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Old 11-07-2005, 11:43 PM   #1
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Default Piracy off Somalia...

I'm not sure how international this went, but in the news over the weekend in the UK was the story of a small cruise ship was attacked by a well armed small boat. It fired RPGs and small arms fire at the ship, but was repelled using a 'sonic weapon'.

Since then there have been calls in teh UK to tighten up patrols in risky areas - the Malacca Straights and Horn of Africa being prime targets.

A couple of questions (as someone who will be in this neck of the woods in just over a years time).

1. Is there any way that the international salty sea dogs brigade can lobby someone to push home the advantage the coverage of such an attack has given...?

2. Where can I buy a 'sonic weapon'...? I have no interest in carrying a gun I have no skills in using, but the idea of a non-lethal deterent is definitely preferable!

Ben

3 months 22 days and 4 hours
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Old 11-08-2005, 01:08 AM   #2
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Hi Ben

The report on this attack is in this thread:

http://www.cruiserlog.com/forums/top...?TOPIC_ID=1349

Apparently, there were two further attempted attacks on other ships in the same area within a couple of hours - probably the same group. This happening over 70 miles offshore.

I don't know what the "sonic weapon" is that was used - I gather from press reports that it just makes a "noise" sounding like return fire. You can be sure that these pirates would have read all about it in the press when they went ashore that afternoon so I don't know how effective a repellant it will be now.

I was made an approach some two months ago by a professional (military type) outfit who were wanting to set up "marine escourting" services for shipping in known dangerous areas. It sounded a bit far-fetched to me (& possibly too expensive for us yachties) and never gave it any further thought (they wanted to post on this forum to get feed-back from yacht cruisers). Do we need to start thinking this way in these known bad areas? Form convoys to split the costs? Or, are yachts just not a big enough prize for pirates.

I'm not trying to be alarmist at all - just inviting healthy discussion.
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Old 11-08-2005, 04:06 PM   #3
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This is a topic which really interests me, being a coast guard officer. It is also an issue which will not easily be resolved without the good will of the countries in whose waters these attacks take place.

Stopping pirate attacks is the responsibility of the coastal state out to the edge of its territorial waters (usually 12 NM from the coast). After that, it is covered by the United Nation's Convention on the Law of the Sea(UNCLOS) which gives any naval vessel the right to arrest pirates.

The deployment of special 'escorts' and the convoying of vessels is one way to combat pirates. However, whilst a vessel has the right to repel pirates attacking it the UNCLOS Convention does not give the right to other vessels (except warship's) to prevent piracy and use weapons to do that.

In the areas mentioned there should be the capacity for warships to conduct anti-piracy actions. The Malacca Straits can be patrolled by both Malaysia and Indonesia as both countries have sufficeient maritime resources to escort convoys through the strait.

Somalis and the Gulf of Aden is a little more problematic as Somalia lacks any kind of resourse to combat piracy at sea but these pirates have to land somewhere sometime. Here, at low or almost no cost, Somalia can intercept vessels coming to their shores but is there the will to do so? I doubt it. The country is run by warlords and piracy is probably just one string on their bow. The Yemen on the other hand has been given older patrol boats from the US after the attack on the USS Cole. What the Yemen probably lacks are trained seamen and maybe the resources to put their boats to sea. A little international pressure here would definately do some good.

Interestingly, US warships frequently pass through the Gulf of Aden. On some occasions I have heard reports of them stopping pirate attacks but on others of them doing nothing at all. Maybe the US is afraid of creating bad relations with the Yemen or Somalia?

Is there a solution? I would say so. I woould definately advise and cruising organisation to lobby the countries concerned as well as US and British governments to provide warship escorts for convoys. Also as many of the merchant vessels passing through the Malacca Strait are bound for Singapore, the Singapore Navy (a very competent force) should be encouraged to provide escorts too. Convoying is however difficult as a convoy can only proceed at the speed of the slowest vessel.

The sooner this problem is eradicated the better!

Cheers // Stephen
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Old 11-08-2005, 05:36 PM   #4
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Ben, there are multiple locations where occasional (or more) priracy has been occurring for many years due to differing local conditions. Some inroads have been made in SE Asia due to efforts by countries in that region but less so in the W Indian Ocean. Expectations that naval vessels from UK, USA and other major military powers can be relied on to resolve this problem are probably not reasonable. The USA has remained aloof from helping to address the Somalia civil war, subsequent political 'peace', and now re-emerging civil war since shortly after the COLE incident; our national interests our viewed as lying elsewhere in that region. (I doubt if transient yachtie interests and the small amount of cruise line commercial activity in that area is going to look like any other country's national interests). Somalia's coast is a lawless environment, based on what I read but circumstances will no doubt change further before your arrival. You'll need to rely on the yachtie grapevine and shape a passage that takes what you hear into account. Grouping boats together for collective security doesn't seem to be effective, both because the boats find it hard to remain close to one another and because pirates will attack groups as well as individual boats, no surprise if they are willing to take on a ship. (The SSCA recently gave an award to a boat's crew that repeled an attack and killed 2 or perhaps 3 of the pirates; they were in company with another yacht). Finally, if you visit Noonsite you'll find strong opinions expressed there from folks having transited these areas that risk of pirate attack is overblown and uncommon. As always, the answer for you will have to depend on what you learn and the decisions you choose to make.

The attack on the liner was everywhere in North American news coverage. For several ICC reports about Somalian pirate attacks, see www.icc-ccs.org/main/index.php

For a thread on the SSCA Board about sources of info on pirate activity, see http://ssca.org/sscabb/index.php?action=vt...rum=9&topic=378

Jack
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Old 11-08-2005, 08:32 PM   #5
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I wrote to the American and British Governments on this issue earlier this year and got no reply, not even an acknowledgement. I am going to contact the RYA to see if they are prepared to lobby

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Old 11-09-2005, 12:26 PM   #6
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The US and British governments have a history of involvement in the Gulf of Aden area so maybe I should review my idea of trying to get them involved. They obviously would not want to increase friction in an area which already is in a precarious state.

As a shipping nation of dignity and one with pleanty of 'oil money' maybe Norway could be encouraged to send a coast guard vessel to the area. That would not raise tensions as much as a British or US warship. I'll try and get cruising organisations in Scandinavia to lobby the orwegian government on this one.

Stephen,

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Old 11-11-2005, 05:32 PM   #7
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Thanks for the answers chaps

A couple of points I'd like to cover after talking to Jimmy Cornell last night (well, hassling him with questions while he was trying to eat his tea).

Noonsite do offer a service to collect yacht names for yacht wishing to convoy through the danger area, usually leaving from Oman. While I agree this is less than perfect, distress calls from several yachts do have a tendancy to be more effective.

A friend in the Royal Navy says that they will intervene if they judge themsleves to be close enough to be effective. This, they say, is the same with the French and US Navies, although the French are most likely to be in the area.

In my humble opinion, a small ship from each Navy in these waters would kill this issue stone dead... but we'd have to be important for that!

On the sonic weapon - there was an interview on BBC radio this morning with the makers of the sonic weapon. It is a directional flat speaker with a top volume of 148 decibels - enough (according to them) to potentially deafen someone from 400 yards. They say that only 'active' headphones can counter it as it uses modulated frequencies - something your average Somali pirate has yet to add to their Hi Fi kit...

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/4418748.stm

Well 'the authorities' have got a year to sort all this out... or they'll have the wife to answer to...
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Old 11-27-2005, 08:06 PM   #8
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Today's page 4 headline in the NT News (Darwin, Australia) reads "Stock Up On Ammo - Boat Owners Arm Themselves To Shoot Pirates". The lead paragraph....."Sailors are turning their boats into floating fortresses as authorities warn of a surge in violent attacks by pirates north of Australia".

Darwin is a popular transit for vessels which have crossed the Pacific, sailed the east coast of OZ and are waiting for the end of the wet season before sailing north for Thailand, Malaysia...or west across the Indian ocean.

The concerning aspect of the story for those who shun the use of firearms is a quote from an Australian Customs official who says, "...Firearms had become a 'necessary evil' for yachties travelling through known trouble spots, being the only authority recognised by pirates". The ploy most favoured by pirates targetting smaller, private boats is to set off distress flares. This poses a real dilemma for cruising yachties. Do we ignore flares we see in Asian waters...or do we load the AK and charge in ready to kill someone? I do not carry anything other than a flare gun as a weapon and I now wonder whether I should go American and buy an assault rifle.
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Old 11-28-2005, 12:34 PM   #9
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Auzzee,

As a former conscript who did military training in infantry, I personally wouldn't. A friend of mine who has been a highly decorated soldier in the elite of the Aust. fighting forces and is also a yachtie believes you should only carry them if you are genuinely prepared to kill with it because by displaying one you have already moved into the theatre of violence.

Interestingly, he also believes that the floor of Darwin harbour is littered with illegal weapons including small rocket launchers which were purchased in Asia for the transit through the Straits and dumped overboard on arrival rather than declare them.....interesting!!!

Best of luck with your decision making.

Rod
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Old 11-28-2005, 01:17 PM   #10
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Thanks Ron, I did my training at Greenbank in the late 60's...Missed out on Nasho, but joined the CMF and stayed long enough to make WO1. Don't think I will buy weaponry so I guess a convoy is the best bet. Currently Darwin Harbour is being dredged for major capital waterfront development (YUK) and the contractors are finding many bits of Japanese bombs, and lots of chunks of English and US warships that were destroyed in the bombing. It is not generally known that Admiral Yamamoto, after clouting Pearl Harbour, belted Darwin on his way home (19th Feb 1942) dropping a greater tonnage of bombs on Darwin than PH and destroying much allied shipping and the flying boat base. The city was flattened and was subsequently bombed a further 60 times by the enemy over the next 18 months.
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Old 12-01-2005, 10:09 AM   #11
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I think that the idea of a 'non-weapon' weapon such as the sonic weapon or the simple flare gun is most attractive to get some feeling of security in pirate risk areas.

Has anyone heard of deploying a long length of line from the stern? This idea has the potential of silently disabling a single pirate vessel for a limited period of time. One would have to turn so that their vessel crosses the path of your yacht from the correct distance in order for the line to get caught in their prop. Snip the line and full speed ahead in the hope that they are disabled for sufficient time for you to evade them! or for aid to arrive.

I'm not sold on this idea, but I am considering it as one option as a simple pirate evasion method as I can source a couple of hundred metres of strong line at wholesale prices.

Can anyone offer an opinion? Do you think it would work? If you would consider this as an idea, what length and thickness of line would you use? How long would it disable the average power boat?!
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Old 01-02-2006, 05:18 PM   #12
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As a new soon to be cruiser man the "Pirate situation" concernes me. I am an ex soldier with 6 years at war. From past experience let me tell you some facts -

Most African based "armed thugs" are ill equipt and in-diciplined.

They are however unpredictable and very dangerous (imagine a 6 year old with an asault rifle)depending on what they have drunk or taken.

Letting them on-board is not an option, how many yachts have gone missing (un-reported incidents)these people have no respect for life or dignity.

One has to forget normal conventions and react beleiving they will kill you and not just rob you.

Now with the knowledge that the armed thugs aproaching will "Kill, rape and rob you" what now would be your response and preperations.

I am asking this question to decide how I will prepare (I personaly am thinking of arming the boat, but I thought I left that behind).

Regards

Ian

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Old 02-15-2006, 06:32 PM   #13
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I am blowing life into an old subject here but I thought you guys might be interested to know that I was asked the other day to go to the Yemen for a year to train Yemenese coast guard officers.

I don't know if this is a result of my 'stirring the pot' but, as they say, it is maybe time to put my money where my mouth is.

The bottom line is thatafter the attack on U.S.S. Cole, the U.S. donated a sh*tload of coast guard goodies to the Yemen but no training so, if we reach agreement, I am off there to show these guys how to run coast guard cutters etc. The spin-off, assuming everything works out, is taht maritime security in the area should improve.

I'll keep the Forum imformed of developments

Cheers

Stephen

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Old 02-15-2006, 07:35 PM   #14
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Stephen, that's both interesting and good news; thanks for the posting. I selfishly hope you end up going there (tho' I'm not sure I'd want to wish you a year in Yemen...) as it will mean we have a good inside glimpse at what the coastal surveillance and patrol situation is on that part of the coast. Please keep us posted.

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