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Piracy News & Commentary

Tactical Adaptation

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 of successful pirate attacks. But as I pointed out on January 13, the Somali pirates were likely developing new tactics to deal with the increased naval presence, and indeed they were. On January 29 Somali pirates decoyed warships in the Gulf of Aden Maritime Security Patrol Area by attacking three vessels. While the warships were distracted, the pirates seized the LPG tanker Longchamp. It should be noted that the Longchamp, although transiting Maritime Security Patrol Area, was not registered for EU Navfor protection and was twenty miles behind the scheduled transit. Whether this would have made a difference is unknown. As a high-risk vessel (liquid petroleum gas cargo, low freeboard), patrol warships would have kept a close watch on it, had it been registered.

Given its apparent initial success, the tactic will likely be used again. There is nothing new about the tactic: distraction or diversion are commonplace throughout the history of warfare and armed confrontation, not to mention in business and sport. Warship captains and crews as well as military planners must be alert not only to the possibility of such tactics, but also to the development of new pirate tactics (or the re-emergence of old ones) as new anti-piracy tactics and measures are instituted.

In related news, various news agencies reported on February 5 that Somali pirates have released the MV Faina after payment of a $3.6 million ransom. The capture of the vessel by pirates was particularly notable for the cargo aboard, which included tanks and other weapons. The cargo’s ultimate original destination remains in dispute. Kenya claims the arms were being shipped to support its military forces, although documents aboard have been claimed to suggest that they were intended for South Sudan.

As was almost certain, a ransom was indeed paid, via airdrop, to release the chemical tanker Biscaglia. (MarineLog).

Two Cameroon-flagged fishing trawlers were attacked by pirates in Camaroonian waters on January 24. The Greek captain of one of the trawlers was hit by gunfire and later died of his wounds. (Lloyd’s). The Gulf of Guinea is a noted piracy hotspot.
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