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Today's pirates, Time for Q-ships to return?

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Today's pirates, Time for Q-ships to return?

Postby U-5075 » Wed Dec 03, 2008 9:04 am

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PIRACY! Time for the Q-ships return?
Guest writer Bill Redmond ponders on a solution from WW1...

Piracy in East African and Middle Eastern waters has reached such alarming levels that if effective action is not taken soon many countries in the region will suffer serious economic consequences. Moreover, shippers themselves and their customers are already struggling as charter rates crash at an unprecedented rate and ships re-route via the Cape of Good Hope rather than risk a Suez Canal transit. Such a diversion could raise commodity transport fees by more than 30%, claims General Ahmed Fadel, head of the Suez Canal Authority.

The latest outrage, an unsuccessful attack on the cruise ship, MS Nautica, in the Gulf of Aden on December 1st, will undoubtedly encourage cruise ships to remove East African and Middle Eastern ports of call from their itineries, thus depriving developing countries of badly-needed foreign currency. Egypt could be a major loser as fewer ships transit its canal and there are already signs that its canal charges are falling in response to the piracy problem. In its latest fiscal year, Egypt earned $5 billion from canal dues, its third biggest revenue source, and so can ill afford to lose a large slice of this income in a country where 20% of its 76 million population live on $2 a day.

Almost as disturbing are the doubtless huge sums paid to pirates and their Somali war lords for the release of ships and their crews, some of which could be used to buy sophisticated weapons like hand-held guided missiles, the mere threat of their use being enough to make even the biggest and fastest ships heave to. Some of the ransom money could also be used to finance international terrorism.

So far the authorities’ response to the problem, involving warships, has met with only marginal success, partly for the obvious reason that warships stand out like sore thumbs, and their positions are almost certainly reported by innocent-looking fishing vessels to their piratical colleagues planning attacks.

One possible solution worth consideration is to send in Q-ships, a successful ruse first used in WW1 in response to the U-boat menace. These wolves in sheep’s clothing were responsible for sinking about 10% of all U-boats sunk in that war but they damaged many more.

Innocent-looking tramp steamers travelling alone, Q-ships were typically armed with four-inch guns hidden by drop-down flaps but there is no suggestion that such heavy armament should be fitted to today’s merchant ships.

Instead, as a modern variation of the Q-ship concept, heavy machine guns and other weapons could be installed and disguised on slow-moving ships travelling alone and seemingly easy meat for prowling pirates. The weapons could me manned by naval personnel masquerading as ordinary merchant seamen. This would be a much cheaper solution than using many warships to patrol a vast sea space, and it would keep the pirates guessing.
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Postby tabledancer » Thu Dec 04, 2008 11:43 am

Very good,it`s about time that somebody shows a little interest here.And if any of them are caught they should be punished just like in the past,hang them up from the yardarm and let them be shark bait.May be it is time for some good old fashion vigilante justice.

Don`t forget,its going to be dark tonite.
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Postby Robert F. » Sat Dec 06, 2008 1:53 pm

Yes, it's a tempting thought.
The only - and prohibitive - drawback is that the Q-ships were used in a war between nations, fighting ships of (an)other nation(s). In the case of the Somalian pirates, there is no formal war situation and no formal, organized, state-led opposing force. In other words, an asymmetric conflict. International law (which is, by the way, strongly based on Western ideas of justice, freedom and so on) simply does not allow the use of weapons against "non-state opponents" without a whole lot of ROEs, UN resolutions etc etc. So, however tempting the idea is, it's not feasible. Escort ships are, unfortunately, the best available option for now.
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Postby U-5075 » Tue Jan 13, 2009 8:20 pm ... i-pir.html

New Anti-Pirate Tactic: World War II-Style Convoys
By David Axe
MOMBASA, KENYA -- Nearly seventy years ago, German U-boat submarines sank millions of tons of Allied shipping, killing tens of thousands of sailors and threatening Great Britain with ruin. The key to defeating U-boats was cooperation: cargo ships and warships would clump together for mutual protection. The resulting convoys turned the tide against the German underwater menace and helped win the war for the Allies.

Today convoys are making a comeback, as a tactic for deterring pirates operating along the Somali coast. Several times a month, chartered cargo vessels link up with warships for the dangerous dash into the Somali ports of Mogadishu and Merka. During World War II, convoys sailing from the U.S. to Great Britain carried everything from weapons to food to fuel. But today's convoys are hauling just one thing: donated food, enough to feed half a nation.

Here in Mombasa, in southern Kenya, the U.N. World Food Program runs one of the world's biggest humanitarian campaigns, sending up to 50,000 tons of food per month into Somalia to feed 40 percent of the country's 8 million people, according to WFP spokesman Peter Smerdon. Food aid for Somalia isn't new: the country's been on the dole since the ruinous civil war of the early 1990s. But demand for aid has steadily increased, jumping some 75 percent this year. Due to the threat of bandits on Somalia's remote, dusty roads, most of the food comes by sea.

But it didn't take long for Somalis to figure out that you can stake out a sea lane just like you can a road. In the '90s, pirates began seizing food ships. At first, the pirates claimed they were just trying to make sure the food got distributed fairly: warlords on land had been grabbing entire food shipments straight out of the U.N.'s hands. "Pirates said, 'We shall seize the vessels so everyone gets the food,'" recalls Frederick Wahutu, a longtime sea captain who now directs the Kenya Ships Agents Association in Mombasa. Whether legit or not, this supposed altruism backfired, when crews refused to sail into Somali ports as long as ships remained vulnerable to pirates. Suddenly nobody was getting any food.

The U.N. issued a desperate plea for warships to escort food convoys through pirate waters, and the whole world responded. In recent years, several navies have unilaterally donated warships, including the Dutch and Canadians. This fall, a NATO force led by a Greek frigate took over the escort mission. And this week, the European Union relieved NATO with ships from the U.K., France and Germany. It's the first-ever E.U. naval deployment, coming hot on the heels of the E.U.'s first overseas land deployment to Chad, this spring.

This weekend the first E.U.-escorted convoy will sail from Mombasa, with a French or British frigate providing the heavy firepower. "With escorts, we're getting more food in," Smerdon said. But don't expect the same tactic to work for commercial ships plying the Gulf of Aden. According to Wahutu, most commercial ships sail on strict schedules. "If you have to wait for a convoy to form up, you lose time." And time means money.

So while the world's biggest food campaign piggybacks on World War II-style convoys, for-profit shipping is still going it alone, despite the risks ... 564363.htm China Escorting Convoys. ... pirates-mc Egypt leaves it to others to fight pirates.

Lots more info coming up from Google searches using terms: pirates convoys and then clicking onto News and Sort by date.
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Postby U-5075 » Sun Jan 25, 2009 1:48 pm

Somalia: New Navy Task Force Takes Aim At Pirates
Jacquelyn S. Porth

23 January 2009

Washington DC — A new multinational naval task force is patrolling the waters off the coast of Africa to scare off pirates who have been regularly attacking commercial shipping vessels laden with oil, fertilizer and iron ore.
For now, Combined Task Force 151 comprises three U.S. ships, but other nations, including the United Kingdom, are expected to join the effort that is focused on the Gulf of Aden, the Indian Ocean, the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea. In the meantime, naval forces from nearly two dozen nations are patrolling in the same waters -- in some cases bilaterally -- and are often providing escort to merchant vessels bearing their national flags.
Various navies that are already sailing in the region as a deterrent to pirates are expected to seek a mandate from their governments to join the task force under U.S. command. The USS San Antonio is the flagship for the operation, which includes a helicopter squadron, surgeons and U.S. Coast Guard law enforcement boarding teams specializing in maritime law, ship-borne searches and evidence collection.

The commander of the U.S. Fifth Fleet -- headquartered in Bahrain -- says piracy is an international problem requiring an international solution. Vice Admiral Bill Gortney said CTF-151 "is a significant step in the right direction" to deter and disrupt pirates and eventually bring them to justice. At last count, pirates were holding nearly a dozen ships and more than 200 hostages.

At a January 15 briefing for reporters in the Pentagon, Gortney said the plan is to go after the pirates aggressively through a combination of surveillance and rapid response while still adhering to rules of evidence.

Gortney said a three-pronged approach is under way. The first prong involves recruiting additional navies to the region to work the counter-piracy mission.

U.S. Rear Admiral Terence McKnight is in charge of the naval task force, which became fully operational in January. "We are out there in force," he said, working with coalition navies "to ensure commerce flows freely."

The second prong calls on the shipping industry to share their best piracy-deterrent practices. Merchant ship captains have stepped up efforts to elude pirates by taking evasive maneuvers, lining their boats with barbed wire, deploying foam and even locking crews in the bridge out of reach of the attackers.

Pirates are in business for the money earned by holding the crews and ships for millions of dollars in ransom; they are not interested in the cargo.


The last prong will entail holding pirates accountable for their crimes. As Gortney put it: "We are going to go after the pirates . . . to make it unpleasant" for them to carry out their criminal activities.

If task force members inspect "fishing" boats loaded with pirate equipment such as rifles, grenade launchers, grappling hooks and boarding ladders, they seize the equipment, document it and then pitch it overboard.

The task force is coordinating with and sharing experiences with the Atalanta maritime force dispatched to the region by the European Union in December. Atalanta, with six ships under British command, has been escorting ships leased by the World Food Progamme to deliver relief aid to Somalia.

Gortney said the task force has been exchanging unclassified e-mails with the Chinese Navy about schedules and plans. Communications with Russian naval forces is by radio transmission. Both navies are primarily escorting their own national flag vessels.

Gortney said having the Russians and Chinese participating is a positive sign. "We look forward to their continued participation," he added.

The next step will involve the creation of a justice system in the region to prosecute captured pirates. Punishing pirates for attacking merchant ships will act as a deterrent to new recruits. Gortney said there must be serious deterrents for individuals contemplating careers as pirates.

U.N. Security Council Resolution 1851, passed in December, calls on nations and regional organizations fighting pirates to establish special agreements with countries that are willing to prosecute them.

The international Contact Group on Piracy met for the first time in January, pulling together 24 nations as well as the International Maritime Organization to talk about the problem of piracy. The group is scheduled to meet again in March. ... ght-africa

Faced with rising piracy problem, Navy is taking fight to Africa
By Louis Hansen
The Virginian-Pilot
January 23, 2009

In just two weeks, a new U.S. Navy anti-piracy effort has picked up a pair of allies - the weather and a nation willing to accept captured pirates.

Choppy seas have discouraged piracy attempts since the Navy established the force, known as Combined Task Force 151, two weeks ago. The U.S. also has reached a preliminary agreement with Kenya to accept captured pirates, said Rear Adm. Terry McKnight, commander of the task force.

The Navy established the task force as piracy attempts in the Gulf of Aden continued to grow and Chinese and Russian navy ships moved to guard merchant vessels.

The U.S. task force is coordinating efforts with 14 nations, said McKnight, a Norfolk native in charge of both the force and Norfolk-based Expeditionary Strike Group Two. The navies have established a corridor along the Gulf of Aden to make it easier to protect merchant ships, he said.

Piracy attacks rose at an unprecedented rate in 2008, according to an annual report issued last week by the International Maritime Bureau. Reported incidents grew 11 percent, to 263 worldwide.

More than one-third of the attacks occurred in the Gulf of Aden, off the coast of Somalia. The incidents peaked with 19 attacks in September, including the high-profile seizure of a Ukrainian freighter ship carrying weapons. That ship is still being held by pirates waiting for their ransom demands to be met.

The Navy's new task force is operating with the amphibious ship San Antonio and destroyer Mahan, both based at Norfolk Naval Station.

On Monday, the San Antonio's crew discovered artillery shells aboard an Iranian charter boat in the Red Sea, according to CBS News, raising concerns about the intended recipient of the munitions. Navy officials requested assistance from Egypt to perform another search of the ship, according to reports from CBS and The Associated Press.

A Navy spokesman declined to comment on the report.

The anti-piracy operation is being coordinated from the San Antonio, which is making its maiden voyage. The ship spent a month in the shipyard in Bahrain to fix oil leaks shortly into its deployment.

McKnight said the ship's communications systems, helicopter air wing and Marines make it an ideal ship to command anti-piracy operations. The ship also includes a Coast Guard law enforcement unit and a Naval Criminal Investigative Service agent to collect and preserve evidence to be used against suspected pirates.

"It's really a law enforcement operation," he said.

McKnight has been meeting with European navy officers to coordinate efforts. Kenyan assistance will be important, he added.

Captured pirates have often been released back to their native Somalia, where they face no punishment because the government has collapsed, he said. Kenya has agreed to a framework for holding suspects, and lawyers are working on the details.

The international cooperation has come about through common goals, he said. "We want free commerce throughout the world."
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