Thursday, July 30, 2009

A respite for my in-box?

Reading the BBC report that an undersea cable was cut, disrupting communications in Nigeria, Benin, Togo and Niger, I wondered if this would lead to a decline in emails suggesting there's millions of dollars waiting for some lucky person. With 70% of Nigeria's bandwidth cut, maybe my Nigerian prince will be annoyed. Course there's still that Maj. Clarence Eugene aboard USS Colorado (see here)...

Looking at the Somali pirate business model

With summer slowing me down, I've been running late in posting some recent news and links of note. Some may have seen Wired Magazine's "Cutthroat Capitalism: the Game", which can be played by clicking here. After you finish trying your hand at it, check out two recent pieces by Scott Carney at that I highly recommend:

There's an interview he did with a Somali pirate in Eyl, the uncut version of which can be seen here. Ignore the pap about the Somalis being defenders of the coast - "protectors" in this pirate's mind - and note, instead, the degree of pre-incident intelligence being alluded to and the logistical organization being used in their operations. According to this unnamed pirate, the requirement of a single man being the first to board, in order to throw down a rope or ladder for the rest of the boarding team, reveals a potential weakness in their attack strategy. Those few moments when the first man is aboard are crucial for the attackers, and the defenders. And as for the issue of arming mariners, there's a somewhat chilling comment from the pirate Carney spoke to: "The key to our success is that we are willing to die, and the crews are not."

Carney also wrote a much larger piece two weeks back (see it here) that puts forth a number of formulae to analyse the economics of the Somali pirate business model. To do this, he looks at the case of the Stolt Valor, seized by Somali pirates last September and released after 62 days and the payment of a $2.5 million ransom. From speaking with various individuals involved and other observers, Carney has come up with a series of tables, such as "Shipper's Math: Why Sail Through Somali Waters?", or "Pirate's Math: When To Attack". He also looks at the weaponry available to attackers and defenders, who profits, what the risk levels are to overall shipping and other details, all presented in a manner that is graphically illuminating.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Preparing US merchant marine cadets for pirates

The Village Voice ran a short piece yesterday on the counter piracy training being provided to cadets at the US Merchant Marine Academy in King's Point and the SUNY Maritime College in Throgs Neck. As Captain Jon Helmick - director of the Logistics and Intermodal Transportation Program at the USMMA - tells author Michael Ventura, they've been giving students anti-piracy training for at least 18 years. I have no idea what other institutions are doing, so I'd be glad to hear comments about how other cadets are being prepared for the risks of pirate attacks.

Also, I've added a new link at right, to the Maritime Terrorism Research Center website. It's another good source of information for those interested in the issues.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A mid-year look at global piracy

Going through the most recent report on piracy and armed robbery incidents around the globe from the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) makes for some heavy reading, if only because there is so much going on out there. And the report released by the IMB last week only covers the first half of this year (beginning of January to end of June 2009). If you're interested in the entire document, click here and fill in the fields to request a PDF in your inmail. Meanwhile, here's an overview of what's presented in the report:

The most obvious observation is that reported piracy incidents - actual and attempted - are way up this year. The IMB records 240 incidents in the first six months of this year, which compares to 293 for all of 2008, 263 in 2007 and already surpasses the 239 recorded in 2006. In the last half decade, the highest annual number of incidents reported by the IMB was 329 in 2004, so this year's data is already notable.

More troubling is the dramatic increase in hostage takings: There have been 561 individuals taken prisoner by pirates so far this year, mostly by suspected Somali pirates (495 reported hostages). And we thought last year was bad when 190 mariners were reported to have been taken hostage by pirates around the world. According to the IMB, there are currently 178 people being held hostage for ransom by suspected Somali pirates, along with 11 vessels.

While the waters off the Horn of Africa remain the most dangerous for piracy, the IMB report shows the seas near Nigeria continue to be bad, with 13 incidents reported so far this year in that region (versus 18 incidents reported in 2008 and 19 in 2007). Peruvian waters, of all places, have seen 10 incidents reported since January, far in excess of anything previously seen in that part of South America. Malaysian and Vietnamese waters have also seen increases in incidents, as have the general South China Seas. Bangladeshi territory, meanwhile, continues to hold steady in terms of attacks.

Of actual attacks reported so far this year, there's an almost even split in terms of what the vessels were doing: 50 vessels were attacked while anchored while 49 were steaming. But another 120 incidents involved vessels steaming who were attacked, but not successfully boarded.

Vessels in the top five flag nations attacked flew the flag of Panama (in 40 reported incidents), Liberia (22), the Marshall Islands (18), Malta (16) or Singapore (15). The Singapore tally should be of some concern, as the island state is not normally considered a lax, open-registry locale and has a robust maritime self-defence force. Indeed, given the large number of commercial vessels currently lying in anchorage off Singapore owing to the global recession, their caretaker crews should be especially vigilant about not becoming sitting ducks out there.

Though the Panamanian flag may be the most commonly attacked - and not, I would add, just because of its nationality - most of the vessels attacked have been controlled by German firms (in 38 cases to date this year). Greek companies are second on the list (33), followed by Hong Kong (13) and Singapore (17). There have also been 7 incidents involving vessels controlled by British shipping firms.

Yet it is mariners who face the brunt of the problem, as shown by the reported 561 taken hostage so far this year by pirates. Those seafarers who do encounter attackers today are much more likely to find that guns are being employed in incidents, with 151 reported uses of firearms so far this year compared to 39 in 2008. the level of violence is spiraling upward, with six mariners reported killed in incidents so far this year, with another eight missing.

This has led to a renewed discussion about whether seafarers should be armed in order to defend themselves from attackers, but the IMB remains supportive of the Maritime Security Committee (MSC) of the UN International Maritime Organization, which feels that arming crews is not the answer. Indeed, the MSC worries that an "arms race at sea" may ensue if weapons appear on merchant vessels. I think this is an apt term, for it brings to mind the money, resources and training that that are required to effectively deter pirates. Over half the incidents recorded in the IMB report for the first six months of this year have involved attackers armed with guns, and every incident - every one - involved a weapon of some sort. It's one things to advocate placing weapons on an American- or other Western-flagged vessel. But can the same level of deterence be safely expanded to every ship out there? Yes, it could, but who is going to oversee this, because I seriously doubt that Liberia, Panama or Antigua-Barbuda will do so. This is merely an observation.

Also, EagleSpeak keyed to a Russian pronouncement in the Hindustan Times that Somali pirates now number over 5000. I was somewhat taken aback by this figure, and, after checking with my sources in East Africa, wonder if the Russians aren't counting ancillary supporters into things. Seems like the real figure may be around 2000-2500, but, then again, no one is able to do a really accurate tally. Still, in mid-July I seriously doubt there are 5000 Somali pirates prowling the seas off the Horn of Africa. And I seriously hope I'm right.

But the last things I'd add are that all of these dire notes are based on only six months of reporting. We've a long and hard year still to come, and the quiet summer months can be deceiving as monsoons blow off East Africa and land-based Westerners go on vacation. But, as the IMB report shows, this has been a terrible year around the globe for piracy so far, and things will only get worse in a couple of months. And it is vital to remember that all the data presented here, from the IMB report, only involves reported incidents. There are many more events going on out on the waters of our planet that are not reported. So if just the reported incidents scare you, imagine how much deadlier things really are.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Ceasefire declared by Nigerian rebels

The BBC is reporting that the West Africa rebel group MEND - the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta - is to begin a sixty day cessation in its attacks against various targets. These have included oil and gas installations in the coastal region of Nigeria, the personnel working in those facilities and their families, security forces guarding them, and vessels servicing the facilities. The ceasefire is to come into effect today - Wednesday - and comes as a result of the release from government detention of the group's leader. If the truce holds, it should provide some relief to those who have been dealing with the increasingly violent attacks in the region.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Video of what it's like to be held hostage by Somali pirates

The British media outlet Channel 4 has posted some footage shot by a crewman from the Ukrainian freighter MV Faina - the vessel that was hijacked late last September by a large group of Somali pirates. (You probably remember the incident because the Faina was carrying T-72 battle tanks and other weapons and munitions at the time of the hijacking.) The footage was shot using the mariner's mobile phone and gives some brief glimpses into the crew's situation while being held hostage, mostly the sheer boredom and cramped conditions they endured.

There's not a lot of footage to be seen, and the scenes may seem undramatic given the circumstances, but keep in mind the crew was trying to maintain their spirits while spending over four months as prisoners of the pirates.

On a slightly related note, it's being reported that one of the prisoners from the recently hijacked Turkish ship Horizon I is a woman mariner. Aysun Afbay is the vessel's fourth officer, a 24-year-old Turkish woman who is not, as the Russia Today report states, the first woman to be held hostage by Somali pirates. Several women sailing on pleasure boats have been seized in the past year, and none were mistreated by their captors. Afbay is, though, the first female commercial mariner to be taken hostage.

By the way, there is still some concern about just what is to become of those T-72 tanks that the Faina was ferrying. Jane's has been monitoring them and reports that they may be slowly making their way northwards from barracks outside Nairobi where they have been stored since the hijacking ended in early February of this year. That would be towards the border with southern Sudan, where the Sudan People's Liberation Army may be awaiting the weaponry. The Jane's reports says that the South Sudanese had ordered 100 tanks for their forces, with the ones in the Faina comprising the last of three shipments.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Latest ONI Worldwide Threats to Shipping

There's good news and bad news in the latest Office of Naval Intelligence report on worldwide threats to shipping. The report shows that while there have been a lot of incidents in the Red Sea and the waters off the Horn of Africa - 14 in the last month by the ONI's reckoning - the vast majority have not resulted in any actual boardings. As well, there are only two listed incidents since June 22, a likely result of the effects the southwest monsoon is having on sea conditions in the region. That's the good news.

The bad news comes from the number of attacks reported off West Africa and Southeast Asia in the last month: There are 17 incidents reported in those two regions, the vast majority of which resulted in successful boardings and robberies, with a great degree of violence being used by the attackers against the merchant crews. In three cases, the attackers were numerous in number - 12 pirates in one case, 15 in the second and 16 in the third.

Here's an edited breakdown of reported incidents in the ONI report (sources of each incident are reported in brackets):


1. BAB EL MANDEB: Tanker reported suspicious approach 19 Jun 09 at 1220 UTC while underway in position 12:38N – 043:21E. Armed men in skiffs chased the vessel while underway. The captain raised the alarm, sounded the whistle, and conducted evasive maneuvers. The crew mustered and activated fire hoses. The men in the skiffs abandoned the pursuit due to evasive maneuvers and the repeated calls to nearby coalition forces (IMB).

2. GULF OF ADEN: Bulk carrier (HORIZON I) hijacked 8 Jul 09 at 0530 UTC while underway in position 13:44N – 050:43E. Owners have verbally confirmed that pirates have taken hostage of crewmembers and are now sailing the vessel. There are currently 23 Turkish crewmembers onboard (IMB, AFP).

3. GULF OF ADEN: Tanker (MAERSK PHOENIX) fired upon 22 Jun 09 at 0910 local time while underway in position 13:29N – 050:20E. Approximately six to eight armed men in a white skiff approached the vessel and fired at it with an RPG. The vessel conducted evasive maneuvers to prevent a boarding. A NATO warship was sighted and the vessel proceeded toward the warship for assistance. The skiff turned away when the warship began pursuing it. The warships fired several shots at the skiff before the armed men finally surrendered (Operator, IMB, AFP).

4. GULF OF ADEN: General cargo vessel (BOLAN) fired upon 22 Jun 09 at 0850 local time while underway in position 13:33N – 050:19E. Two small white skiffs with four to five armed men onboard chased and opened fire on the vessel while underway. The captain raised the alarm and mustered the crew. The vessel conducted evasive maneuvers and fired rocket flares. Coalition forces in the area were also informed. A NATO warship in the vicinity responded and chased the skiffs before eventually capturing the armed men (Operator, IMB, AFP).

5. GULF OF ADEN: Tanker fired upon 15 June 09 at 1305 local time while underway in position 12:58N – 048:27E. One skiff approached the vessel to within about ten meters and fired with gun and RPG rounds. The vessel conducted evasive maneuvers and the skiff eventually broke away and fled the scene. An Iranian warship arrived on scene in about 20 minutes followed by a coalition helicopter later (Operator, IMB).

6. GULF OF ADEN: Tanker fired upon 14 June 09 at 1700 local time while underway in position 12:33N – 043:29E, near Bab el Mandeb. Several speed boats approached the vessel, crossed its bow, and opened fire with automatic weapons. The tanker performed evasive maneuvers to prevent the men from boarding (Operator, IMB).

7. GULF OF ADEN: Tanker reported suspicious approach 14 June 09 at 1740 local time while underway in position 12:58N – 043: 09E. Four speed boats with five to six persons in each armed with automatic weapons approached the vessel. The tanker performed evasive maneuvers and activated fire hoses on deck. The speed boats later aborted the pursuit (Operator, IMB).

8. GULF OF ADEN: Tanker reported suspicious approach 14 June 09 at 1435 UTC while underway in position 12:25N – 043:28E. Several skiffs chased the vessel but aborted after the tanker applied anti-piracy measures to prevent boarding (Operator, IMB).

9. GULF OF ADEN: Bulk carrier reported suspicious approach 14 June 09 at 1453 UTC while underway in position 12:59N – 043:09E. Vessel took evasive maneuvers to prevent possible boarding (Operator, IMB).

10. GULF OF ADEN: Chemical tanker reported suspicious approach 13 June 09 at 0110 local time while underway in position 12:36N – 043: 25E. Vessel performed evasive maneuvers and contacted coalition warships via VHF channel 16. The skiffs later aborted the pursuit (Operator, IMB).

11. OMAN: General cargo ship (CHARELLE) hijacked 12 June 09 at 1334 UTC while underway in position 21:55N – 059:51E, approximately 11NM off the coast of Oman. An unknown number of armed men boarded and hijacked the vessel after pursuing it for some time (Operator, IMB, UPI).

12. OMAN: Bulk carrier reported attempted boarding 10 June 09 at 1420 UTC while underway in position 18:41N – 058: 01E, approximately 20NM off Ras al Madrakah. Approximately ten men armed with automatic weapons and an RPG in two speed boats chased the vessel and attempted to board with a hooked latter. The vessel master sounded the ship’s whistle, activated the ship’s fire hoses and performed evasive maneuvers to prevent boarding (Operator, IMB).

13. INDIAN OCEAN: Bulk carrier reported suspicious approach 4 Jul 09 at 1800 UTC while underway in position 14:51.3N – 058:29.8E, approximately 220NM southeast of Sawqirah, Oman. The master of the vessel reported that one small boat approached the vessel during bad weather conditions with very rough seas and allegedly fired an RPG. The master conducted evasive maneuvers, increased speed, and managed to elude the boat. ONI Comment: UKMTO contacted the master after the incident and was unable to confirm an attack. No weapons seen, no damage confirmed to date, and no attempt to board was noted (IMB, UKMTO, ONI).

14. INDIA: Vessel robbed 29 Jun 09 at 2330 local time while alongside an oil terminal, Cochin. While discharging cargo under heavy rain, the duty officer noticed movements on the forecastle deck. He ordered the deck watchmen to check. Upon arrival, they noticed three robbers stealing ship’s stores. Realizing they had been noticed, the robbers jumped overboard into a waiting boat and escaped with ship’s stores (IMB).


1. RED SEA: Bulk carrier reported suspicious approach 18 Jun 09 at 1500 UTC while underway in position 16:00N – 041:24E, approximately 110NM northwest of Al Hudaydah, Yemen. Thirty men in three speed boats armed with guns and RPGs reportedly chased the vessel while underway. The ship raised the alarm, sounded the whistle, mustered the crew, and conducted evasive maneuvers. The speed boats abandoned their pursuit a short time later (IMB).


1. ATLANTIC OCEAN: General cargo ship reported attempted boarding 30 Jun 09 at 0500 UTC while underway in position 11:20N – 017:15W, approximately 60NM off the coast of Guinea Bissau. Twelve armed men in a boat reportedly attempted to board the vessel while underway. Due to the quick action and defensive measures by the master and crew, the armed men were unable to board and aborted their attempt (IMB).

2. CÔTE D’IVOIRE: Bulk carrier boarded 29 June 09 at 0200 UTC while anchored in position 05:12.98N – 004:02.98W, Abidjan anchorage. Two robbers boarded the vessel and cut the ship’s line in an attempt to steal it. One robber then approached the duty watch man with a long sharp knife when the watch man sighted and shouted at the robbers. The watch man ran away and raised the ship’s alarm. The robbers escaped with nothing stolen and there were no injuries reported (IMB).

3. NIGERIA: Chemical tanker (SIEHEM PEACE) boarded, crew members kidnapped 5 Jul 09 at 2045 local time while underway, approximately 20NM from Escravos. The militant organization MEND claimed it seized the six crew members from the vessel and would hold the crew until further notice. The group also claimed it had destroyed a strategic Chevron facility. There were no indications of casualties (AP, Bloomberg).

4. NIGERIA: Bulk carrier fired upon, boarded 27 Jun 09 at 2200 UTC while anchored in fairway buoy, Lagos. Armed robbers attempted to board the vessel using hooks and ropes. Noticing the robber, the ship’s crew tried to drive away the attackers. One robber managed to board but was forced back. In the attempt to board, the robbers fired automatic weapons at the vessel injuring three crew members. The injured were sent ashore for medical treatment (IMB).

5. NIGERIA: Bulk carrier robbed 10 June 09 at 0545 UTC while anchored in position 04:01N - 006:48E, approximately 20NM off Nigeria. Five heavily armed robbers boarded the vessel using a hook attached to a rope. Once on board, they fired warning shots and threatened to take the master hostage. Approximately a half hour later, the robbers left the vessel with the crew and ship’s cash as well as any property of value (IMB).

6. CAMEROON: Cargo vessel robbed 9 June 09 at 0324 UTC while at anchorage in Douala. Sixteen robbers armed with guns and knives damaged communication equipment and stole all cash located on the vessel. Three crewmembers were injured in the incident (IMB).

7. CAMEROON: Tanker robbed 9 June 09 at 0224 UTC while underway near Douala anchorage. Robbers disabled communication equipment, stole all money on board an escaped. The 3rd officer was injured in the incident. (IMB)


1. BANGLADESH: Container ship robbed 6 Jul 09 at 1804 UTC while anchored in position 22:11N – 091:46E, Chittagong anchorage. The duty officer detected some boats near the stern of the vessel at anchor. The crew mustered and saw 15 robbers on board. A duty watchman was tied up and had been attacked with iron bars. The robbers stole ship’s stores and escaped. The master reported the incident to port control (IMB).

2. BANGLADESH: Bulk carrier robbed 19 Jun 09 at 1220 UTC while berthed in Chittagong port. While reading the forward drafts from the jetty, the officer on duty was robbed of his personal belongings. The officer called for help but the robber managed to escape by jumping into the water (IMB).

3. BANGLADESH: Container ship robbed 19 Jun 09 at 0400 local time while anchored in position 22:10N – 091:46E, Chittagong anchorage. Armed robbers boarded the vessel using hooks and lines while another two remained in a nearby boat. They threatened the duty watchman with knives and tied him up with rope. They then stole ship’s stores and escaped (IMB).

4. BANGLADESH: Bulk carrier robbed 12 Jun 09 at 0300 local time while anchored in position 22:14N – 091:42E, Chittagong anchorage. Four robbers boarded the vessel while four others waited in a nearby boat. The men climbed onboard using a hook and line and threatened the crew with knives. The robbers escaped with ship’s stores (IMB).

5. SINGAPORE: Tug (SALVICEROY) boarded 22 Jun 09 at 1600 local time while anchored in position 01:08N – 103:35E, off Nipa transit anchorage. Seven robbers in a small wooden boat approached the portside of the vessel. Three of the robbers reportedly armed with automatic weapons and handguns, boarded the vessel. The crew immediately went into the accommodation areas and locked all access points to/from the deck. The crew remained inside the accommodation areas and sounded the alarm. The robbers attempted to enter the accommodation areas but failed after trying for about 10 minutes. Subsequently, the robbers left the tug boat in their wooden boat which was seen heading southwards. The robbers did not fire their weapons and the vessel was not damaged during the incident. No crewmembers on the vessel were injured. The incident was reported to the Singapore VTIS (ReCAAP).

6. INDONESIA: Bulk carrier reported attempted boarding 24 June 09 at 1930 UTC while anchored in position 01:20.2S – 117:02.8E, Balikpapan outer anchorage. Two robbers in a small boat attempted to board the vessel. The alert crew raised the alarm and sounded the ship’s whistle, causing the robbers to abort the attempt. The vessel master immediately notified the pilot station of the incident (IMB).

7. SOUTH CHINA SEA: General cargo ship (WHITE TOKIO) robbed 28 June 09 at 0115 local time while underway in position 01:57.18N – 104: 47.83E, approximately 34NM south of Pulau Aur, Malaysia. Six robbers boarded the vessel stealing all cash on board. No one was injured during the incident (ReCAAP).

8. SOUTH CHINA SEA: Tanker (SIGLOO DISCOVERY) robbed 27 June 09 at 0040 local time while underway in position 02:47.1N – 105:07.6E, approximately 33NM southwest of Pulau Mangkai. Six robbers armed with knives, crowbars and batons boarded the vessel via the bridge. They tied up the ship master, the 2nd officer, and the duty watchman with raffia strings and stole cash, a laptop computer, two mobile phones, and a wristwatch. The men were suspected to have climbed onto the vessel via a rope they tied between the stern and their wooden boat. The wooden boat used was approximately 8 meters in length and shaped like a long canoe. They later escaped in the wooden boat. The ship’s alarm was raised, SSAS activated and crew mustered. No injuries were reported (IMB, ReCAAP).

9. SOUTH CHINA SEA: General cargo ship robbed 25 June 09 at 1930 UTC while underway in position 02:58N – 105: 11E, approximately 25NM west of Mangkai Islands. Eight robbers armed with long knives and batons boarded the vessel and held the 2nd officer and duty watchman hostage. They stole cash and crew belongings before escaping in a small boat (IMB, Maritime Global Net).

10. SOUTH CHINA SEA: General cargo ship robbed 25 June 09 at 2140 local time while underway in position 02:58.3N – 105:14.2E, approximately 35NM southwest of Mangkai Islands. Five robbers boarded the vessel, stealing cash and personal belongings from the crew before escaping in a small boat (IMB).

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Are captured pirates being treated inhumanely?

The manner in which the international community opts to prosecute those suspected of carrying out pirate attacks is a contentious issue. Some nations have been reticent about bringing home individuals to face legal prosecution within their judicial systems, preferring to let the other countries, say Kenya, deal with matters. A few, such as the United States, France and the Netherlands, have been willing to take on the issue in their own court systems. But everyone is aware that anyone charged with a maritime criminal act in places like the seas off the Horn of Africa must be dealt with as fairly as sovereign judicial systems can allow.

There's a very simple reason for trying to do this: We are seeking to replace disorder and anarchy on the seas with the rule of law, to restore security by making the pirates understand that their are ramifications to their acts that will not be tolerated.

However, there are those who believe that the international community's actions are perhaps somewhat 'inhumane' against suspected pirates. The German-based group Ecoterra International put out a communiqué yesterday in which they protest against the, "[O]ngoing rendition program concerning so called 'pirates', against their inhumane treatment in appalling prisons and against the ongoing violations of human rights in these piracy-cases."

The timing of Ecoterra's communiqué may have something to do with the recent cases of 22 Somalis brought before a Yemeni court to face charges of suspected piracy and burglary. According to the press release, the prisoners were apparantly not allowed to telephone relatives when first incarcerated and had no one to translate the court proceedings into Somali.

The use of the term 'rendition program' is a calculated effort by Ecoterra to equate the treatment of suspected pirates with that of detainees at Guantanamo Bay. It's a curious - and naive - comparison to make for three reasons: The conditions in Guantanamo are much better than in Yemeni, Kenyan or Somali prisons; There is little likelihood that suspected pirates will be exposed to waterboarding or other similar treatments; And the conditions pirate suspects are being held within Western jails, such as in Holland, France or America, are the same as any nationals there would endure.

The worries that Ecoterra has about the treatment of, in the Yemeni cases, 22 Somalis plainly pales in comparison to the treatment of all those currently being held hostage by pirates (a number which may be around 200; see the most recent Reuters FACTBOX here). But there is a need to assure that the prosecutions and handling of suspects are done in accordance with international standards.

This is one of the reasons I've worried in the past about dumping captured individuals into the Kenyan judicial system, and is another reason why I suggest that the international community come together to create an Admiralty Court that could function along the lines of the various international tribunals that have been overseen by the United Nations. This in no way replaces the abilities of nations to continue to prosecute maritime criminals within their own systems if they so desire, but allows for a greater sense of transparency that could offset criticisms like Ecoterra's.

The Ecoterra communiqué wraps up with their perspective on the future if suspected pirates continue to be treated 'inhumanely': "If such grave violations continue, the international community will not only loose any moral right to capture and prosecute sea-bandits but cause a further decline in the observation of human rights in Somalia also toward their own nationals - with escalating violence and mistreatment."

Being tortured is inhumane on any level. Being a mariner held captive against your will by pirates is inhumane on any level. Not being able to call your relatives for a few weeks when you're apprehended attacking a merchant ship is not inhumane. Being stuck in a dank African or Arabian prison is one of the costs of going on the account.

And as for the international community's actions against piracy causing a decline in the way Somalis treat one another? Well, Ecoterra must be joking. The human rights situation in Somalia has little to do with the counter-piracy measures used by foreign navies. It has everything to do with the mistreatment of ordinary Somalis by criminal gangs and militia groups.


The Yemen News Agency SABA reports that another oil tanker was attacked in the Red Sea, but the pirates were repulsed by Yemeni forces. This follows an attempt by pirates to seize two tankers last Saturday.

And The Sunday Telegraph yesterday reported that the first deputy prime minister of the Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG), Abdulrahman Adan Ibrahim, told the news outlet that pirates allied to al-Shabaab are helping to smuggle foreign al-Qaeda fighters into the region.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A mid-week celebration

T'is our national holiday today, the 142th anniversary of Canada becoming independent of Great Britain. Wednesday's are the worst day of the week for such a holiday, leaving most with the prospect of a single day off work - no three or four day weekend in the offing. But Canadians still know how to enjoy themselves regardless of the day of the week and I trust everyone from coast to coast to coast is happy.

We have much to be thankful for in this part of the world and, for my part, I am happy to live in one of the best places on the planet. As well as for the recent news that my book on piracy has now entered the Canadian top 10 list of non-fiction bestsellers here, at number five, to boot.

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has supported me, in Canada and abroad. I hope you remain supporters and tell everyone about the book. I didn't do it for the money (trust me when I say that book publishing is a tough business), but, rather, to spread the word about the plight facing mariners everywhere.

Happy Canada Day to one and all.