Thursday, November 20, 2008

Practice runs

Picture credit: Spiegel Online

"... It is generally thought that from sighting pirates to being boarded takes approximately fifteen minutes. Such a short space of time helps to explain why even with international patrols in the area ships are still captured ..." In the Gulf of Aden pirates, mostly originating from Somalia, ply small motor boats with men armed with AK-47s and RPGs and are harassing vessels traveling that important maritime route.

Over a hundred attacks have happened this year and a number of ships have been seized for ransom (35-40?). Insurance rates for the greater than 16,000 ships that transit that area every year have gone up. Additionally, some shipping lines are considering switching routes from 'Suez Canal - Gulf of Aden' to going around the Cape of Good Hope, thus adding an extra 12-15 days to the journey at USD 20-30 thousand per day. Now that's some amazing leverage!!

Beyond all the strategic and geopolitical issues raised by this situation (see the Chatham House report linked below), this seems to offer an opportunity. Very hard to track, small, lightly-armed motorboats attacking suddenly, and sometimes using swarming attacks?? Great training opportunity for the U.S. Navy, which in the future might face this from the Iranians in the Straits of Hormuz....

Pirates of the Gulf
The pirates of Somalia
Why not storm the ships?
Oil tanker waylaid by pirates
Photo Gallery: Danger on the High Seas
Photo Gallery: The Rise of Somali Pirates
Piracy in Somalia: Threatening Global Trade, Feeding Local Wars

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