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Chasing poor ‘pirates’ pointless

Written By: - Date published: 8:49 am, January 12th, 2011 - 32 comments
Categories: aid, defence - Tags: ,

Hard to imagine a bigger waste of money than sending a frigate to hunt fisherman who’ve turned to piracy because foreigners have illegally taken all their fish. How’s about we spend the money on aid to Somalia instead? Oh right. Can’t afford it says McCully. But vicariously playing the action hero hunting ‘evil pirates’, yeah, there’s cash for that.

32 comments on “Chasing poor ‘pirates’ pointless ”

  1. jcuknz 1

    Chasing pirates is a traditional role for the Navy, the policemen of the sea.
    But I agree that raising the standard of living in Somalia, if that is what aid actually does, would maybe reduce the need for piracy … though crim’s ‘crim’ because they think they can get away with it so another navy ship helps the situation too.
    And if you were a yachtie passing through the area and likely to be kidnapped and held prisoner for months you wouldn’t think that … but I forgot yachties are rich pricks and not to be considered.

    • Bright Red 1.1

      they take mainly freighters and haven’t hurt anyone as far as i know. What would you do in the fishermen’s situation? Let your family starve or risk your life for the one economic activity that’s going in your land now that the fish are gone?

      How does shooting them solve the problem that is creating the piracy?

      Sending a frigate (which will be too slow and on station too little to catch them anyway) is a ‘bottom of the cliff’ solution. You need to address root causes.

      • crashcart 1.1.1

        It also doesn’t address the issue that these pirates are financed by rich westerners who invest in the Pirate’s. I know it sounds crazy but the fact is the pirates can’t afford the equipment needed to carry out these attacks. Western interests invest in the equipment which is provided to the pirates who then carry out the actually crime. If the raid is successful the investor stands to make a large profit while the pirate himself might make enough money to feed his family for a while.

        There is no point chasing the pirates themselves. As long as there are people living in poverty who can see this as there only hope and rich people with the money to invest who see a high return it will continue to happen.

      • ghostwhowalksnz 1.1.2

        Thats why frigates have helicopters and fast speedboats. The pirates while they do use small boats , because of the large distances out to sea they now need to operate, use mother ships which are trawlers and the like.
        These would be the primary targets of the naval forces.

        • crashcart 1.1.2.1

          Yes you may be able to catch a few pirates. It doesn’t chage the fact that it would only remove a few poor fishermen who have resorted to crime from theequasion. There are plenty more to take their place as long as there is money behind them.

          • ghostwhowalksnz 1.1.2.1.1

            Ransoming a large freighter is ‘big business’. Dont fall for the few poor fishermen story although it started out that way. As well the 2004 tsunami damaged the small boats they used for fishing.
            It takes a lot of money and resources to operate far out sea where the picking are, and then to arrange the collection of the millions from the shipping company.
            A list for 2010 is shown here
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_ships_attacked_by_Somali_pirates_in_2010

            • Bill 1.1.2.1.1.1

              The 2004 tsunami also washed up illegally dumped drums of industrial (including radioactive) waste. Which just might have had something to do with the failing fish stocks. Oh. That and the free for all engaged in by foreign fishing companies due to the collapse of the Somali state. (Compensation anyone?)

              But what I’m curious about is, what is this ‘lot of money and resources’ that is required to hitch an outboard to a small fishing vessel and sail out to the shipping lanes? And what is the difficulty in arranging the pick-up of ransom monies? I’d have thought the difficulty lay with the shipping companies. The onus is on them to hand the money over before they get their assets back, afterall.

              • ghostwhowalksnz

                Sail an outboard hundreds of km ?. They reach out as far as the coast of Oman and down near Madagascar. I dont think the task is to eliminate all piracy off Somalia>

                • crashcart

                  You are almost making my point. It costs alot of money to provide a trawler to base a pirate activity from. However the people operating that trawler aren’t the ones paying for it. That trawler is financed by Pirate groups who actually operate a pirate investment market. The boats them selves are manned by poor Somalians who have no other opertunities.

                  As successful raiding trip may bag a container ship that is rasomed back to the owner. The investors who provided the hardware take the lions share whilst the guys out manning the ships take home enough to feed families. Now if things go bad and they are caught by the pirate patrol’s the investors stand to loose the money they invested whilst the guys on the ship get locked up in some of the worst prison conditions you could imagine. The investor will just pay for another boat and more poor desperate people to go out again.

                  Pirate patrols may stop some ships being taken but it is completely ineffective at trying to reduce piracy. Bloody expensive to run as well.

                  • prism

                    crashcart –
                    Has there been an in depth piece on where the money gained by the Somali pirates is going, is it improving conditions there or buying guns so they can wrest land off a rival tribe etc.? Or who are the faceless people organising it? That would be a story to read. Do you have a link?

                    I’m thinking how destabilising it is to have so much excess money, huge salaries and profits swirling round the world like some toxic gas. It gets out of the reach of useful currency for people’s needs. It makes me sick and yet I can’t see it.

                  • ghostwhowalksnz

                    If that was true then the worlds oceans would be infested with pirates.

                    The other side of enforcement is important too, hijack a ship and all hell will break loose on you.
                    It is possible to prevent say 90% of piracy by going after the mother ships and the vessels that are successfully pirated. That concentrates the mind to know a naval vessel is coming after YOU.
                    History shows that pirates are normally reduced to a low level – (they even won the war against the U-boats)

  2. Bill 2

    Desperate people using their initiative to secure a livelyhood for their communities. Apart from the fact that the money goes to the community, I’d have thought the neo-liberals would have been right up there cheering.

    Meanwhile, here’s one for ‘crashcart’ and his/her ilk who, it seems, don’t know what a joke is…. http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/somali_pirates_say_they_are_subsidiary_of_goldman_sachs_20100502/

    • crashcart 2.1

      I am well aware of what a joke is thanks. Just because some poor uninformed Somali has been convinced that the guy paying for his boat is from Goldman sacks doesn’t change the fact that he isn’t the one paying for the boat.

      The Pirate himself makes very little money from piracy. Whoever the faceless backer is makes a fortune. Why the hell do you think all of these people still live in the conditions they do?

      • Colonial Viper 2.1.1

        You use people to make money, and you give the absolute minimum in return. Crime bosses know how to use capitalist principles after all.

      • Bill 2.1.2

        crashcart.

        The entire article I linked is a piss take. A joke.

        Meanwhile, fishermen had boats when they fished for fish. The same boats are being used to fish for ships. It’s beyond me where the need for foreign backers comes in. Maybe you’d care to enlighten me?

  3. prism 3

    Meanwhile we leave Sea Shepherd to deal with the pirates catching whales illegally in our seas. Also those decimating the toothfish in Antarctic waters.
    Also the tuna that has been plundered by Asia and the USA. Our real wealth
    is under threat here and we are funding assistance for overseas struggles from Afghanistan to now, pirates off Africa. This sounds like a big country task. In the Second World War we were fighting in Europe and Africa and there was no-one left to defend our extensive shores. The USA had to come here to make sure that we didn’t become a southern base for Japan and German submarines and other shipping that would harass and control the Pacific. We need to look to our own shores and spend money directly on this country not spread ourselves thinly like Vegemite round the world. Vegemite has got more bite and strength than we have.

    We do have to export, the country has been stripped clean and lean so we can pour all our energies into earning overseas currency. (Which we then let flow out of the country in wads to overseas interests.) Now we have to police our product all the way to the end market? How can we afford this? We are one of the few small developed countries in the world but not wealthy like Hong Kong or Brunei.

  4. Sanctuary 4

    “…Chasing pirates is a traditional role for the Navy, the policemen of the sea…”

    Only the Navies clearly don’t see it that way, do they? Nothing illustrates the vast mis-match between the out-of-control and obscenely over-equipped navies of the Western world and their actual, traditional, mission than billion dollar plus missile “destroyers” (which are heavier than WWII cruisers) trying – and failing – to find the needle of 16 Somali peasants in an enlarged kayak in the haystack of the Indian Ocean. And nothing underlies the feebleness of the so-called professional military mind than the obvious hopelessness of sending (on average) 20 warships to run around madly in an area bigger than the Indian sub-continent in the vague hope they might be lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time to do something useful to protect merchant ships. These warships send heavily armed boarding parties on to decrepit old Dhows, ludicrously over-armed sailors interrogate surly fishermen in dugout canoes, and multi-million dollar helicopters suspiciously eye up old scows, and basically do anything but catch pirates.

    The question I ask is why is it a frigate we are thinking of sending? Bristling with weapons, and with an expensive crew of 177, who would they be expecting to fight? Remember, these pirates are in long wooden speedboats and equipped with nothing more that AK-47’s and rocket-propelled grenades. Surely the new OPV fisheries protection vessels HMNZS Wellington or HMNZS Otago would also make excellent and economical anti-piracy ships, long-ranged and equipped with a 25mm cannon and heavy machine guns and a MG equipped helicopter, with a full sensor fit and a crew of just 79 (including boarding parties and helicopter support) they are more than able to deal with a speedboat full of armed ruffians.

    Secondly, the easiest, the most time honoured, and the simplist solution to predation on merchant fleets is convoying.

    On average, on any given day there are around 55-60 merchant ships sailing through the threatened zone for piracy in the area of the Gulf of Aden/Indian Ocean. As I said, there are on average about 20 warships. These 20 warships could escort twenty convoys at any one time, ten in each direction. If the merchant ships needed escorting for two days then means one convoy of 3-6 ships plus a warship could depart every four hours in any direction from a marshalling point. Warships would no longer have to harass and check every boat or vessel they came across. For the pirates, this would be a disaster. Ships would suddenly vanish from the ocean, to be replaced by twenty tiny, tiny and very, very hard to find dots in the vast ocean that each convoy would be. Convoys force pirates into an impossible situation. After days of fruitless hunting they might stumble across six ships, only to discover it is escorted by, say, an HMNZS Wellington. Either they let the convoy pass, or they take on the escort vessel, which would shred them within seconds of any engagement. Everyone knows this.

    So why don’t the world’s admirals embrace OPV’s and light escorts and convoying? Because they know if they do, the tax paying public might ask themselves what the mega-billion dollar aircraft carriers, destroyers are frigates are actually for. And as any admiral will tell you, you can’t easily parade a brass band on the deck on an OPV.

    • ghostwhowalksnz 4.1

      Read above- its the motherships they go after and any small speed boat found hundreds of miles out to sea. As well frigates are ideal when a ship has been hi jacked and the pirates can then be pin pointed.

      Frigates have to do open ocean voyages anyway, show the flag trips would be far less pointless. As well they have to cooperate with other navies in the area. The next best thing to a shooting war.

    • RobertM 4.2

      I agree with sanctuary. A OPV with a bit better equipment than the Te Mana and Te Kaha would be far more suited to piracy patrols and southern ocean policing of fishing and whaling.
      The Anzac frigates are too big, too slow and clumsy to get the better of fast speedboats.
      A modern OPV like the Dutch 3000 ton Zeeland and Holland would be two thirds the length of the Anzacs and about 3000tons. The Anzacs are huge Anglo German mothers, which combat systems and sensors are scaled down version of the Canadian Halifax frigates. But the Canadian frigates have four gas turbines, ours have only one fitted so can only do 27 knots compared with the Canadians 32 knots. Our frigates could never keep up with a carrier task force and are really only useful for flag flying, sailing round in circles and doing evolutions. All the Navy wants to go on as it always has. David Lange says we brought the frigates because the provincial vote demanded it and David was frightened of New Plymouth, Nelson, Invercargill, Napier and Rotorua.
      Surely Labour should no longer be courting the provincial rednecks. That is not something Goff grasps. He said once the Anzacs were delivered they’d be accepted. Well they aren’t and I don’t accept them.
      Even if we had fast frigates there would be little value in escorting carriers because the US nuclear carriers are so vulnerable to small diesel submarines ( see what North Korea did). ex Soviet anti ship missiles flying at six times the speed of sound and even high speed surface craft like the 45 knot Rosin class Iraq is still building. Even as standard soviet Kilo diesel with standoff missiles may force them back out of range of their F-18s. The US carriers are little more than an invitation for any rebel power to do a Pearl Harbour.
      There contaminated nuclear hulks. The obsolete nuclear powered cruisers like the Texas, Truxtun and Long Beach that once visited Auckland were so contaminated that they took ten years to break up. Rarely the Anzacs are nothing more than a rough job scheme for provincial youth. The Te Mana and Te Kaha have recently had their Phalanx gattling gun modernised in the United States so the 6 baralled 20mm gun can fire down into pirates seaboats, deconstructing and disintergrating them. surely thats a war crime and a human rights violation and a few new single modern 20 mm Oerilikons on the OPVs would be more appropriate.
      WE need a real tea party. The Anzacs need to be dragged to sea and scuttled. Whatever Beazleys treaty says- the traversty of the defence polices of Beazley and his defence advisor Hugh White needs to be scuttled. They thought they owned this country. Pull the plug.

  5. Sanctuary 5

    A convoy escort doesn’t have to “go after” anything. It just has to get it’s ships from A to B safely. Capturing/destroying pirates vessels is a bonus, not a necessity.

    It is the mother ship and and the speed boats that suddenly have to do the “going after”.

    And that is whole point.

    • ghostwhowalksnz 5.1

      Convoys can only travel at the speed of the slowest ship. Unless its wartime you cant order ships masters around.
      Its a possibility if the problem gets worse than the two or three ships a month that is currently happening from the potentially thousands pm that traverse the Gulf Of Aden entrance

      • Draco T Bastard 5.1.1

        Shouldn’t have to be ordering them around. They’re better off in a convoy and so they should be volunteering. Hell, they should be the ones making the suggestion.

  6. ghostwhowalksnz 6

    Heres more of the ‘Goldman Sacks’ evidence
    http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/somali_pirates_say_they_are_subsidiary_of_goldman_sachs_20100502/

    here was an audible gasp in the courtroom when the leader of the pirates announced, “We are doing God’s work. We work for Lloyd Blankfein.” The pirate, who said he earned a bonus of $48 million in doubloons last year, elaborated on the nature of the Somalis’ work for Goldman, explaining that the pirates forcibly attacked ships that Goldman had already shorted.
    “We were functioning as investment bankers, only every day was casual Friday,” the pirate said. The pirate acknowledged that they merged their operations with Goldman in late 2008 to take advantage of the more relaxed regulations governing bankers as opposed to pirates, “plus to get our share of the bailout money.”
    In the aftermath of the shocking revelations, government prosecutors were scrambling to see if they still had a case against the Somali pirates, who would now be treated as bankers in the eyes of the law. “There are lots of laws that could bring these guys down if they were, in fact, pirates,” one government source said. “But if they’re bankers, our hands are tied.”

    Isnt that shocking !!
    But wait theres more
    Award-winning humorist, television personality and film actor Andy Borowitz is author of the book “The Republican Playbook.”

  7. Sanctuary 7

    Again I note ANY warship (minesweeper, OPVs, even survey and replenishment ships) is a far superior combat platform to ANY pirate craft.

    The number of vessels in a convoy is actually irrelevant – 3, 6, 10, 20 – it doesn’t matter. What counts is the availability of escorts. No matter how many ships, in a convoy they are all within close proximity of an (hopefully) alert escort. A twelve ship convoy using four columns of three vessels deployed with an all round two cables spacing would only occupy a block of ocean of about 1.2km wide and the same deep.

    Modern merchant ships are capable of top speeds of 16-25 knots, and typically cruise at 12-16 knots. twelve knots equates to 288 nautical miles, or to just over 500km in 24 hours. A two day convoying event then would see a merchant ship travel an easy 1000 km under escort.

    A force of 20 small, OPV style escorts would achieve all this using less than 32,000 tonnes of total warship weight and less than 1600 crew. In other words, sacrificing the tonnage and crew of ONE supercarrier in the USN would provide for fifty to sixty handy little escorts just for the US Navy alone, and of course they would be a lot cheaper to build and equip than said supercarrier.

    And such small warships are far, far more useful in the post-cold war world than huge aircraft carriers.

    • Colonial Viper 7.1

      The navy concerned will still need a very strong logistics element even if the escort craft are relatively small.

      Have you read anything about the Chinese navy lending security services to African countries? I have a feeling that the PRC will see this as another diplomatic opportunity. As well as an opportunity to give their inexperienced naval officers operational time.

  8. jcuknz 8

    Sanctuary … your assumptions are hilarious and typical armchair nonsense. Sorry 🙂

  9. illuminatedtiger 9

    I find it sad that we’re so quick to jump on this band wagon but make excuses when it comes to sending our boats out to protect New Zealanders from the Japanese whalers.

  10. Sanctuary 10

    jcuknz, the idea of Indian Ocean convoys have been canvassed extensively in forums such as the RUSI and the USNI. It is currently under active consideration by the Naval forces deployed in the region. Some Navies already offer convoying to same-flagged merchant vessels, and convoys have routinely been used for aid shipments into somalia itself since 2008 – http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2008/12/latest-anti-pir/ . It seems from what I’ve been reading that this past year more and more merchant ships have been forming spontaneous convoys of 3-4 vessels for mutual protection as well.

    A brief summary of views very similar to mine can be found here in the Wall Street Journal – http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123966729406515295.html.

    The primary objection seems to be (surprise, surprise) the cost of providing sufficient ships for the task. Which brings us back to my point – it is always going to be expensive when you use big and sophisticated warships with large crews for task for which they are fundamentally not designed for. These ships are, in fact, primarily designed to protect supercarriers in a deep ocean fleet encounter against the Imperial Japanese Navy, should on the off-chance it happen to hove into view again.

    Ultimately, in a throw back to the armed East Indiamen of the 18th Century, it looks like the decision is going to be made by the insurance industry – http://www.intermanager.org/Resources/News/tabid/82/newsid500/624/mid/500/Default.aspx

    “…An insurance broker’s plan to create a “private navy” to combat Somali piracy is close to being launched.

    Shipowners could be asked to back the project as early as late January or February with private military-escort vessels sailing alongside merchant ships by mid-2011.

    A reputable flag state prepared to register the 18 patrol boats has been lined up, shipowner support is being canvassed and preparations made to secure funding for the vessels and crew.

    Sean Woollerson of the Jardine Lloyd Thompson (JLT) insurance-broking group says there are still issues to overcome but the key task of securing government and military support to give the project “legitimacy” is almost there.

    The venture, now branded as the Convoy Escort Programme (CEP), estimates it needs only £15m ($23.5m) to buy secondhand vessels suitable for use as patrol boats and the rest of the infrastructure…”

    Surely nothing points to the humiliating failure of our vastly expensive and lavishly equipped navies to perform a basic function more than insurance companies getting so fed up they simply do the convoying themselves?

  11. Rharn 11

    http://www.warisboring.com/2010/02/23/foreign-fishing-vessels-still-plundering-somali-waters/

    Don’t know much about the site but backs a doco I saw some time back on TV. Some one needs to ask McCully why we are not helping the Somalis protect their fishing resource.

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