Yo Ho Ho (and a bellyful of bravado)

Pirates. I never thought I’d be reading about Pirates as a modern day phenomenon…as a newsmaking phenomenon…yet, I am, and they are. Supposedly these pirates are engaging in this risky behavior to protest the ruined fishing industry off their coastline in Somalia. Apparently, because their livelihood has been devastated, they now have no other recourse than to attack passing vessels. Hmmm….

Here is an article, courtesy of CNN:

No way to stop us, pirate leader says

From David McKenzie

NAIROBI, Kenya (CNN) — Somalis are so desperate to survive that attacks on merchant shipping in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean will not stop, a pirate leader promises.

“The pirates are living between life and death,” said the pirate leader, identified by only one name, Boyah. “Who can stop them? Americans and British all put together cannot do anything.”

The interview with the pirate was conducted in late August by journalists employed by the Somali news organization Garowe Online. The complete interview was provided to CNN last week and provides a glimpse of why piracy has been so hard to control in the region.

Recorded on grainy video, the interview took place in the Somali port city of Eyl, now a center of pirate operations. Eyl is on the east coast of Somalia in the autonomous territory of Puntland. It is a largely lawless zone, considered extremely dangerous for Westerners to enter.

The Puntland government said two unidentified Western journalists were taken hostage Wednesday as they attempted to report on pirate activity.

Boyah said that the piracy began because traditional coastal fishing became difficult after foreign fishing trawlers depleted local fish stocks. Traditional fishermen started attacking the trawlers until the trawler crews fought back with heavy weapons. The fishermen then turned to softer targets. VideoWatch why fishermen turned to piracy »

“We went into the deep ocean and hijacked the unarmed cargo ships,” Boyah said.

“For the past three years, we have not operated near the Somali coast. We have operated at least 80 miles [out], in international waters.”

When merchant shipping started avoiding the Somali coast, Boyah said, “we went to ships traveling other routes.”

Over the past year, the number of pirate attacks has increased dramatically. The International Maritime Bureau cites more than 90 pirate attacks off East Africa so far in 2008. When attacks are successful, the hijacked ships are taken to Somali waters, where the ships and crew are held until a ransom is paid. See how pirate attacks have increased »

Ships recently captured include a massive Saudi supertanker laden with crude oil valued at more than $100 million and a freighter carrying Russian-built tanks.

The hijackings have been profitable. Kenya‘s foreign minister, Moses Wetangula, estimates the pirates have been paid more than $150 million during the past year. One pirate gang wants $2 million dollars to release a Yemeni freighter and crew seized last week.

Facing increasing disruptions through one of the busiest sea lanes in the world, several countries have sent warships to patrol the area. There have been reports of skirmishes between pirates and naval forces, but the military presence does not concern pirate leader Boyah. He boasts the pirates literally sail in a vast ocean beneath the radar of the warships. VideoWatch how piracy thrives off Somalia »

“No ship has the capability to see everything,” he said. “A ship can see 80 miles or so [on radar]. It cannot see us at all. No one can do anything about it.”

Boyah said it is unlikely the Puntland regional government would ever crack down on piracy because government officials are involved in financing the piracy and collect a cut of the ransoms.

“They motivate us. It’s their money and their weapons,” Boyah said. “Thirty percent belongs to them.”

The Puntland foreign minister, Ali Abdi Aware, denied government involvement with the pirates, including taking bribes. The minister cited the arrest of six pirates earlier this year as evidence it is acting to stop piracy.

Pirate Boyah said he is unimpressed with the arrests by Puntland authorities.

“The pirates are at sea and Puntland does not approach them. The pirates are on land and Puntland does not approach them,” Boyah said. “They arrest some small people and tell the world that they captured pirates, but they are liars.”

While Boyah may have been outspoken about the government’s ineffectiveness, he did not allow interviewers to show his face, an indication that even in this lawless country, pirates still have some fear.

Interesting…..there are apparently quite a few folks out in blogger-land that feel the Somalis are actually the victims and their “retaliation” is justified:

(from commondreams.org)

A US ship, owned by a Pentagon contractor with ‘Top Security’ Clearance, was seized off the Somali coast. Reports say the US crew has retaken the ship. But the question remains: Why are the pirates attacking?

by Jeremy Scahill

UPDATE: US Crew Tricked Into Giving Over Captain to the Pirates? Meanwhile US Warships head to Scene
Just as it seemed that this drama was coming to an end, the story has taken a very bizarre turn.[The Maersk Alabama container ship which was hijacked by Somali pirates. (AFP/HO)]

The Maersk Alabama container ship which was hijacked by Somali pirates

At least one nuclear-powered warship is reportedly [1] on its way to the scene of the hijacking off the coast of Somalia of a vessel owned by a major Pentagon contractor. A US official told the Associated Press the destroyer USS Bainbridge is en route while another official said six or seven ships are responding to the takeover of the “Maersk Alabama,” which is part of a fleet of ships owned by Maersk Ltd., a US subsidiary of a Denmark firm, which does about a half-billion dollars [2] in business with the US government a year.Just as it seemed that this drama was coming to an end, the story has taken a very bizarre turn. It seems as though the pirates essentially tricked the ship’s “all-American” crew into handing over the Alabama’s captain, Capt. Richard Phillips.

After reports, based on Pentagon sources, emerged that the ship had been retaken by the US crew, word came from the ship that the captain of the “Alabama” had been taken by the pirates onto a lifeboat. The details of how exactly the four pirates managed to get the captain onto a lifeboat are still sketchy, but it seems a little bit like a scene out of a Marx brothers movie. The ship’s second mate Kenn Quinn was interviewed on CNN and described how the crew was essentially tricked into handing the captain over to the pirates. Quinn spoke [3] to CNN’s Kyra Phillips:

Quinn: When they board, they sank their boats so the captain talked them into getting off the ship with the lifeboat. But we took one of their pirates hostage and did an exchange. What? Huh? Okay. I’ve got to go.Phillips: Ken, can you stay with me for just two more seconds?

Quinn: What?

Phillips: Can you tell me about the negotiations, what you’ve offered these pirates in exchange for your captain?

Quinn: We had one of their hostages. We had a pirate we took and kept him for 12 hours. We tied him up and he was our prisoner.

Phillips: Did you return him?

Quinn: Yeah, we did. But we returned him but they didn’t return the captain. So now we’re just trying to offer them whatever we can. Food. But it’s not working too good.”

As TV Newser [3] pointed out, “Later Phillips gave what may be the understatement of the day: ‘It sounds like the pirates did not keep their end of the deal.'”

* * * *

The Somali pirates who took [4] control of the 17,000-ton “Maersk Alabama” cargo-ship in the early hours of Wednesday morning probably were unaware that the ship they were boarding belonged to a US Department of Defense contractor with “top security clearance,” which does a half-billion dollars in annual business with the Pentagon, primarily the Navy. What’s more, the ship was being operated by an “all-American” crew—there were 20 US nationals on the ship. “Every indication is that this is the first time a U.S.-flagged ship has been successfully seized by pirates,” said [5] Lt. Nathan Christensen, a spokesperson for for the U.S. Navy’s Bahrain-based 5th Fleet. The last documented pirate attack of a US vessel by African pirates was reported in 1804, off Libya, according to The Los Angeles Times [5].

The company, A.P. Moller-Maersk [6], is a Denmark-based company with a large US subsidiary, Maersk Line, Ltd, that serves US government agencies and contractors. The company, which is based in Norfolk, Virginia, runs the world’s largest fleet of US-flag vessels. The “Alabama” was about 300 miles off the coast of the Puntland region of northern Somalia when it was taken. The US military says the Alabama was not operating on a DoD contract at the time and was said to be delivering food aid.

The closest US warship to the “Alabama” at the time of the seizure was 300 miles away. The US Navy did not say how or if it would respond, but seemed not to rule out intervention. ”It’s fair to say we are closely monitoring the situation, but we will not discuss nor speculate on current and future military operations,” said [7] Navy Cmdr. Jane Campbell.

The seizure of the ship seemed to have been short-lived. At the time of this writing, the Pentagon was reporting that the US crew retook the ship and was holding one of the pirates in custody. At this point, it is unclear if the crew acted alone or had assistance from the military or another security force.

Over the past year, there has been a dramatic uptick in media coverage of the “pirates,” particularly in the Gulf of Aden. Pirates reportedly [7] took in upwards of $150 million in ransoms last year alone. In fact, at the moment the Alabama’s seizure, pirates were already holding 14 other vessels with about 200 crew members, according to the International Maritime Bureau. There have been seven hijackings in the past month alone.

Often, the reporting on pirates centers around the gangsterism of the pirates and the seemingly huge ransoms they demand. Indeed, piracy can be a very profitable business, as the following report from Reuters [8] suggests:

A rough back-of-the-envelope calculation shows that the operation to hijack the Saudi tanker, the Sirius Star, cost no more than $25,000, assuming that the pirates bought new equipment and weapons ($450 apiece for an AK-47 Kalashnikov, $5,000 for an RPG-7 grenade launcher, $15,000 for a speedboat). That contrasts with an initial ransom demand to the tanker’s owner, Saudi Aramco, of $25 million.

“Piracy is an excellent business model if you operate from an impoverished, lawless place like Somalia,” says Patrick Cullen, a security expert at the London School of Economics who has been researching piracy. “The risk-reward ratio is just huge.”

But this type of coverage of the pirates is similar to the false narrative about “tribalism” being the cause of all of Africa’s problems. Of course, there are straight-up gangsters and criminals engaged in these hijackings. Perhaps the pirates who hijacked the Alabama on Wednesday fall into that category. We do not yet know. But that is hardly the whole “pirate” story. Consider what one pirate told [9] The New York Times after he and his men seized a Ukrainian freighter “loaded with tanks, artillery, grenade launchers and ammunition” last year. “We don’t consider ourselves sea bandits,” said Sugule Ali:. “We consider sea bandits those who illegally fish in our seas and dump waste in our seas and carry weapons in our seas. We are simply patrolling our seas. Think of us like a coast guard.” Now, that “coast guard” analogy is a stretch, but his point is an important and widely omitted part of this story. Indeed the Times article was titled, “Somali Pirates Tell Their Side: They Want Only Money.” Yet, The New York Times acknowledged, “the piracy industry started about 10 to 15 years ago… as a response to illegal fishing.”

Take this fact [10]: Over $300 million worth of tuna, shrimp, and lobster are “being stolen every year by illegal trawlers” off Somalia’s coast, forcing the fishing industry there into a state of virtual non-existence.

But it isn’t just the theft of seafood. Nuclear dumping has polluted the environment. “In 1991, the government of Somalia collapsed,” wrote Johann Hari in The Independent [10]. “Its nine million people have been teetering on starvation ever since – and the ugliest forces in the Western world have seen this as a great opportunity to steal the country’s food supply and dump our nuclear waste in their seas.”

According to Hari:

As soon as the [Somali] government was gone, mysterious European ships started appearing off the coast of Somalia, dumping vast barrels into the ocean. The coastal population began to sicken. At first they suffered strange rashes, nausea and malformed babies. Then, after the 2005 tsunami, hundreds of the dumped and leaking barrels washed up on shore. People began to suffer from radiation sickness, and more than 300 died.

This is the context in which the “pirates” have emerged. Somalian fishermen took speedboats to try to dissuade the dumpers and trawlers, or at least levy a “tax” on them. They call themselves the Volunteer Coastguard of Somalia – and ordinary Somalis agree. The independent Somalian news site WardheerNews found 70 per cent “strongly supported the piracy as a form of national defence.”

As the media coverage of the pirates has increased, private security companies like Xe/Blackwater have stepped in, seeing profits. A few months ago, Blackwater executives flew to London to meet with shipping company executives about protecting their ships from pirate attacks. In October, the company deployed [11] the MacArthur, its “private sector warship equipped with helicopters” to the Gulf of Aden. “We have been contacted by shipowners who say they need our help in making sure goods get to their destination,” said the company’s executive vice-president, Bill Matthews. “The McArthur can help us accomplish that.”

According to an engineer [12] aboard the MacArthur, the ship, whose crew includes former Navy SEALS, was at one point stationed in an area several hundred miles off the coast of Yemen. “Security teams will escort ships around both horns of Africa, Somalia and Yemen as they head to the Suez Canal… The McArthur will serve as a staging point for the SEALs and their smaller boats.”

All of this is important to keep in context any time you see a short blurb pop up about pirates attacking ships. “Did we expect starving Somalians to stand passively on their beaches, paddling in our toxic waste, and watch us snatch their fish to eat in restaurants in London and Paris and Rome?” Hari asked. “We won’t act on those crimes – the only sane solution to this problem – but when some of the fishermen responded by disrupting the transit-corridor for 20 percent of the world’s oil supply, we swiftly send in the gunboats.”

And for a really snarky blogger’s take on this whole situation, I direct you HERE According to this blogger, the US is entirely to blame. Why am I not surprised??? There will always be a certain faction that wants to blame every heinous act upon the good old USA. While I can believe that during the Bushwhacker administration, many many unsavory and illegal and immoral and yes CRIMINAL things went on, I do not automatically believe the US is responsible for EVERY illegal or immoral or criminal act around the globe. Even IF the Somalis have a legitimate beef in complaining that their main livelihood has been devastated by commercial fishing industries, that doesnt excuse their turning to piracy as a result! What’s more, many of the ships that they are attacking are actually carrying FOOD to these hungry peoples, food which doesnt reach its intended destination!!! Now WHERE is the logic in THAT???

for an excellent program on piracy, please see the history channel. LINK

No, Im sorry. I cant feel any sympathy for these eejits. Two wrongs never have and never will make one right.


~ by irishgrl on April 16, 2009.

4 Responses to “Yo Ho Ho (and a bellyful of bravado)”

  1. Snarker could be on to something. I looked around there and:




    What would you do if your women were dying of radiation on the beaches so globalists can run weapons and and control resources? As the “pirates” attest, nothing really ever changes.

    • hello? you MISSED my point. no one said the Somalis didnt have a legitmate beef, what I am opposed to, (and I suspect most Americans are opposed to) is that the Somali “pirates” choose to retaliate by hijacking and terrorizing uninvolved peoples in an attempt to gain attention for their cause. Not only that, they are actually sabotaging aid efforts meant to help alleviate suffering!!

      Sorry, we have moved beyond finger pointing and knee-jerk blaming of America to asking these folks to STAND UP and ask for help in an ADULT fashion. You DONT go around committing acts of piracy in an effort to get sympathy for your cause that your country’s livlihood is being squashed. As I said before (and SOME people apparently need this in ALL CAPS and BOLD type:

  2. You missed snarkers point. Who is funding and protecting those pirates and why when the Islamic Courts Union had shut that whole operation down during their brief rule in the summer of 2006 (when a measure of calm was restored, before the US prodded their client Ethiopia to invade and occupy for three years — and for what? Same ICU people are back now with alleged US approval)? Don’t you dig and investigate? I expected more from you, sorry. Bye

  3. Sigh…Bill, your so-called “digging” was nothing more than cherry picking amongst other BLOGGERS, not legitimate NEWS sources. So, those bloggers stated their opinions based on what exactly???
    From your own first link:

    “As the author says, there’s no excuse for the excesses of these “pirates.” And we should remember that people are always willing to come up with a legitimate-sounding excuse for illegal behaviors or social ills.”

    I found NO credible evidence to back your allegation that the US is actually funding or protecting these pirates. Not only that, if that WAS the case, I would say that they miscalculated badly in biting the hand that feeds them by hijacking the Maersk Alambama.

    ALL of your links repeat the SAME EXACT ARTICLE, (originally found in the SF Bay View, a self styled National Black Newspaper–whose reporters and many of the commentators have strong overtones of Black Militant groups) which indicates to me that there isnt a lot of corroborating evidence out there, sorry. Also, the articles repeat it was EUROPEAN ships that were doing the nuclear dumping after the collapse of Somalia’s government, NOT the US. Again, the knee-jerk chorus of blaming the US is getting monotonous.

    Apparently you flatter yourself to be an expert on “digging” and “research” however, when all three of your sources repeat almost verbatim the same article, I’d hardly call that damning evidence against the US.

    You may have expected more from me, but you quite lived up (actually DOWN) to my expectations.

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