Piracy – It’s Location, Location Location

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December 15, 2008

Piracy – It’s Location, Location Location

By John Denham

If you did not know,  pirates have been around for as long as treasure was shipped on boats. Piracy is like robbing banks…it is where the money is. The capitol for piracy is the Malacca Straits. Why? Because that is where the most slow boats from China are.

Recent reports indicate big, slow boats with low freeboard are prime targets. A fast (15 knots plus), high freeboard, maneuverable vessel is not a wise target, but some less than talented pirates might consider it so; obviously not a percentage player. Of course it’s location, location. A high occupancy military area is not advisable for any aspiring pirate. The east and west coast of Africa and waters adjacent  to the Gulf of Aden and the nearby Indian Ocean are select areas, but do not displace the Straits of Malacca. The word is out,  piracy is back and business is good. Therefore new shopping centers can be expected to open  and with some better and more sophisticated tools.

 The above graphic shows the latest world wide pirate activity. Courtesy MSN and International Maritime Bureau.

Several factors seem to be repeated: fast vessels are able to escape boarding therefore, don’t slow in suspect area. Early detection can permit early defensive action therefore use of radar and lookouts are recommended. Aircraft can respond quickly and they provide better surveillance than surface vessels therefore the presence of aircraft is a significant factor is deterring piracy at sea.

A recent article quoting the views of the U.S. Navy Commander of the 5th Fleet expressing doubt about the wisdom of launching attacks against Somali pirates is interesting, whereas the mission of the Fifth Fleet is:counter violent extremism and terrorist networks in maritime areas of responsibility. The DOD expresses some legitimate concerns  but my concern is that any reluctance to “counter” terrorist activity at sea only encourages the perpetrators, therefore try everything, but mostly protect our ships at sea.  The present SECSTATE, Ms Rice, will ask the UN to authorize ” all necessary measures” against piracy.

There are may things that can be done to deter pirate activity but they mostly require execution by trained and combat ready personnel. Civilian mariners, boat people and fisherman respond “In Peace and War,” that  is their motto; their past performance in two major wars and numerous warlike events is well established in heroic terms. Their life is complicated enough by economical, political  and natural hazards. Engaging an armed enraged savage with fire hoses and axes, or possibly a small arm or two is foolhardy and only invites retaliation and punishment. The right of uninterrupted safe passage in international waters is a the right to all legitimate merchant ships. Piracy is an unlawful act.

 The mere presence of military aircraft and vessels dedicated to protecting and providing the right of a safe passage is squarely within the responsibility of sovereign governments, enforceable by their agents. The only concern should be “how fast can we  put a stop to this nonsense,”  and worry about the consequences later. Experienced  mariners are in short supply and increasing in demand. The additional  burden of fending off pirates while delivering the worlds good is placing a government job on an industry that pays the highest taxes and fees, seeks no “bail-out” and performs relentlessly in all weather and conditions.

The mission of the U.S. Navy is to maintain, train and equip combat-ready Naval forces capable of winning wars, deterring aggression and maintaining freedom of the seas.

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