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.

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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.”