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I suspect prospects for the Somali pirates are not good at this point.

By Andrew Pollack on 11/24/2008 at 08:55 AM EST

All the recent reports of stepped up piracy in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean leave me thinking these guys have pushed their luck just a step too far. They're collecting multi-million dollar ransoms from some of these ships, and have recently hit to very high profile targets. They may have crossed that invisible line that finally brings an end to easy pickings.

Even as many of the worlds navies are saying the area is simply too large to patrol, I have to think that the stakes have been raised to the point where some decisive changes will be made. The problem of patrols is only half the story. The other half is that if you were to catch these pirates and you are a legitimate navy, you now have to do something with them. If you simply killed them at sea, the world opinion would fall against you quickly. The pirates are apparently small groups of individuals going out in barely seaworthy boats with just enough scrounged weaponry to make the difference against a small and lightly armed ship's crew. There must be some organization behind them somewhere, or they'd have no way to deal with the large sums of money involved. That organization is probably several steps removed from those doing the dirty work.

With the size and frequency of the ransoms reportedly being paid, however, the game will soon change. It clearly starts to make economic sense for the shipping owners -- a very small number of very large companies -- to hire their own armed escort as they make this passage. Balanced against a multi-million dollar ransom and delays in delivery costing millions of dollars themselves, the cost of a couple of dozen heavily armed men boarding as you enter the area and leaving as you clear it starts to makes very good sense. Imagine these teams riding back and forth on the ships going both directions through the area. Someone with an entreprenurial sense could simply station "staging" vessels at either end of the shipping lanes through the area so that armed crews could be swapped on for the duration of travel. These people, operating in international waters and under the moral protection of self-defense would have very little accountability and almost no incentive to spare the lives of any would be attacker.

The days when fighting piracy required "capitol" ships and cannon that were available only at great cost to the biggest navies in the world are long gone. Paying a large security company for the use of a few dozen heavily armed men is a relatively easy transaction and with a cost lower than these ransoms and insurance losses. If the leading nations of the world do not begin to seriously patrol that area and curtail this problem very quickly, its going to be a blood bath.

There are  - loading -  comments....

re: I suspect prospects for the Somali pirates are not good at this point.By Frank Paolino on 11/24/2008 at 09:50 AM EST
I like the idea of a private security force. If Madonna can have one, why not
Exxon/Mobil? I also read an interesting article that suggested attacking the
harbors where these ships are brought to discourage supporting governments from
providing safe harbors for these ships. That would make logistics tougher for
the pirates with no place to land, and send a message to those who aid pirates
"hands off!"
Those private security forces already exist.By Andrew Pollack on 11/24/2008 at 10:40 AM EST
Some of these private security forces are pretty scary -- particularly when you
start to question their accountability.
re: Those private security forces already exist.By mdmadph on 11/24/2008 at 02:06 PM EST
What accountability?

All depends on where they're operating -- US mercenaries in Iraq will soon have
some sort of accountability to the Iraqi government, for example.
re: Those private security forces already exist.By Peter Smith on 11/24/2008 at 02:08 PM EST
Imagine, "Blackwater take to the water" least at sea there will be fewer
innocent bystanders for them to shoot.

Saying that, how long before a fishing boat is blown out of the water for
"looking threatening"?
re: Those private security forces already exist.By Dave Harris on 11/26/2008 at 05:09 AM EST
Funny you should mention that...
re: I suspect prospects for the Somali pirates are not good at this point.By Jo Grant on 11/24/2008 at 02:04 PM EST
Hmm. Should be a few security firms looking for work with less accountability
now that Iraq is tightening up the litigation loopholes...

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