

Chad Crowe for the Wall St. Journal

Today’s (Nov. 19, 2008) Wall Street Journal has three first section articles/editorials about modern day pirates which might indicate that mainstream media is finally beginning to understand the serious nature of this international waterborne form of terrorism. Hijack a supertanker full of oil valued at over $100 million and you’re bound to attract attention. 

On page 12, JOHN W. MILLER wrote Piracy Spurs Threats to Shipping Costs (free content) Accompanying this article you’ll  find a slideshow, video and interactive graphics that shed more light on the problem.

On page 20, OpinionReview & Outlook you’ll find an editorial titled Pirates Delight – Other thugs will come if we don’t punish the Somali pirates

On page 21 OpinionDAVID B. RIVKIN JR. and LEE A. CASEY, two Washington, D.C. lawyers who served in the Justice Department under Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush wrote an editorial titled Pirates Exploit Confusion About International Law.

Additionally, JOSEPH SCHUMAN’S The Morning Brief (a look at the day’s biggest news which is emailed to subscribers by 7 a.m. every business day) dealt with the subject. Failed State: Pirate’s Life For Somalia, Shippers

image

Back in April 2008, I wrote a post titled Modern Day Pirates: No Kidding Matter. Unfortunately, the problem has gotten a lot worse since and there’s no immediate solution in sight.

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