The Real Story Behind the ‘Somali Pirates VS Ship’s Private Security Guards’ Viral Video

A team member of a private security team aboard the MV Avocet points his weapon at an incoming pirate skiff in the Arabian Sea, likely sometime in 2011.

We have come a long way since the height of Somali piracy when highly organized pirate gangs roamed the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean in search of merchant ships to hijack for multi-million dollar ransoms.

During the most active years, from 2008 to 2012, armed pirates were attacking hundreds of ships per year, successfully pirating more than 130 vessels and taking their crews hostage – some of whom were held captive for years in the most abominable conditions imaginable. Fortunately, a combination of international naval presence in the region and private armed security teams contracted by the ship owners was successful in suppressing the scourge of piracy in Horn of Africa region. And while a spate of recent incidents bearing the characteristics of Somali piracy during its peak have been a cause for alarm, Somali piracy is far from the point it was at over a half-decade ago.

So when a video posted last week by a supposedly pro-seafarer page showing a shipboard security team opening fire on an incoming pirate skiff went viral, we thought it was necessary to provide some context and/or details – since absolutely none was given.

The video in question is titled “Somali Pirates VS Ship’s Private Security Guards” and since it was posted last Thursday it has racked up over 12 million views, easily reaching YouTube’s top trending list. It has also prompted some publishers to re-post as if this just happened. The problem is, the video is now more five years old.

Video Details

The video in question was originally posted online by an unidentified source in April 2012. Details of the video were not immediately clear in the original posting on LiveLeak, but in May 2012 Bloomberg was able to track down the video’s origin and shed some light on the incident after it sparked a debate about the guards’ use of of force, which many at the time called excessive.

Here’s the video in question: 

According to the Bloomberg report, the video first appeared at a shipping conference in December 2011 and was filmed by a team member from the Norfolk, Virginia-based private security firm Trident Group while operating aboard the MV Avocet, a 53,462 dwt bulk carrier owned by New York-based Eagle Bulk Shipping Inc.

In the Bloomberg article, Thomas Rothrauff, president of Trident Group, defended the team’s actions, saying their operating procedures were legal and in “full compliance with rules for use of force.” In the report, Rothrauff even noted that at least some of the boat’s occupants were probably killed or injured, although there is no way to know for sure. “We’re not in the business of counting injuries,” Rothrauff told Bloomberg at the time.

Rothrauff added that the attack shown in the video was the second in 72-hours launched by pirates operating from a nearby mothership, and also said that the pirates in the video were returning fire, although it is somewhat hard to tell from the video.

The report also noted that all of Trident Group’s operations are shot on video, and the video is technically owned by the hiring company, which in this case is Eagle Bulk Shipping Inc.

So why the re-post now?

For one, Somali piracy is back in the news after years of calm. In March, Somali pirates were able to hijack their first commercial ship since 2012 – the oil tanker Aris 13. The vessel was released a few days later following a clash with local maritime forces and no ransom was paid. Since then, there have been a handful of other incidents that have added to the concern, but nothing compared to what we were seeing during the height of piracy. The good news, currently Somali pirates have no commercial vessels or hostages under their control.

So, to the re-uploaders of this video, we say shame on you. While you may claim to be a group “highlighting the lives of all those connected to the high seas.” In our opinion, all you are doing is creating confusion by regurgitating old content, which you do not own, without context or details, and all for the sole reason of generating views and income. If you really cared about the seafaring community, you would donate 100% of the proceeds from video to any one of the number of charities helping seafarers and former hostages who are still struggling with the lasting effects of piracy on the high seas.