This article about the Somali pirate seizure of a tanker appeared in a bit of an out-of-the-way place, but we were tipped to it — not least because the author is an old Ranger buddy with whom many a German beer was hoisted, back in the day.
“Those khat-chewing thugs are at it again,” I thought, recalling my maritime-security job almost 5 years ago off the east coast of Africa. Somali piracy, though, had seemed to have died off since then…
The online story elaborated: Pirates have hijacked an oil tanker off the coast of Somalia, Somali officials and piracy experts said Tuesday, in the first hijacking of a large commercial vessel there since 2012. … The area where the hijacking occurred is overseen by the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, which is based in Bahrain. … It was not immediately clear what the pirates’ intentions are, but it may become one of the Trump administration’s first international tests.
The journalistically cautious “not immediately clear what the pirates’ intentions are” made me laugh. Intentions? Hijack then occupy (for as long as necessary) this non-US ship with grunt pirates while the clan’s CEO negotiates a high-dollar ransom of vessel, cargo, and crew—a big business deal via satphone from Mogadishu. It’s relatively easy money, too, if the targeted merchant vessel has no armed security personnel aboard.
We Americans are, I think, guilty of viewing too many world events through “It’s about US” lenses. Sure, it’s possible Somali pirates decided to test the new American president. After all, the US Navy has ships in the area….
Keep it Simple, Stupid (KISS) often has worked for me—the simplest theory often is the right one. This week’s hijack probably wasn’t about Trump; rather, Somali pirates simply saw an opportunity to score, after a long dry spell, and acted. Maybe the maritime industry had let its guard down in the HRA. You can bet DVDs of the “Captain Phillips” movie have been passed around in coastal areas of Somalia; pirates in 2017 probably won’t make the mistakes—exploited by our Navy and its SEAL marksmen—others made in 2009.
You’ll be better informed about Somali pirates and countermeasures if you Read The Whole Thing™. It’s written by a guy who’s been in those very waters on private MARSEC missions, deterring those very pirates.
What would actually work for the pirates of the 21st Century is what worked for the pirates of the 17th and 18th Centuries: a good dose of hanging at the yardarm, along with a thorough bombardment of the towns and harbors that emit them.
Pirates still are hostis humanae generis and ought to be treated that way. You don’t break a malaria epidemic by negotiating with the mosquitoes.