Monday, November 24, 2008


Back in September I reported what was then the most serious piracy incident—the hijacking of MV Faina, a Ukrainian-owned freighter that happened to be carrying 33 Russian T-72 tanks. The US Navy promptly dispatched the USS Howard and Russia followed by sending the missile frigate Neustrashimy (Fearless).

A few days later, on 2 October, I provided an update. (1) I simply had to repeat what the New York Times reported:
In a 45-minute interview, the pirate spokesman explained what the pirates wanted (“just money”) to why they were doing this (“to stop illegal fishing and dumping in our waters”) to what they had to eat on board (rice, meat, bread, spaghetti, “you know, normal human-being food”).

He said that so far, in the eyes of the world, the pirates had been misunderstood. “We don’t consider ourselves sea bandits,” he said. “We consider sea bandits those who illegally fish in our seas and dump waste in our seas and carry weapons in our seas. We are simply patrolling our seas. Think of us like a coast guard.”

Well to my disbelief I have to report that the MV Faina is still in the hands of the pirates. It has been surrounded by four US warships and the Russian warship for the last six weeks. I am at a loss for a rational explanation for the impotent behavior of these major powers.

There are currently 14 warships in the Gulf of Aden. Eight of them come from the combined task force of the coalition that is fighting the war in Afghanistan. NATO has four. Russia has one. And India has one. (2)


ABC News recently reported that most of the navies have declared that shipping companies must protect themselves:
There is no consensus among the world's powers, however, to go after the pirates despite the fact that the ships that have been captured are anchored in clear view off the coast of Somalia.

The U.S. Navy said Wednesday that it’s not about to use its military might to free a giant oil tanker or any other ship captured by Somali pirates because if naval forces recover one ship, they would have to recover them all.
Besides, a Pentagon official asked, what would they do with all the captured pirates?

The U.S. Fifth Fleet has dozens of ships patrolling the pirate-infested waters off the Somali coast in the Gulf of Aden and in the Indian Ocean. They have been joined by warships from several other nations trying to create a safe corridor through the busy shipping lanes. (3)
But so what? I wonder why President Bush hasn’t made a decision. This is so unlike him. The presidential elections are over. His administration will be in power for just two more months. (The presidential inauguration of Senator Obama is scheduled for 20 January 2009.) Does he intend to hand over this problem to his successor?


This impotence can only make the pirates bolder. Thugs like them only understand one language and that is the language of power. Apparently while they don’t understand the lack of action, they’re not wasting time pondering this. Since the MV Faina incident, about 15 more vessels have been hijacked.

According to the same ABC News article, 95 ships have been attacked so far this year and 39 have been captured.


Last week, on 19 November, Wednesday, the only Indian warship took offensive action at the first opportunity. (4) The INS Tabar first saved two merchant vessels on 11 November and followed it up on the 19th by destroying one of the mother ships of these Somali pirates.
INS Tabar encountered the pirates’ mother ship with two speed boats in tow and there were about 20 pirates on board the ship, it is learned.

“This pirate vessel was similar in description to the ‘Mother Vessel’ mentioned in various piracy bulletins. INS Tabar closed in on the vessel and asked her to stop for investigation,” a Navy spokesperson said.

But the pirates threatened to blow up the warship if it sailed closer to their mother ship, despite repeated calls from INS Tabar to stop and let the Navy personnel to inspect the ship, he said.

The Navy noticed that pirates were roaming on the upper deck of the vessel with guns and rocket propelled grenade launchers in hand, and they continued the threats and subsequently fired upon INS Tabar.

In their retaliatory action in “self-defence,” INS Tabar opened fire on the mother vessel of the pirates. “As a result of INS Tabar's guns booming, fire broke out on the pirate vessel and explosions were heard, possibly due to exploding ammunition that was stored on the vessel,” he said.
Congratulations to the Indian government and its navy for setting a good example.


Today, the Swiss news website,, reported that:
Somali pirates holding a Saudi supertanker after the largest hijacking in maritime history have reduced their ransom demand to $15 million (10 million pounds), an Islamist leader and regional maritime group both said on Monday.

The November 15 capture of the Sirius Star—with $100 million of oil and 25 crew members from Britain, Poland, Croatia, Saudi Arabia and the Philippines—has focused world attention on rampant piracy off the failed Horn of Africa state. (5)
Hopefully this will prod the powers to finally take action. The cry has been building:

Tom Barnett of ScrippsNews—a major US media conglomerate—wrote an op-ed (opinion-editorial) that plainly said “when piracy threatens global commerce, great powers need to fight back—collectively.” (6) I might add that the US navy should be able to do it by itself if the President ordered it. After all, if the US can invade two countries, surely it can exterminate several thousand pirates.

Admiral Vladimir Vysotsky of the Russian Navy was quoted by the Russian News & Information Agency (Novosti) as saying that warships from all of the Russian Navy fleets will be involved in measures to fight piracy in the Horn of Africa region. (7)

And back to the good-example-maker, India. Outlook India claims that India has been given the UN’s blessing to take on the pirates:
With international maritime nations identifying Somalian waters as the source of increasing piracy threats, India today said the UN Security Council has granted it permission to “suppress” the sea brigands there.

“So far India’s encounter with the pirates has been in the international waters. Our desire to fight piracy through the UN route has been conveyed and confirmed through the UN Security Council via the UN Permanent Representative of Somalia in UN,” Ministry of External Affairs Secretary (East) N Ravi told reporters here.

Navy officials, on their part, said the UN has given permission to navies operating in that area to take action against pirates, as enshrined in the UN Security Council (UNSC) Resolutions 1814, 1816 and 1838.

They said the go-ahead came after the Transitional Government of Somalia approached the UN welcoming action against pirates in their territorial waters. (8)
As my daughters would say, "whatever!" Let’s see what happens next.


(1) “PIRACY UPDATE - 2 October 2008.” Retrieved from on 22 November 2008.
(2) “FACTBOX: Foreign ships off Somalia.” Retrieved from on 22 November 2008.
(3) “Shipping Companies Must Protect Themselves.” Retrieved from on 23 November 2008.
(4) “Indian Navy Sinks Pirate Ship in Gulf of Aden.” Retrieved from on 23 November 2008.
(5) “Somali pirates want $15 million for Saudi ship.” Retrieved from on 24 November 2008.
(6) “Barnett: Fight the pirates.” Retrieved from on 23 November 2008.
(7) “Warships from all Russian Navy fleets to fight piracy off Somalia.” Retrieved from on 23 November 2008.
(8) “India gets UN nod to take on piracy in Somalian waters.” Retrieved from on 23 November 2008.

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