Benerson Little

“The trident of Neptune is the scepter of the world.”*

USS Banbridge taking the Maersk Alabama lifeboat in tow after Navy SEALs rescued Capt. Philips. The lifeboat is now in the Navy SEAL Museum in Ft. Pierce, Florida.

I often link articles relating to modern piracy and anti-piracy operations, as well as to historical pirate hunting, on the Facebook page above.

“They are always as vagabonds, and in continual exile, without any rest; agitated by the Winds, Rain, Hail, Snow, at the mercy of Pyrats and Rovers, Rocks and Tempests, in continual hazard of being intomb’d in the bellies of fishes...” —Jeremias Heraclitus Christianus, writing of the merchant seaman in The Man of Sorrow, 1677.

“Some the Sea swallowes, but that which most grieves, Some turne Sea-monsters, Pirates, roaving theeves...” —John Taylor, An Apologie for Sea-men, 1615.


(Tags and archives are listed at the foot of the page in this column.)


US Navy VBSS party holding pirates at bay after an attack on the tanker Nordic Apollo. (US Navy)

Captured pirates. (Spanish military)

Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden. (Spanish military/AFP)

Pirate skiff sunk by fire from an EUNAVFOR warship. (EUNAVFOR photograph.)

Somali pirates in a skiff. At the bow is a ladder for boarding, and a pirate armed with an RPG. (EUNAVFOR photograph.)

Somali pirate "mother boat" with fuel and supplies, and a pirate skiff. (NATO photograph.)

Typical Somali pirate arms: assault rifles and RPGs. (NATO photograph.)

Americans held hostage aboard the sailing vessel Quest. All four Americans were murdered by the pirates before Navy SEALs boarded the vessel, killed several of the pirates, and captured the remainder.

Dutch marines capturing suspected Somali pirates on April 4, 2011. (AP photo.)

Royal Malaysian Navy commandos, known as PASKAL, aboard the MT Bunga Laurel with pirate prisoners. (January 22, 2011. Royal Malaysian Navy photo.)

Republic of Korea UDT/SEALs aboard the Samho Jewelry, recaptured from pirates who held her. All of her crew was rescued, with only one injury among them. The ROK SEALs incurred no serious injuries. Eight pirates were killed, and five captured. (January 21, 2011)

USMC maritime assault team prepares to board the Magellan Star in September 2010. The marines re-captured the ship from the pirates who held it. (Department of the Navy)

Boarding party from the USS McFaul aboard pirate mothership Faize Osamani, a captured Indian dhow, on April 5, 2010. (US Department of Defense photograph)

USS Farragut sinking a captured Somali pirate "mother ship" in April, 2010. (US Navy photograph)

Dutch marines from the HNMLSTromp fastrope onto the MV Taipan and capture it from pirates on April 5, 2010. (Dutch Navy photograph)

French pirate hunting frigate Nivose, a "frégate de surveillance." (French navy photograph)

Pirates captured by the French naval vessel Somme in October 2009. (EU NAVFOR Somalia photo)

Boarding team from the frigate HMS Portland captures suspected Somali pirates in June 2009. (Royal Navy photograph)

Dutch commandos capture seven pirates and free twenty fishermen who had been forced to work the mother ship. Unfortunately, the pirates were soon themselves freed due to constraints of Dutch law and of NATO. (Royal Navy photograph)

Small pirate "mother ship" (bateau mère) intercepted by French frigate Nivôse in April 2009. The vessel was loaded with fuel. (French Ministry of Defense photograph)

7.62 mm exit holes in the stern of the Maersk Alabama lifeboat. The holes were plugged with silicone. (Author's photo, taken at the National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum, Ft. Pierce, Florida.)

Captain Richard Phillips (on right) aboard the USS Bainbridge after being rescued from pirates by the US Navy. His captors were shot dead by Navy SEAL snipers. (US Navy photograph)

French commandos aboard the yacht Tanit. (AFP)

Liberation of the yacht Tanit by the French Navy, including members of the Commando Hubert. (French Ministry of Defense photograph)

USS Vella Gulf captures Somali pirates in February 2009. (US Navy photograph)

Captured Somali pirates. (US Navy photograph)

MV Sirius Star ransomed by air drop. (US Navy photograph)

A few of the pirates who captured the arms ship MV Faina. (US Navy photograph)

Thai fishing trawler destroyed by Indian frigate INS Tabar. The trawler was under attack by pirates. The frigate, which came under fire from pirates aboard the trawler, believed the vessel was a pirate "mother ship." (India Defense Ministry photograph)

French commandos capture several of the pirates who held the luxury yacht Le Ponant for ransom. (French Ministry of Defense photograph)

Pirate skiff destroyed by the USS Porter in 2007. (US Navy photograph)


* By Antoine Marin Lemierre, from his poem "Commerce." (Le trident de Neptune est le sceptre du monde.)

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Historical Fiction
The sequel to Fortune's Whelp: stay tuned!
Maritime adventure and historical intrigue set amidst the attempted assassination of King William III.
Narrative Maritime History
The truth behind the great pirate myths and legends. In print!
Maritime History

A colorful and detailed description of how pirates and privateers practiced their trade.


To really understand what the pirate's world was like: how buccaneers lived, fought, and died.

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Piracy News & Commentary

The Cost of Somali Piracy

April 12, 2013

Tags: Somali piracy

The Economist magazine (April 11, 2013) quotes a World Bank estimate of an $18 billion annual cost of piracy. Other estimates are listed in the notes and errata section of the Pirate Hunting page.

Hostage Rescue

December 24, 2012

Tags: Somali piracy, anti-piracy

A BZ to Puntland forces who rescued 22 hostages aboard the MV Iceberg 1. The ship was captured by Somali pirates almost three years ago.

Somali Piracy Diminished, At Least Temporarily

September 26, 2012

Tags: Somali piracy, anti-piracy

Good article on the present state of Somali piracy: http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/party-somali-pirates-attacks-17320672. It's still too soon to tell if the scourge of Somali piracy is nearly over--it may have a brief respite, and there's always the unlikely chance of a significant increase in tactical ability--but at least time has proved (more…)

Appropriate Use of Force

May 9, 2012

Tags: Somali piracy, anti-pirate tactics

Some criticism has blown up recently over video (that should never have been posted) of a security team apparently defending its ship from attack by Somali pirates. The article posted here provides a general summary of the issues. I disagree with the title (more…)

BZ Navy SEALs

January 25, 2012

Tags: Somali piracy

A BZ to the Navy SEALs, along with other U.S. special operations forces, who rescued two aid workers captured by pirates--by criminal elements ashore who often work as pirates, that is. Nine pirates were killed in the rescue. According to local sources, as well as some early news reports citing an FBI source, (more…)

Footnote on Armed Guards

December 16, 2011

Tags: Somali piracy, anti-piracy

As I noted more than a year ago in Pirate Hunting and years ago in notes and blogs, armed guards remain the most viable interim solution to Somali piracy. Both governments and shipping companies to a large degree have accepted this as inevitable.

Piracy Convictions

December 16, 2011

Tags: Somali piracy, anti-piracy

Mohamud Hirs Issa Ali, a former Somali police officer who became the commander of a band of nineteen pirates, was convicted in Virginia of piracy and for his role in the murder of four U.S. citizens aboard the yacht Quest. He was sentenced to life in prison. A former electrician, Jilian (more…)

Heavy Machine Guns

October 2, 2011

Tags: Somali piracy, anti-piracy

This week the Spanish government approved the use of heavy machineguns by private security forces against Somali pirates. Some analysts have been quick to condemn this act as leading to a possible arms race at sea. The machineguns--often described in commentary as "heavy weapons," leaving an impression of more powerful arms--fire a 12.7x99mm NATO, that is, the .50 BMG round. In other words, (more…)

Difficulties in Prosecution of Pirates

September 28, 2011

Tags: Somali piracy

A recent article in the Danish Maritime Magazine points up the difficulties of pirate prosecutions in some cases. Danish law, for example, requires a suspect to be brought before a judge within 24 hours of arrest. Although there are reasonable exceptions, the 30 days in one recent case and 40 in another are excessive, many (more…)

To Repeat (While Stomping Foot) One More Time...

September 28, 2011

Tags: Somali piracy

Again, commentators are making much of Somali pirate "swarm" tactics, and appear to be surprised by them. Let me repeat: tactics will evolve! Possible future tactics include the ability to breach citadels; the use (with dire consequences for Somali pirates) of heavier weapons; better communication and coordination among Somali pirates, making swarm tactics more (more…)

Miscellaneous Updates and News

September 22, 2011

Tags: Somali piracy

In "The Truth About Somali Piracy", novelist Nuruddin Farah, while not condoning Somali pirate violence, does a disservice I think by perpetuating as an apology the likely truth that Somali piracy began in response to "pirate" fishing vessels which pillaged its unprotected seas. Unfortunately, if Somali piracy (more…)

Piracy Suppression Act of 2011

September 14, 2011

Tags: Somali piracy, anti-piracy

This week the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved House Bill H. R. 2839, the Piracy Suppression Act of 2011. The bill, introduced by Representatives Lobiondo and Mica, provides that the U.S. may seek reimbursement from foreign-flagged vessels aided by the U.S. Navy or other U.S. military forces against pirate attack, except in defined (more…)

Yachtswoman Rescued

September 11, 2011

Tags: Somali piracy

Spanish forces, including the amphibious warship SPS Galicia, as well as one of its helicopters and a boarding team, today attacked a pirate skiff in the Gulf of Aden, capturing seven pirates and rescuing Frenchwoman Evelyne Colombo. Her husband and sailing companion, Christian Colombo, was killed in the original pirate attack, and his body thrown overboard. The pair were sailing (more…)

Recent Somali Piracy News

September 10, 2011

Tags: Somali piracy

Somali pirates recently released seven Danish citizens--a family of five plus two crew--captured February 24, 2011, after payment of a three million dollar ransom. A rescue attempt by Puntland forces in March failed when the rescuers were ambushed en route. Again, private sailing yachts are strongly advised to avoid the region: even with armed security aboard, (more…)

Recent Pirate Attacks

September 10, 2011

Tags: Somali piracy, anti-piracy

Recent concerns have been brought forward regarding the possibility of a change in Somali pirate attacks, particularly in the Red Sea. Swarm attacks are not recent, having been noted with concern in the past. However, some analysts are concerned that the increase in armed protection aboard commercial shipping may be forcing pirates to change (more…)

Danger to Yachts

August 2, 2011

Tags: Somali piracy, anti-pirate tactics

Blog post of the new Warning Notice issued by the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) on the dangers to yachts transitting through waters prone to attacks by Somali pirates. Yacht owners and crews must understand that sailing vessels lack the speed, maneuverability, and physical protection to defend against pirate attack. Even with a well-armed professional defense force, yachts remain (more…)

Death Penalty

July 11, 2011

Tags: Somali piracy

Three of the alleged pirates captured by Navy SEALs when they stormed the S/V Quest will face the death penalty if convicted in the murders of four Americans: Scott Adam, Jean Adam, Phyllis Macay and Robert Riggle. Eleven of the pirates have already pleaded guilty to charges of piracy, and face (more…)

Arrest of Non-Somalis

June 20, 2011

Tags: anti-piracy, Somali piracy

Somali authorities have arrested, convicted, and imprisoned three Britons, two Kenyans, and one American for their involvement in delivering ransom funds to Somali pirates. Strictly speaking, the payment of pirate ransoms is unlawful in Somalia, and this is the first time Somali authorities have convicted Westerners with piracy-related crimes. The British government is reviewing (more…)

State Department on Piracy

June 16, 2011

Tags: anti-piracy, Somali piracy, State Department

Testimony by Andrew J. Shapiro,Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, before the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade of the House Foreign affairs Committee, Washington, DC, June 15, 2011 can be found here.

How Not to Behave, Intentions Notwithstanding

June 13, 2011

Tags: anti-piracy, Somali piracy

Eritrea has detained four British private security contractors after they came ashore, ostensibly to obtain fuel. The contractors, part of an antipiracy force belonging to Protection Vessels International, are accused of espionage, sabotage, terrorism, and invasion. Eritrea has an isolationist government that could well be described as paranoid, and the appearance of armed men (more…)

Private Security

June 13, 2011

Tags: Anti-piracy, Somali piracy

As expected--in spite of the weak arguments thrown up by some analysts--many seafaring nations, shipping companies, and maritime governing bodies are approving the use of armed security--private or military--aboard merchant shipping. This was, as I have repeatedly pointed out here and in print, the only viable interim solution to the problem of Somali piracy. (more…)

Bravo Zulus

April 19, 2011

Tags: Somali piracy, anti-pirate tactics

On March 14, Indian naval forces captured sixty-one suspected pirates aboard a Mozambican ship being used as a pirate mother ship. On April 1, United Arab Emirates special forces freed the MV Arrilah-I which had been captured by pirates. On April 4, Dutch naval commandos from the Dutch frigate HNLMS Tromp freed a captured Iranian fishing boat being used by Somali pirates as a mother ship. The commandos killed two suspected pirates and captured sixteen. NPR recently reported on a "neighborhood (more…)

Mother Ships

February 4, 2011

Tags: Somali piracy, piracy, anti-pirate tactics

Lloyd's List today noted the growing Somali mother ship fleet: 20 vessels. These vessels, which range from small open vessels filled with drums of fuel and supplies to fairly large captured fishing boats, significantly extend the range of the Somali pirates. As I've noted in at least one earlier post, a key anti-Somali (more…)

Botched Rescue Attempt

February 4, 2011

Tags: Somali piracy, piracy, anti-pirate tactics

Earlier this week a Seychelles warship opened fire on the engine room of the Beluga Nomination, hoping to disable the ship and prevent it from being sailed to the Somali coast. Apparently in retaliation, pirates killed a hostage seafarer, although most had apparently been safely locked within a "citadel" for two and a (more…)

Anti-Pirate Laser

January 29, 2011

Tags: Somali piracy, piracy, anti-pirate tactics

BAE Systems, the second largest defense contractor in the world, is attempting to market an anti-pirate laser. Aimed at approaching pirates, the laser will cause temporary blindness.

I have reservations about non-lethal anti-pirate measures, for, to be entirely effective, they must be backed up by lethal measures--firearms, that is, in case their perimeter is breached, so to speak. Although sonic lasers had an early success or (more…)

Bravo Zulu to the Malaysian Navy and PASKAL

January 22, 2011

Tags: Somali piracy, piracy, anti-pirate tactics

A BZ to the Royal Malaysian Navy and its PASKAL, or naval commandos, who stormed the Malaysia-flagged chemical tanker MT Bunga Laurel today, foiling a pirate attack. The PASKAL rescued the 23 crew members and captured 7 pirates, 3 of whom were injured in the assault.

Bravo Zulu to the ROK Navy and ROK UDT/SEALs

January 21, 2011

Tags: Somali piracy, piracy, anti-pirate tactics

A Bravo Zulu to the Republic of Korea naval commandos who boarded the Korean cargo ship Samho Jewelry in a pre-dawn raid this morning, rescuing all 21 hostages, killing 8 pirates, and capturing 5 more. The captain of the ship was wounded in the belly by a pirate bullet, but is in good condition. The (more…)

Somali Piracy 2010

January 20, 2011

Tags: Somali piracy, piracy

The worst year so far for mariners, and the best for pirates: 53 ships captured worldwide, including 49 by Somali pirates; 445 pirate attacks worldwide; and 1,181 hostages seized, 1,016 by Somali pirates, according to the International Maritime Bureau. Pirate attacks rose by 10 percent in 2010. At present, Somali pirates hold 31 ships and more than 700 mariners.

Somali Anti-Piracy Law Fails to Pass

January 20, 2011

Tags: Somali piracy, piracy, law of piracy

The BBC reports that a proposed law under the interim Somali government to combat piracy by criminalizing it failed to pass when some MPs opposed it, calling the pirates heroes who act as an informal coastguard and keep foreign fishing fleets from pillaging Somali waters. Malaysian and Taiwanese industrial fishing vessels have been named as the greatest (more…)

Anti-Piracy Petition

September 24, 2010

Tags: piracy, Somali piracy

On September 23, the head of the International Transport Workers Union presented the head of the International Maritime Organization with 930,000 signatures on the End Piracy Now petition. Details are available at MarineLog.

Pirate Hunting Cruise Hoax

September 19, 2010

Tags: piracy, Somali piracy, pirate hunting

The Internet continues to abound with articles on Russian pirate hunting cruises, in which passengers purportedly pay for the chance at shooting pirates at sea. On its face any clear-headed reader should have assumed any such article to be merely repeating a hoax--which indeed the pirate hunting cruises are. Nonetheless, the articles continue to circulate and, given (more…)

Marines Recapture Ship from Pirates

September 9, 2010

Tags: Somali piracy, piracy, US Marine Corps

A Bravo Zulu to US Marines of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit's Maritime Raid Force who recaptured the German-owned Magellan Star. The Marines captured nine suspected pirates. Not a shot was fired, and the ship's crew was unharmed. The Marines are deployed aboard the amphibious ship USS Dubuque (LPD 8). The (more…)

Piracy Charges Dropped

August 20, 2010

Tags: Somali piracy, law of piracy

Piracy charges have been dropped against six Somalis who attacked the USS Ashland in April 2010. Under US law, a pirate is a sea thief. If he "merely" attempts piracy, he is not a pirate. However, in the popular mind and historical tradition, not to mention to my own mind, a pirate is (more…)

No Kidding

August 15, 2010

Tags: Somali piracy

Several recent articles in various newspapers and industry journals have pointed out that Somali pirates are adapting their tactics. No kidding. Tactics invariably evolve, and both shipowners and navies need to be prepared for this.

The Definition of Piracy

August 15, 2010

Tags: Somali piracy, piracy, law of piracy

Good Wall Street Journal article on the problems arising from the definitions of piracy. (Article forwarded by Shaun Chittick.)

Unions Support Arming Ships Against Pirates

March 18, 2010

Tags: Somali piracy, piracy

According to Lloyd's List, seafarer unions now support the arming of merchant vessels with armed military personnel when transiting piracy-prone areas. The unions still oppose arming seafarers themselves.

Pirates Sentenced

March 14, 2010

Tags: Somali piracy

Lloyd's List has reported that twenty pirates were recently tried in Kenya and sentenced to twenty years apiece. An estimated four hundred suspected pirates are being held worldwide for trial.

Bravo Zulu

March 8, 2010

Tags: Somali piracy

A BZ to European Union navies, in particular to the French frigate Nivose and her crew, who, along with the Italian support ship Etna, two naval helicopters, and Spanish maritime patrol aircraft, captured thirty-five suspected Somali pirates, four mother ships, and six skiffs in two days this weekend. Warning (more…)

Piracy Update

March 4, 2010

Tags: Somali piracy

Briefly updating, Lloyd's List reports intelligence sources indicating a likely upsurge in pirate attacks over the next three weeks during the inter-monsoon season. Pirates at the four major pirate ports--Hardare, Eyl, Garacad, and Hobyo--are preparing for sea.

The journal also reports that many shipping companies are threatening to avoid the Gulf of (more…)

Banditry, Not Piracy

March 2, 2010

Tags: Somali piracy

A few observers are already comparing news that Somali pirates in Eyl have captured and are holding for ransom three UN food aid trucks and their drivers to attacks on shore targets by pirates of the past. However, unless the Somali pirates are attacking from the sea, their theft and hostage taking ashore is (more…)

Nemesis 5000

March 2, 2010

Tags: piracy, anti-piracy, Somali piracy

The Nemesis 5000 is another anti-piracy technology intended as a non-lethal means of preventing pirates from boarding. It may be used in conjunction with other non-lethal means, or in conjunction with armed force (although the manufacturer does not advertise it this way). The system, intended as a cost effective alternative to expensive security teams, works (more…)

Piracy News

January 19, 2010

Tags: Somali piracy

Somali pirates who captured the Maran Centaurus actually asked for EU Navfor assistance to protect them against a rival pirate gang, just prior to the release of the vessel. The request was denied. The vessel was ransomed for a record $6 million. (Source: Lloyd's List)

The Yemen Navy is offering anti-piracy (more…)

One Benefit to Somali Piracy

January 12, 2010

Tags: Somali piracy

An AP article forwarded to me by Elana Langer, "Kenya Fishermen See Upside to Pirates: More Fish," points out that the threat of pirate attack has forced many foreign illegal fishing trawlers to seek other waters out (more…)

More Piracy News Tidbits

January 7, 2010

Tags: Somali piracy

The Turkish ambassador to the UN has sent a letter suggesting that the UN oversee trials of accused Somali pirates. To date, the issue of arguments and questions over venue has been the most significant factor in preventing the trial of many accused Somali pirates. In many cases, some naval authorities have simply released captured Somali pirates. ( (more…)

Recent Piracy News

January 4, 2010

Tags: Somali piracy

Rear Adm. Terence "Terry" McKnight (USN, Ret.), past commander of Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) and Combined Task Force 151 (CTF-151) and veteran of joint anti-piracy operations, has criticized the media for dramatizing piracy at the expense of other world-wide naval operations, including those associated with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He further suggests, correctly, (more…)

Somali Pirate Stock Exchange

January 2, 2010

Tags: Somali piracy

Recommended reading: Reuters article on a pirate cooperative in Haradheere, which functions as a sort of stock exchange for funding acts of piracy. As many as seventy-two “maritime companies” now exist in the city; ten have so far had successful returns. My thanks (more…)

Bravo Zulu to the Maersk Alabama's Crew

November 20, 2009

Tags: Somali piracy

A well-deserved BZ to the crew of the Maersk Alabama, and in particular to the defense force that repelled the pirate attack on the ship this past week. To date, no ship with armed defenders has been captured by pirates, yet many shipping companies, insurance companies, maritime organizations, and governments remain opposed (more…)

"Panic Rooms"

October 21, 2009

Tags: Somali piracy

Regarding the recently noted potential dangers associated with the use of "panic rooms" aboard ships under pirate attack (a mariner was recently murdered by pirates when he refused to open the "panic room" hatch or door), all defensive measures, lethal and non-lethal, carry a measure of risk. "Panic rooms" are no exception, and indeed, (more…)

Pirates Threaten to Murder Hostages

October 21, 2009

Tags: Somali piracy

According to Lloyd's List and other news feeds, including that of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, pirates holding the Panamax* bulk carrier De Xin Hai have threatened to kill the hostages if any attempt is made to rescue them. The Chinese foreign minister has stated that a rescue attempt (more…)

Pirates Repulsed by Armed Guards

October 15, 2009

Tags: Somali piracy

A few days ago, French soldiers stationed aboard two French tuna trawlers near the Seychelles fended off a pirate attack. Neither soldiers nor trawler crew were injured in the brief firefight. Other forces pursued the pirates and captured eleven of them. If your French is good, read the Le Figaro article (more…)

More Hungry Young Fools With Guns

October 8, 2009

Tags: Somali piracy

After the release of the Turkish bulk carrier Horizon I and her crew of twenty-three, owing to the payment of a $1.7 ransom ($1.5 million in some reports), a separate gang of pirates attempted to rob those who had captured and ransomed the ship. According to Garowe Online, a Somali news agency, fighting broke (more…)

Hungry Young Fools With Guns

October 7, 2009

Tags: Somali piracy

Five Somali pirates were captured after mistakenly attacking a French warship, the Somme, with small arms at night, roughly 270 nautical miles offshore. Pirates have been ranging farther and farther to sea in the search for prey, and an increase in night attacks has been predicted. Even so, it takes more than daring (more…)

US Counter-Piracy Initiatives

April 16, 2009

Tags: Somali piracy, State Department

Secretary of State Clinton has announced a four part plan to combat Somali piracy. First, the US will “help the Somalis assist us in cracking down on pirate bases and in decreasing incentives for young Somali men to engage in piracy.” Second, via the International Contact Group on Piracy, the US will press for (more…)

Notes and Observations on Recent Somali Piracy

April 15, 2009

Tags: Somali piracy, pirate tactics, anti-pirate tactics

Predictions and Outcomes. Many analysts had predicted that the US would not use force to resolve the Maersk Alabama hostage situation, arguing that hostage rescues are risky, both for hostages and for rescuers. And they are. However, many analysts forget about two critical elements of tactics: the seizing of opportunity, (more…)

Somali Piracy Finally a US Issue

April 14, 2009

Tags: Somali piracy, Navy SEALs

The recent pirate attack on the US-flagged Maersk Alabama--whose captain and crew courageously resisted the pirates--has finally brought the issue of Somali piracy to the forefront in the US. The attention is well-deserved, for Somali piracy has become a significant threat to the shipping along one of the great world (more…)

Private Security for Commercial Shipping

February 12, 2009

Tags: Somali piracy, Unitel Marine Services, pirate tactics, anti-pirate tactics

The issue of responsibility for the protection of commercial shipping in pirate waters has been much debated recently, particularly with the rise of Somali piracy. Until the mid-nineteenth century, responsibility was divided between navies and merchant vessels. Navies did what they could, patrolling pirate waters and occasionally raiding pirate strongholds, but the sea is (more…)

Fear of Consequences

February 6, 2009

Tags: Somali piracy, anti-pirate tactics

Although the US Navy inspected the boats of departing pirates after a ransom was recently paid to free the arms vessel MV Faina, it took no action against the pirates. (The boats were inspected in order to ensure that no arms from the vessel's cargo were being transported ashore.) The Associated Press quotes a spokesperson for the (more…)

Tactical Adaptation

February 5, 2009

Tags: Somali piracy, pirate tactics, anti-pirate tactics

It is a fact of war--and of life in general--that tactics inspire countermeasures, which in turn inspire the improvement of tactics, and even new tactics. The principal military response to the Somali pirates has been an increase in naval patrols, and which has initially been successful in reducing the number (more…)

Piracy versus Terrorism Part 2

February 4, 2009

Tags: Somali piracy, terrorism, piracy versus terrorism

On January 28, the New York Times published "Backgrounder: Combating Maritime Piracy" by Stephanie Hanson. The following is an expanded version of a letter to the editor I wrote in response, but which was not published.

The article points out correctly that experts (a word much (more…)

Anti-Pirate Sonic Lasers

January 26, 2009

Tags: Somali piracy, pirate tactics, anti-pirate tactics

Lloyd's List, a publication of the venerable insurance firm Lloyd's of London, not to mention the world's leading maritime newspaper, reported today that Somali pirates have released the US-owned chemical tanker Biscaglia and its crew of twenty-eight, almost certainly after payment of an undisclosed ransom. The capture of the tanker last (more…)

Islamists and Piracy in Somalia

January 16, 2009

Tags: Somali piracy, Islamists

The BBC has reported that Somali Islamists have executed a Somali politician for the crime of apostacy, in that he had worked with the non-Moslem Ethiopian occupying forces. In the Sharia court's view, this was sufficient evidence that the official had abandoned his Moslem faith. (Ethiopian forces recently withdrew from Somalia, having failed to oust (more…)

Brief Update on Somali Piracy

January 14, 2009

Tags: Somali piracy, anti-pirate tactics

Briefly updating yesterday's post on the perils of piracy, the Russian frigate Admiral Vinogradov foiled an attack today on the containership Nedlloyd Barentsz, wounding and capturing three pirates in the process. The captured pirates were turned over to Yemeni authorities. In spite of recent releases, Somali pirates are still holding eleven merchant vessels and two hundred (more…)

The Perils of Piracy

January 13, 2009

Tags: Somali piracy, anti-pirate tactics

In the late 17th century, buccaneer surgeon and author Alexander Esquemelin noted that pieces-of-eight were not “gathered as easily as pears from a tree,” contrary to the expectations of those new to piracy. The Somali pirates are quickly discovering just how right he was. After a year noted for attacks on more than one (more…)

Secretary of State Nominee Clinton Appears to Equate Piracy With Terrorism

January 13, 2009

Tags: Somali piracy, terrorism, piracy versus terrorism, State Department

In her opening statement today during the Senate confirmation hearing on her nomination as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton stated that “even an ancient form of terror--piracy--[is] asserting itself in modern form off the Horn of Africa.” (I assume that by using the term "terror" she meant "terrorism," given that its use in the context of international relations is almost invariably taken to indicate terrorism.) Although the argument that piracy is terrorism is a popular one, even an enticing one, (more…)

Where Some Reporters and Commentators on Somali Piracy Have Got It Wrong...

January 12, 2009

Tags: Somali piracy, media, anti-pirate tactics

It is not uncommon lately to find reporters and other commentators, in print and on television, proclaiming with obvious admiration about how “heavily armed” and “bold” are the Somali pirates. Often these well-intentioned media members refer to Somali pirates in very romantic terms, “modern buccaneers” for example, even claiming occasionally that they have taken (more…)

Countering the Gulf Pirates

October 19, 2008

Tags: Somali piracy, anti-pirate tactics

A Bravo Zulu* to the French, in particular to the French Navy and its special operations force for the rescue of two French citizens held by Somali pirates, and to President Sarkozy for authorizing the raid. On the night of September 15, a force of French naval commandos composed of the commando Hubert--a French (more…)

Somali Piracy

October 7, 2008

Tags: Somali piracy, anti-pirate tactics

This year alone, Somali pirates have attacked more than fifty vessels, captured more than thirty, and have been paid more than $30 million in ransoms. Somali pirates are currently holding ten or more vessels and nearly two hundred sixty hostages. Six separate gangs are involved in the trade, and some estimates place annual income from (more…)