Sunday, April 12, 2009

It's Great to Talk "Shop" Again!

One of my friends in our village, Nikitas, is a 78 year old retired Greek Navy Admiral who was THE JAG before talking a final assignment in the Defense Ministry. He's a fellow US Naval War College grad, lives in a modest house on an acre of land or so and makes fabulous wines. It's a refreshing treat to see retired flag officers who choose to live modestly, as opposed to the opulent lifestyles our guys enjoy, usually benefiting from selling their souls to defense contractors.

His two sons are currently serving Naval officers, and both have been to Newport for Command & Staff College. I pass my issues of the NWC Review to them after I finish reading them.

Panagiotis, his older son just returned from a 5 month deployment to the Somalia region, where he was the legal advisor to the Greek flotilla commander. As in the past, he's on the island for the week before Easter (we're a week later than the West this year), and we played "catch up" this morning over coffee following the Palm Sunday service in our village church. His brother arrives on Monday.

Panagiotis laid out the difficulty of patrolling 1.5 million square miles of international waters, heavily trafficked by all kinds of vessels. He said it's prime fishing waters, fished by boats from a variety of countries. It's not a "counter-terrorism mission", but a classic naval law enforcement mission, maintaining freedom of navigation and keeping the sea lanes open. It's just not possible, legally or logistically to check every ship in the region to see if they are involved with pirate operations. He did offer some insights into pirate tactics, NATO interdiction tactics and the like.

Brought back warm memories of being at Newport, and it was a pleasure speaking to a military man who isn't blinded by the phony GWOT. Our talk did wander to that, and he was frank in his disdain for the last administration's approach to things military. He did assure me that the US Navy fully understood the mission in the region. The Spaniards took command of the NATO flotilla from the Greeks.

While Panagiotis never mentioned it, his dad did brag on his son's ship's performance in the theater. Four prevented attempts, and five captured pirates.

Add our chat to the successful rescue of the Maersk Alabama's Skipper, and today was a wonderful day for an old Marine/Soldier!



mike said...

Al -

It is a good day.

I would be curious as to what the disposition was of the five captured pirates you mention. Were they turned over to the Kenyan justice system like some others?

I have been kind of a grinch about this pirate issue in the past. I figured that if there were no US Flag vessels involved, then why should our Navy be involved. And if Somali piracy increased the cost of Chinese made imports in America then that would be a good thing. But we do have commitments to NATO so it is right that we are there. And I am glad the Bainbridge was on hand. It was fortuitously named - Commodore William Bainbridge has been exonerated.

I also wonder about the future actions that the US Navy and the NATO TF will take. Did Panagiotis mention if suspicious craft are being stopped and searched for weapons?

Hope you get some spiced lamb and retsina next Sunday.

FDChief said...

One of the most interesting takes on this I've heard gs basically like this:

1. The waters off Puntland, as Al points out, are a rich fishing ground.

2. For generations, the poor villages of the Puntland coast survived on this bounty.

3. Over the past several decades Asian longliners, mostly Taiwanese but also Korean, Singaporean, etc. have raped the fishing stocks to the point where the locals are pretty much fucked.

4. Hence, yo ho, a-pirating they go. They have, in effect, nothing to lose. Their livelihood is gone, it's death for them if they try and fish, so why not "get rich or die tryin'"? Any kid from Compton would understand the logic.

This is not to excuse them. It's to point out that this mission, worthwhile as I belive it is, is pointless unless it is prosecuted to its conclusion (which is the genocide of the former fishing villages) or is terminated by some miraculous economic revival in the Somali interior that makes caravan raiding or financial entrepreneurism more attractive than piracy.

I think the take home lesson is also that this points out the idiocy of the GOP's favorite prescription - America first and everyone else never. What the rapacious Asian fishing did ended us costing us WAY more in naval expenditures than it would have to come to some sort of International Court/treaty-based limits on fishing off Puntland.

mike said...

How did they get a tow rope hooked up to that lifeboat without setting off a firefight??

Aviator47 said...


He said that there is significant difficulty in finding sufficient "probable cause" to stop and search in international waters. Suspicious enough activity is often hard to find, but when the threshold was met, they checked. These pirates are learning by experience as well, and use an array of high tech commo and nav equipment.

Since he's been away for several months, and got married since the last time he was here, we didn't have time to carry on an uninterrupted chat. It is a standing joke amongst the Orthodox that the area where we have coffee after services should be have as patron saints Saints 'Panda' and 'Monium'! We will chat further as the week goes on.

Safe passage in international waters is an international concern, Mike. Navies exist for more than killing people, blowing things up and forcing Texas style democracy on folks. It's just not as newsworthy a mission until recently. We all have a vested interest in preserving safe passage. Having to adopt "convoys" for vessel protection would severely disrupt commerce for all countries.

Chief - Panagiotis did mention the tuna fishing as extremely lucrative. Just not for the locals.

seydlitz89 said...

FD Chief-

Great background, I hadn't read about the Asian factoryfishing connection, so that puts a whole lot into perspective . . . such as what we really expect from them there fishermen-turned-pirates is to starve quietly. This is just the beginning of this problem which already is/will be wide spread.

almost drafted said...


Re: tow rope. From the NYTimes article (page 2) @:

"On Sunday, the pirates, their fuel gone, were drifting toward the Somali coast. They agreed to accept a tow from the Bainbridge, the senior officials said. At first, the towline was 200 feet long, but as darkness gathered and seas became rough, the towline was shortened to 100 feet, the officials said. It was unclear if this was done with the pirates’ knowledge."



mike said...

Al: thanks!

I find the probable cause for stopping a vessel at sea interesting? Here are some thoughts:

When fishing, I and others can be stopped on the water by the Fish&Game guys to check the catch and by the Coasties or even their civilian auxiliaries for boat safety checks. Granted that I in my dinky dingy stay well within American waters. I live in Washington state, but I understand that in Florida and the Gulf states that boarding and inspection is beyond that 12-limit and is a lot more prevalent due to drugs. And even up here there has in the past been an occasional boat confiscation of a Taiwanese fishing boat within our 200-mile economic zone.

Why not work out a deal with the Somali TFG or even the Shabab to protect their 200-mile economic zone from both foreign fish pirates and the Somali pirates? Or just start doing it in their name, deal or no.

How is "probable cause" defined in Somali law?

And I understand that many pirates are turned over to the Kenyan judicial system. How is "probable cause" defined in Kenyan law?

If you board and inspect a suspected pirate craft and they have an arms cache aboard, then don't arrest the pirates. Just dump the weapons to Davy Jones or confiscate them. Confiscate their craft, and let them loose on shore if you are concerned about probable cause. If they resist with force then respond in kind.

Perhaps they are innocent fisherfolk armed to protect themselves. If so reimburse them, or let them sue if you doubt their bonafides.

Regarding "Safe passage in international waters...", I have always agreed. I ranted anyway before this incident as it appeared to me to be a gross injustice to America to have us pay for protecting foreign ships and foreign crews who were importing foreign made, consumer goods into our country, ruining our own industry and raping our economy, pauperizing our grandchildren and their children.

But after the Maersk Alabama, I have recanted. Curious though that she is Danish owned. I wonder what our response would be to the capture by pirates of an American owned, foreign flagged, foreign crewed ship? Or does such a beast exist?

JP - thanks! Interesting article. What were the pirates thinking? They must have believed that the hostage gave them the upper hand. We have upped the stakes for other hostages.

Aviator47 said...


For all intents and purposes, there is no such thing as "Somali Law". The government is incapable of enforcing the law in their territorial waters, which leads to the poaching of their fishing grounds. And, the government (or basic lack thereof) enforces nothing on land. It's a failed state, making it a perfect haven for these pirates and the hostages and ships they hold for ransom. Would be difficult to make a "Steven Segal movie" rescue with the hostage lives at stake.

In international waters, there is no provision for random searches such as are taking place in WA State by Federal Border Protection folks. Ever ship has a right of free passage, as long as it is not clearly hostile. Thus, it is a law enforcement operation wherein routine "beat patrol" and intel processing for prevention is the key.

Yes, it would be emotionally satisfying to simply shake down every boat and dump any arms found overboard, but that's the Cheney approach - outside the law. I often think of his characterizing the people we have rounded up as "suicide bombers", without ever having caught one with a bomb. Kinda like the "Ace Kamikaze Pilot" who flew 5 missions.

Pirates who are caught in the act, can be identified as having performed the act, or are acting in a manner that clearly implies an intent to commit the act are typically turned over to law enforcement officials in Kenya for prosecution under applicable laws of the sea.

Speaking of "Steven Segal movie" approaches, a Merchant Marine Captain posted a comment to a NT Times article about how difficult and dangerous it would be on many ships to put up armed resistance on the typical vessel. Hell of a lot more potentially explosive material on board that one would imagine. Bullets flying would be a recipe for disaster. Sadly, once they are on board, the odds favor the pirates.

The Maersk Alabama case, however, has shown that the pirates are not invincible.


Publius said...

Agree there is no "Somali law" per se, other than the law of the jungle. Pretty much the situation that obtained 200 years ago off another African coast when another president let another group of criminals know that the fledgling U.S. had some backbone and some teeth.

One notes that these criminals are holding some 200 hostages, nationals of various states. One also notes that no Americans are now being held hostage. This is how the big dog should operate: not by invasions of penny ante dictatorships and by screwing around with nation building in areas that can't spell "nation," but by serving notice that you don't fuck with the big dog.

Croce had it right. You don't tug on Superman's cape, you don't spit in the wind....I've got no problem with my country with being mean when it's warranted. My problem has always been with stupidity.

As Mike says, "a good day." Fuck a bunch of pirates. And fuck the hand wringers. Obama passed the test with flying colors. That merchant captain was a true stud. Took care of his crew and his country took care of him. Doesn't get much better than that.

FDChief's input is noted. But, hey, even if those guys have a legitimate beef, it sure doesn't justify what they're doing. They'd be far more sympathetic figures if they'd redirect their energies towards building a real nation that might perhaps be able to deal with other nations in protecting its peoples' rights to make a living. Excusing these pirates for their actions is kind of akin to excusing ghetto bangers for knocking over 7-11s and killing people at ATMs because they "can't make a living."

These pirates should be working to clean up their own nest rather than preying on other people trying to make an honest living.

mike said...

Al -

You are right that there is no Somali Law, which is why arrested pirates are being turned over to Kenyan courts. So my question stands to any lawyers out there - 'How is "probable cause" defined in Kenyan law?'. I would assume there is some residue of English common law.

There are however, some courts n Somalia. There are courts in the north (former British Somalia) where the Ethiopian-backed, independent breakaway country of Somaliland rules. Unfortunately, we do not recognize their independence. There are also Sharia courts in those areas of Somalia governed by the Shabab - we do not recognize them either. The TFG (transitional federal government) who we do recognize, is lacking in courts and jurists. Although I understand that the French Navy has turned some pirates over to the TFG.

But why not work a deal with the TFG? They could get international support in ridding their economic zone of foreign fishing fleets and piracy, plus perhaps a nice cash gift for their prez and other powerbrokers. The international Naval task force would get a license to inspect all seacraft within that 200 mile economic zone. It beats the vigilanteism of Somali fishermen who took over the Iranian fishing factory ship FV Safari in January because of illegal fishing activities and the destruction of local fishermen's nets and equipment.

BTW, what ever happened to the ICJ (World Court) and the Law of the Sea? Why are these captured pirates turned over to Kenyan courts? Why not the Hague?

As for your comments on Cheney's approach, I believe it would be vastly different from mine. Deadeye Dick would have that 16-year old who surrendered to the USS Bainbridge bastinadoed until he admitted to being the King of the Pirates - or perhaps the number two man on Blackbeard's ship. Then he would send the B-52's into the port of Eyl and some other pirate dens.

FDChief said...

"Excusing these pirates for their actions is kind of akin to excusing ghetto bangers for knocking over 7-11s and killing people at ATMs because they "can't make a living."There is no excuse for their actions and I do not make any.

However, there is an EXPLANATION for their actions that goes a long way to point out that this particular form of pirate-chasing will be a pointless exercise in whack-a-mole for the forseeable future if no changes are made in any of the dynamics of Puntland. These guys aren't some sort of shooting-gallery target or action movie villians that just arrive out of nowhere and disappear after The Terminator mows them down. They're people whose entire way of life is pretty much gone. You can't really tell someone to pull themselves up by their bootstraps when they have no boots or straps or pretty much anything else. What they have is boats, and arms, and the willingness to kill to survive. They can use them to prey on each other (which they probably have and do) or on rich, white people like us. As far as I'm concerned they're like human plague rats, and if treated as such I will not complain.

But this sort of naval patrolling won't "solve" the problem of Puntland. As long as piracy is more lucrative than fishing, they'll pirate. This little episode and others like it will happen again and again unless and until:

1. We denude the Puntland coast of life, burn the villages, plow under the ruins and sow the ground with salt. While effective, this solution is a tad too Roman for me.

2. Some semblence of normal human governance returns to the Horn of Africa, along with some kind of economic normalcy and social cohesion.

I don't anticipate either soon. My comment was simply to emphasize that the Bush Era "America First, America Last, America Only" risks letting problems we could concievably manage with intelligent foresight and diplomatic means (like preventing the Asian fishing fleets from destroying the littoral Somali economy and producing these pirates) become irritating and frustrating long-term problems (entailing convoy escort and patrol duties along the Puntland coast for the forseeable future).

As for the Somali buckos themselves, vae victus, to continue the Roman theme. Just remember Julius Caesar and his pirates.

almost drafted said...

A couple of sidelights on this discussion. I heard on an NPR broadcast that piracy is crime that can be prosecuted in the jurisdiction of whoever captures them.

Prosecution by the US is very unlikely for two reasons. In this case, the captive is under 18, and would probably have to be tried under juvenile law, which might be chancy.

Secondly, if not put to death, our laws say that the criminal must be repatriated. However, our laws also say that you cannot repatriate someone to a failed state.

I can certainly understand why shipping companies don't like the idea of firefights on their ships. One of the many objections is that an arms race with the pirates would eventually result in way too many lost ships and lives.

But what about trying Q-ships? They were of limited effectiveness in the 20th century, but they were then facing subs and commerce raiders -- who became very wary after the Q-ships had some successes.

But I seriously doubt that pirates would win an arms race with a modern navy that was out to hunt bad guys.



sheerahkahn said...

I'm with chief on this one.
The somali's don't have a lot to begin with, and with their one food source being stripped mine...they're going with what they got.
The "Law" for them is who has the gun, and who doesn't.
For them, they probably do see what their doing as perfectly legit, and as far as their concern, this is rebuilding their embattered nation.

And to be honest, I think the comparison between the gang bangers and the somalis is a poor one.
The gang bangers in the US have better social options to fall back on if they so choose to change their getting a job, going back to school, learning a trade, and working in that trade.
Those options do not exist for the Somalis at this current time considering the way their country is going.
Here is a link for you to get a feel of the country.

I point at the business section of the intel report...businesses print their own money.
That, Publius, seriously limits the options averge Joe Somali Fishermen has in terms of life options.

Which brings us to those fishing trawlers...those things are clean sweeping the oceans.

and there is lots of information on the net about them.
National Navies have shot at each other's fishing ships, and during one episode I remember reading about way back when was when a Spainish fishing fleet, escorted by one of her Navy gunboats into Canadian fishing water, was challenged by a Canadian gunboat.
They exchanged rounds before the Spanish fishing fleet scooted out.

Somalia doesn't have a navy to protect her fishing rights of the sea...

I agree that this isn't a very good situation, but given the consideration that these Somali's are following the old adage of "desperate times calls for desperate measures" lends a certain amount of understanding to their situation which is not an endorsement of their actions.

mike said...

JP -

I like the Q-ship as one page of the tactics in Somali waters. I believe it was first proposed by Lloyds of London the insurer. But I wonder if they would fund it and crew it with mercs? That I believe would be a mistake. Let the Royal Navy do it, they are good at it, their record in the two world wars with Q-ships is much better than ours.

FDChief said...

mike: I think the Q-ship idea (which I remember running across on Yglesias' page, I think) works only if you're fighting a modern navy that is casualty averse. These guys are pretty desperate - what's one or a couple of dead rats to the pack?

And just to re-emphasize my point: Sheerah is a better person than I am - while I know that the Somali pirates are worse off than a South L.A. gangsta as far as I'm concerned they're equally disposable. You do the crime, you do the time, and if that means getting blown away on the high seas, too bad, so sad.

The only real take-home lesson here IMO is that we're so goddam wrapped around the GWOT hub that we're letting stuff like the coast of Puntland slide. It would have taken a couple of guys from State a couple of weeks to work up and present a case to the international fisheries commission or the World Court to restrict the Asian trawlers' depredations off the Horn of Africa, and a much smaller enforcement apparatus to keep them off. And we would have stood a much lower chance of being where we are now, presented with the Morton's Fork of eternal antipiracy patrols off Puntland on the one hand and genocide on the other.

sheerakahn said...

"Sheerah is a better person than I am - while I know that the Somali pirates are worse off than a South L.A. gangsta as far as I'm concerned they're equally disposable. You do the crime, you do the time, and if that means getting blown away on the high seas, too bad, so sad."

I don't know if I'm a better person, Chief, and to be perfectly candid I tend to defer to you since your ability to articulate the issues with clarity is far better than what I can approach them with.
That being said, I agree (again) that sympathy is not a factor in this discussion.
The Somali pirates are going to have to accept the quid pro quo that comes with piracy on the high seas.
I understand why they're doing it, but I'll be damned if I'm going to let them jack my vessel without some form of retribution.

FDChief said...

Actually, Sheerah, your post does bring up a fairly worthwhile talking point:

At what stage do the failed states in or near global geostrategic choke points become a public menace so unavoidable as to require some sort of "intervention"?

I mean, certain places - sorry, Inner Mongolia, Afghanistan (or at least Afghanistan SHOULD be on this list), Rwanda, Uruguay - are always going to be globally negligible. They will get slapped when they become an irritant but otherwise will be allowed to slide into misery and barbarism ameliorated by mo more than whatever their likely-to-be-affected neighbor states can provide.

But there are places that, by their location, can't be ignored. Places that are of some outside importance, either economically (many Middle Eastern countries and Nigeria because of oil revenue, for example) or positionally (Panama, South Africa, Indonesia, Turkey) astride trade route or choke points.

So, as we're finding with Somalia, when these places go to hell, they tend to impose significant burdens on a broader portion of the world's population than would be the case if this social collapse was occurring in, say, Upper Volta.

And what can you (you being the trading nations that are affected) do about places like this? The old-fashioned solution would have been to empower a local satrap to go in and "clean up" his coastline. But I'm not sure that method is as foolproof in the times of the handmade mine and the cheap AK-47. Same problem with the shores-of-Tripoli punitive expedition.

So are we stuck with the Puntland coast as a "heere be dragons" hazard on the nautical charts until the whenever moment that the Barre'-replacement arises and subdues this coastline? And given the apparent spread of weak, hollow and failed states globally, should we anticipate more of this in the future?

Aviator47 said...

FDChief: "The only real take-home lesson here IMO is that we're so goddam wrapped around the GWOT hub that we're letting stuff like the coast of Puntland slide." You hit the finger right on the nail! Who cared about helping a failed state have the fruits of its territorial waters? Definitely not the GWB administration. Use diplomacy to let the Somalis have access to fish that are lawfully theirs? No glory in that. It may be a little late for fishing enforcement to benefit the Somalis, but it should still be done to punish the poachers who gave rise to the problem in the first place.

While the Q Ship sounds sexy, there's a couple of problems. Commercial ships transiting our seas today tend to be participants in tracking systems that are readily accessible by anyone. With access to Jane's Registry, one could sort the real cargo ships from the Q Ships quite easily. There's such a target rich environment of easily identifiable merchant hulls out there that it would make no sense to attack a "Mystery Ship", no matter how many containers were stacked on its deck. That technology just wasn't available in the "old days".

It's just gonna take good, old fashioned law enforcement grunt work.


Fasteddiez said...

Yo Chief!

Yglesias obviously stole the Q-ship idea from Yours Truly. I was the one that said that Saddam had a secret plan to sail an Iraqiman Q-Ship up the Hudson (East river if you like), and bombard both shores, (GW Bridge with Bow gun) with a cannonade of loosely shackled 152mm field guns. The ordnance would be consist of Sarin Binary rounds, as well as super secret bio rounds that cause the Truman Show syndrome.

The vessel would evade and neutralize all USN Tracking capabilities. Natch.

Oh and waiting for another Siad Barre, or someone like him: good luck with that. Any Somaliman (I am excluding Women Folk because they don't count for much in Puntland), worth his salt who is capable of creating an alphabet for these Qat chewing hosers already has a good job. They live in the greater DC area, working as Car park attendants, busily trying to cheat members of the distracted community from their change (they say you gave them a Fin instead of a Twenty). I have had to get out of my ride on more than one occasion to threaten their dumb asses with corporal violence. They got it coming, big time.

FDChief said...

Fasteddiez: Someone (I think it may have been P.J. O'Rorke) coined a nice phrase to describe Somalia: "Whacked-out barbaric psychos murdering each other over matters of clan. Add castles and bagpipers and its Scotland."

Somalia, like several other parts of the world I can think of, seems to alternate between complete-and-utter-fucking-tribal-chaos and the bloodyhanded rule of a single strongman. We're in the CUFTC stage now. But I suspect that at some point we'll get someone strong enough and ruthless enough to reconquer most of the Horn, make a wasteland and call it peace.

It will suck to be them. But it'll be hella easier for us.

FDChief said...

Al, mike: Other potential issues with the Q-ships would be the immense potential for liability in arming the sort of crews that sail a lot of these vessals. The old days of the Western merchant marines is long gone. Most of the deck crews of these ships are what a Victorian Briton would have called "lascars": Sri Lankan, Indonesian, or Korean contract sailors - basically coastal villagers with a couple of weeks training. Handing out rifles and grenade launchers to these guys? Lloyds would scream like a wounded eagle.

The alternative would be for the shipping companies to hire contract gun crews. But picture the problems and expense that would entail. You have twenty container ships that transit the Horn every quarter. You lose one a year; 0.25 ships/quarter. The ransom is 10 million dollars, or $2.5 million/quarter.

Meanwhile, you're hiring 20 gun crews a quarter, four men at $1,000/day; $360,000 per ship per quarter, roughly $7 million per quarter or $28 million a year.

Makes no sens, economically. They're financially better off paying the ransoms, and the pirates probably know that as well as we do.

Andy said...

I did a bit of research on the fisheries angle today and discovered, perhaps not surprisingly, that it's a lot more complex than that.

To begin with, Somalia has never had what one would consider a thriving fishing industry. Back when Somalia actually had a government, it did little fishing itself - it licensed commercial fishing from other nations (first the USSR, then Italy and others). For the most part, it looks like these contracts simply gave the Somali's a cut of the profits - the actual product was stored on refrigerated processing ships and taken to Europe or wherever.

Part of the reason for that is that Somalia has never had the infrastructure to support much of a fish market. Before the civil war, even the locals had few options for getting their product to market in the bigger cities. Another factor is Somali culture.

After the civil war everything went totally downhill - not surprising. Even if the fisherman/pirates had the capability to fish their waters, especially out in the EEZ, there's no way to get any of it to market.

A lot of these pirates are MAMs who grew up earning a living through the barrel of a gun and not through fishing. Some of the older pirates might have been fisherman at some point in time, but most of the pirates are simply too young. The four in this latest incident were described as "teenagers" by Sec. Gates which means they were probably born in the middle of the Somali civil war.

Finally, there's this interesting article. The pirates also appear to be impacting legitimate fishing outside Somalia's EEZ. (And some of the attacks have happened as far as 900nm from the shore!) Apparently, there are still a lot tuna out there to be caught.

So in the end, I don't find the pirate's argument that convincing. Maybe at some point in the past, illegal fishing was a factor in turning fishermen into pirates, but it doesn't seem to be the case today. The claims that illegal fishing have stolen all the fish seem suspect at best - no one is able to conduct any surveys and there are still enough fish left to make commercial fishing (illegal and legal) fishing viable. I find it doubtful these pirates will give up the lucrative piracy gig, especially since fishing is highly skilled activity, requiring specialized equipment, unlike piracy. If the pirates were truly concerned about illegal fishing, they would limit their actions to fishing vessels.

So I guess at the end of the day I'm with Publius on this.

Aviator47 said...


FDChief's point is, as I see it, that lawlessness breeds lawlessness. Whether or not any individual pirate has been personally impacted by poaching, international law has been ignored in those waters by other nations. Hell, if Koreans are going to break the law by illegal fishing, why can't I be a pirate? Once the genie is out of the bottle, Katie bar the door!

That there has been no functioning government in Somalia simply adds fuel to the fires. The world at large has chosen to allow the rule of law, as regards to fishing rights, to be suspended in the region. Thus, the world at large has participated/contributed in the lawlessness. The pirates are just a variation on the tune, choosing a less labor and capital intensive way of making an illegal living in a lawless region. And, one could conclude, a region defined as lawless by the very nations whose ships are being hijacked, at least as far as fishing rights were concerned.

I am not justifying the actions of the pirates. I do, however, see a reasonable cause and effect relationship between the poaching nations' willful disrespect for the law and that of the pirates. The "world's" de facto declaration that maritime law (in regards to fishing) is null and void in the region simply opened the door to other aspects of maritime law to be disregarded. Now that the economic impact is being borne by the rest of us as well, we are getting our panties in a wad!

So, we now have the job of a much more complex law enforcement mission.


Andy said...


I understand what you're saying, but I don't see a cause and effect between poaching and piracy. They are not even comparable crimes and the pirates don't restrict their lawlessness to those nations that supposedly have wronged them. They claim hundreds of vessels are illegally fishing in Somali waters or Somalia's EEZ, yet they are taking ships in international waters, Yemen's EEZ and Kenya's EEZ.

If someone steals all the food from my garden and dumps all over my front yard, I don't get my gun and start robbing 7-11's. It's not a legitimate response.

I agree that lawlessness is a major factor, if not the major factor, but on the scale of lawlessness in Somalia, poaching fish is small fry (yes, bad pun!).

sheerahkahn said...

I think you are trying rationalize this in the best way possible, and what you find yourself holding is apples in one hand, rotted lemons in the other.
You're an extent.
However the caveat lays in the foundation of your thesis.
Thriving fishing industry.
First off.
Somalia is clan country, and hasn't been a functioning "country" of any sort for...what...twenty years, more maybe?
So, no, I would not expect to find any sort of thriving fishing "industry" at all.
In fact, why are we using the term "industry" when talking about Somalia?
But when it comes to sustenance fishing, yes, somalia has a fishing "industry."
It's called, "we're feeding ourselves."
Simple, understandable, and I'm sure somewhere down the timeline of yester year some poor fishermen and his crew shook their fists at the worlds commercial fishing boats and thought all sorts of hateful shit towards them.
But remember, we're talking about Somalia which has a very armed populace of hoodwinkers and techies who are looking to score some.
Combined with the fact that the coastal populations, the last time "we" were there were quite open to "Hey, how ya doin?!?"
Now have turned...pirate.
Something changed between then and now.
I think that something was a disgruntled coastal population have a hard go of it, combined with opportunistic inlanders seeing potential in turning fishing boats into Pirate ship, sans flying the Jolly Roger.
I think the fishing collapse of the Somalia coast was just the tipping point.
Now, a lot of the Somalian's are looking at Piracy as a way of alleviating their poor stature, and considering the options they have...what do they have to loose?
It's not like anyone is going to invade, and turn their rats nest desert into a shining oasis of beach front property anytime soon.

mike said...

FDChief / Al -

I understood that the shipping insurer Lloyds was the one that first suggested Q-Ships for use against the Somali pirate threat. Agree they probably stole the idea from FastEddie.

The liability and economic issues are moot if Lloyds talks the Royal Navy into doing it for them. And the Brit Admiralty can undoubtedly do a workaround on the Maritime Tracking System to keep the buccaneers from knowing the ID of the decoy. And BTW, decoys have always been part of "good, old fashioned law enforcement grunt work".

In any case, neither Lloyd's, nor JP, nor I, nor anyone else claimed it was the solution. It would be just one arrow in a quiver full of different resolutions - another of which would be solving the fishing problem with diplomacy and international arm twisting. Those fishing licenses to foreign fleets which Andy mentioned were bought with illegal bribes to corrupt Somali officials. They could be made null and void by some additional well placed bribes.

I do hope though that the US Navy - and/or any Blackwater ilk do not try Q-ships. We are not devious enough (like the Brits). And the mercs would probably turn to a little genteel piracy themselves.

Anonymous said...

Read down to the end. Is this Phil Carter that used to run IntelDump??? I thought he had gone to DoD???

sheerahkahn said...

Read down to the end. Is this Phil Carter that used to run IntelDump??? I thought he had gone to DoD???
I get page cannot be found.
What does it say?

Anonymous said...

"Clinton vs. the pirates
Wed, 04/15/2009 - 3:05pm

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton outlined a set of counter piracy initiatives today. From the memo:

The increase in pirate attacks over the last few weeks underscores the rising threat that Somali pirates pose to seafarers and the security of international maritime commerce. Today, Secretary Clinton announced four new steps that the State Department is taking to combat piracy off the Horn of Africa:

1.. The Secretary will send an envoy to the Somali donors conference scheduled for April 23 in Brussels. Our envoy will work with our partners on initiatives to improve the situation in Somalia.
2.. The Secretary will call for immediate meetings with our partners in the Contact Group on Piracy Off the Coast of Somalia (CGPCS) to coordinate an expanded multinational response to this threat. Specifically, we will:
1.. Work with our partners to forge a renewed determination that states take responsibility for prosecuting and imprisoning captured pirates.
2.. Develop strategies to secure the release of ships and crews currently held by Somali pirates.
3.. Explore ways to track and freeze pirate assets. It is time to eliminate the financial payoff of piracy.
4.. We will also reiterate to all concerned the US policy of making no concessions or ransom payments to hostage takers.
3.. The Secretary has directed the State Department to organize meetings with Somali government officials from the Transitional Federal Government as well as regional leaders in Puntland and elsewhere. We must press authorities within Somalia to take action against pirates operating from bases within their territory.
4.. Because it is clear that defending against piracy must be the joint responsibility of governments and industry, the Secretary has directed the Department to work with shippers and the insurance industry to address gaps in their self-defense measures.

Will send word on who gets the envoy job and what his/her title will be when it comes.

UPDATE: The U.S. will be represented at the Somalia donors conference in Brussels by Acting Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Phillip Carter and an as yet unnamed representative from USAID, State Department spokesman Robert Wood said Thursday."

bigbird said...

Two different Philip Carters. The last one mentioned is this character.

(Hate to say it, but this writing html code is for the birds, no pun intended, and I've written some pretty arcane computer code in my working life.)

The info about PC becoming the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Detainee Affairs was a rumor back in February, but I haven't been able to find anything new about PC

basilbeast said...

Christos Anesti!

almost drafted said...

On a completely different subject, does anyone know how to contact Al or JD by email?

I ask because I just read an op-ed piece entitled "Up, UP, and Out" in the NYTimes.

This article suggests a whole bunch of changes needed in the military -- as well as society -- most of which have been discussed at length in Intel-Dump or I-D's current incarnation.

The article is at

I understand why Al and JD don't want to open up this blog to postings by hoi polloi, but it would be nice to be able to get in touch with them about stuff like this.



Anonymous said...


That article is being discussed over at Abu Muqawama. IMO, the article is pretty much garbage.

Andy said...

PS, that last comment was mine.

Aviator47 said...

Been somewhat away from the keyboard for Holy Week, Easter and recovery!

A couple of responses:

Basil Beast:

Alithos Anesti! kai Xronia Polla!


Any help stimulating discussion would be welcome. It's a email address, and the first part is "aviator6715". I will open a thread on that article to get the discussion going.

Will also be a short period of "slow time" the last part of May, as we are leading a group of 19 Vespa fanatics from the US, Canada and the UK on a Greek Islands Vespa tour.

Best to all