Maritime Piracy in the Gulf of Mexico

Breakdown of law and order goes hand-in-hand with a failing state. Pirates attack ship in Gulf of Mexico.

This details a specific incident in which 2 Italian sailor were injured, but what caught my eye is the admission that the problem is growing.

The southern Gulf of Mexico has seen an increasing number of pirate attacks on oil platforms and boats in recent years.

I wonder how long it will be before they target a cruise ship.

The Collapse of Venezuela And the Impact On the Caribbean

Nicaragua isn’t quite to the “collapse” phase of Socialism, but it also is contributing. Seems some guys are sailing “on the account” again. As Venezuela disintegrates, a new breed of pirates threatens the Caribbean.

It’s been at least nearly 30 years since I’d heard of pirates in the Caribbean (aside from a group of somewhat questionable movies). But what is old, is new again.

Political and economic crises are exploding from Venezuela to Nicaragua to Haiti, sparking anarchy and criminality. As the rule of law breaks down, certain spots in the Caribbean, experts say, are becoming more dangerous than they’ve been in years.

Often, observers say, the acts of villainy appear to be happening with the complicity or direct involvement of corrupt officials — particularly in the waters off collapsing Venezuela.

It isn’t surprising really, people will take an easy way out.

Comprehensive data on piracy is largely lacking for Latin America and the Caribbean. But a two-year study by the nonprofit Oceans Beyond Piracy recorded 71 major incidents in the region in 2017 — including robberies of merchant vessels and attacks on yachts — up 163 percent from the previous year. The vast majority happened in Caribbean waters.

The situation is getting worse, and it is concentrated around Venezuela, The Former Socialist Paradise, but includes areas around Honduras, Nicaragua, Haiti and St. Lucia. I don’t see it getting better anytime soon, really. 150 to 200 years ago, the Royal Navy saw it as part of their job to police the high seas. (Which is where at least part of the inspiration for all those Pirate movies – not just those with Johnny Depp – come from.) Today, I don’t see any naval power interested in that part of the world. And the people who are interested, don’t have the power. Unless (or is that until?) a cruise-line ship full of gamblers is attacked, don’t expect it will get better before it gets worse.

More Pirates Working Waters Around Africa

Now on the Atlantic side of the continent. Nigeria: Piracy on the rise in the Gulf of Guinea | Africa | DW | 13.04.2018

International efforts in the last 10 years or so have reduced piracy in the Horn of Africa. (Reduced, not eliminated.) But sailing on the account is still an issue globally.

According to the [International Maritime Bureau], pirates in the Gulf of Guinea target all kinds of vessels. Crews from fishing and refrigerated cargo vessels, or even oil tankers, have been taken hostage or kidnapped.

Ransoms are usually paid by commercial vessels, and can be $500,000 or more. Sometimes much more. That is a lot of money when the alternative is subsistence farming, or starving.

Maritime piracy was in the mainstream press for an instant. They even made a Tom Hanks movie on the subject. And then it was forgotten again.

Shipping Concern Refuses to Pay Cyber Ransom

If they couldn’t make any money on it, they would not do it. Shipping giant hit by cyberattack, refuses to pay hackers’ ransom

Unfortunately, all too many companies and individuals think they have no choice but to pay. Usually because they have no backups of critical data. UK’s Clarkson, apparently has some backbone. (Clarkson is one of the worlds largest broker for shipping freight internationally via cargo ships.)

While specific details about the attack have not yet been released, Clarkson CEO Andi Case said that the company will not be intimidated into paying a ransom. “I hope our clients understand that we would not be held to ransom by criminals, and I would like to sincerely apologise for any concern this incident may have understandably raised,” he said, in the company’s statement.

That statement also said their ability to do business is not impaired.

Maersk Line, and TNT (a FedEx subsidiary in Europe) were also hit earlier this year, and so people are wondering why logistics are being targeted. There may be a reason

Verizon RISK (Research, Investigations, Solutions and Knowledge) Team revealed that tech-savvy pirates hacked a shipping company’s systems, enabling them to carefully target cargo on the firm’s vessels.

Maritime piracy is still a real thing.

Paying ransom is a bad idea, because if you give a mouse a cookie, he’s gonna want a glass of milk.

Forgotten But Not Gone: Maritime Piracy

While the US (and the world) marvel at the antics of the American political circus, bad stuff is happening and being mostly ignored. Report: Sailors Pay Price as W. African Pirates Shift Tactics

The anti-piracy work of the some of the world’s navies have all but eliminated piracy from the East Coast of Africa. So, the problem has shifted to West Africa.

The Gulf of Guinea has become the world’s most dangerous body of water, with pirates carrying out 54 attacks in its waters last year and causing over $700 million in economic damage, according to the report from U.S.-based Oceans Beyond Piracy.

The tactics have changed from stealing cargoes or entire ships, to kidnap for ransom. (Takes less time per attack.)

There is also a problem in the China Sea, but a few of the regional navies are coordinating efforts to stem that problem.

Maritime piracy may seem like a problem a world away, but it costs you money. In the past it was in the higher prices insurance companies charged to shipping companies. Today it is in the form of US Naval resources being spent on the issue. And insurance premiums.

Piracy (the high-seas kind) is On the Rise

Though you wouldn’t know it by paying attention to the news, folks are still “sailing on the account.” Maritime Piracy on Increase Again in Southeast Asia.

There is good news, and there is bad news.

The good news is in Somalia, where there have been NO pirate attacks since May of 2012.

The dearth of pirate attacks is attributed to Somalia again having a functioning government, a multi-national naval patrol against pirate mother ships and targeted ships adopting anti-piracy measures, including onboard armed guards.

Armed guards. It took years, and hundreds of hostages being taken, and a lot of people killed before the powers-that-be decided to try self-defense. And to think that it works.

Between that and actually having national navies destroy pirate ships…

The bad news comes out of SE Asia, where pirate raids are on the increase.

The most dangerous waters are in Southeast Asia which accounted for more than half of all attacks since the beginning of 2015 with a small coastal tanker being hijacked by armed pirates in the region on average every two weeks.

Overall, attacks in the first 3 months of the year are up 10 percent and the number of hostages taken is about 140 this year, compared to 50 or so in the same period last year.

Capt. Richard Phillips to Obama….

Capt. Richard Phillips to Obama: Do more to stop pirates – The Washington Post.

This is the guy first made famous by his harrowing capture by pirates and subsequent rescue by US Navy Seals, and then made famous again by the Tom Hanks’ movie named after him.

Phillips met with the president in the Oval Office the following month. But it appears that will only take Obama so far. The captain is coming out in a public relations offensive against the White House’s new counter-piracy plan. It is time for the United States to “zero in on the pirates’ nests and eradicate them,” Phillips said in news release published Wednesday by a maritime officers union.

I am not holding much hope, since I haven’t seen this Administration “zero-in” on anything except a golf-course.

Malacca Straight Sees Renewed Pirate Attacks

Why should you care? Because a whole lot of oil and 30 percent of total world trade moves through that region. Can you say “increased costs?” Southeast Asian pirates on the prowl once again ‹ Japan Today.

The Obama Administration just released (June 20) an updated “Counter Piracy and Maritime Security Plan” which focuses mainly on Africa – the Horn of Africa and the Gulf of Guinea specifically. (I can’t force myself to read the whole thing.) But it misses this upswing in Indonesia.

While most of the attacks have been small-scale, one stands out.

In one attack on May 28, the Thai tanker MT Orapin 4 was hijacked north of Indonesia’s Bintan Island.

The pirates reportedly painted over its name, destroyed communications equipment and brought in a smaller tanker vessel to siphon off much of the ship’s 3,700 metric tonne oil cargo. The vessel and crew were later released.

Where there are successful pirate attacks, you will see more piracy. And this attack has been repeated.

It isn’t clear that given everything going on politically in Asia, that the powers have the will to work together, but working together is the only way naval powers have ever gotten people to stop “sailing on the account.”

Maritime Piracy is No Joke – It Threatens Oil Supplies

Think piracy has to do with music downloads or summer movies? Think again. Analysis: West Africa: where navies are not enough – fighting piracy in the Gulf of Guinea | DefenceWeb.

Johnny Depp may be the best-known pirate in theatres, and Somali pirates remain dangerous in the Indian Ocean, but the pirates causing oil companies and Lloyds of London sleepless nights are raiding ships in Africa’s Gulf of Guinea that carry near 30 per cent of all U.S. oil imports.

Not surprising that all that oil – and the ransoms for captured crews – makes for some folks taking up “sailing on the account.”

Piracy on the High Seas is Still a Problem

It may have dropped off the news coverage, but that isn’t because the problem is solved. Regional leaders meet over security in Gulf of Guinea | Fox News.

For those of you who are geographically challenged, the Gulf of Guinea is on the west coast of Africa.

The Gulf of Guinea, which includes waters off Nigeria, Africa’s largest oil producer, has emerged as a new danger-zone with pirates targeting fuel cargo and loading it onto other ships to sell on the lucrative black market, rather than seeking ransom to release ships, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) said earlier this week.

With all the attention focused on Somalia, and the east coast of Africa, it seems that the fires have broken out in other places. And gotten less attention.

The year 2012 marked the first time since the surge in piracy off the coast of Somalia that the reported number of both ships and seafarers attacked in the Gulf of Guinea surpassed that of the Gulf of Aden and of the western Indian Ocean

How to Discourage Pirates (The Real Kind, Not the Software Variety)

The old methods work best, even if you rely on new technology to implement those methods. Sea Transportation: How The Seychelles Became Toxic For Pirates.

Toxic: Hazardous to your health.

Over the last year you stopped hearing about Somali pirates attacking ships off the Seychelles islands. That’s because in the last year the UAE (United Arab Emirates), India, and the United States have provided massive assistance to turn the Seychelles Coast Guard into a force that can quickly spot pirates and neutralize (capture or kill) them.

Fast patrol boats. Surveillance planes. Unmanned aerial vehicles. Combine them and you get an area of the world that is no-longer pirate friendly.

The 30 meter boats, although armed only with machine-guns, are fast enough and have sufficient firepower to handle any pirates they encounter. Last year there were several such bloody encounters and the Somali pirates decided that the Seychelles were no longer good hunting grounds.

All of this is very popular with the Seychelles population. Piracy is a bad business and bad for business.

You Would Think a Decrease In Piracy Was a Bad Thing

Those folks who like to think that governments should be in charge of everything, are beside themselves today. You see, governments have proven sadly unable to stop piracy. (The real kind, not the stealing of songs from iTunes or videos from Hollywood kind.) Private navies combating Indian Ocean pirates.

Speaker: James Brown, Military Analyst, Lowy Institute

BROWN: Well there’s three different types, the first is the 140 companies now operating in the Indian Ocean providing private armed guards, who will basically ride shot gun on your commercial ship as you go through the piracy risk area. The second type are the companies that provide escort vessels, so these are the private patrol boats armed with heavy machine guns and they will go along with the vessel or a group of vessels and basically stop anyone that comes near them and looks like it’s going to interrupt their voyage. And third phenomenon we’re seeing as well is national militaries, particularly European militaries hiring out their soldiers for use on board ships, these are called vessel protection detachments. So there’s quite a lot of activity and quite a lot of new players moving around the Indian Ocean. [note from Z-Deb: Europe has a much bigger problem with this, so it makes sense they are more involved.]

Maritime piracy is down SUBSTANTIALLY since shipping companies finally realized that the governments of the world were either helpless to stop piracy, or were just not that interested in doing so. And when they realized that, they turned to the market for support.

But you would think that a decrease in the number of people taken hostage was a bad thing, if you listen to these hand-wringers. Is it perfect? No. But then, if you haven’t noticed, that perfect world is in a different area code. Nothing is perfect. But fewer people held hostage by pirates in the hell-hole that is Somalia (how long has it been since they had a “functioning government?”) is better than more people held hostage. Even if it means relying on “private military companies” – that’s weasel-words for “mercenary.”

Concerns that they are acting in a “legal vacuum” is smokescreen. If there was a legal framework that held sway in east Africa, we wouldn’t have a problem with piracy. So yes, there is a legal vacuum off the coast of Somalia. And off the coasts of Nigeria and Ghana, the Gulf of Guinea, and other places. I believe “lawless” and “legal vacuum” are just about equivalent in these cases.

Best News In Piracy (the real kind) in Many Years

The problem hasn’t gone away, but finally, the trends are in the right direction. World sea piracy falls in first 6 months of 2012 – Falls by 54%. Not a small statistical anomaly.

The International Maritime Bureau attributed the sharp drop to “pre-emptive and disruptive counter piracy tactics” by international navies patrolling in seas off Somalia as well as increased vigilance by ships including hiring private armed personnel on board.

While I’m sure that the navies of NATO et al like to think they have had some impact, the real change in the last year or 2 is the embarkation of armed mercenaries – security forces – on ships in the worst areas.

The bureau said the decline in Somali piracy was partially offset by intensified and violent attacks in the Gulf of Guinea off western Africa, where 32 cases including five hijackings were reported, up from 25 in the first half last year. Nigeria reported 17 cases, nearly triple the number from a year ago. Togo reported five attacks including the hijacking of a tanker, up from no incidents in the same time last year, it said.

Several countries in West Africa are getting aid to beef up their navies, including Ghana, which picked up a couple of surplus German fast-attack-craft.

Ghana has been reviewing measures to safeguard its waters, most importantly to protect our oil installations from pirate attacks. Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea is not on the scale of that off Somalia, but analysts say an increase in scope and number of attacks in a region ill-equipped to counter the threat could affect shipping and investment.

Sailing on the account, is an ancient (if not exactly time-honored) tradition. Keeping it in check means military might. That’s what worked in the 1800s, and that is what is working (finally) in East Africa.