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How to Handle Pirates:

The ship seized by pirates off the coast of Somalia appears to be the first US-flagged vessel to be seized by pirates in quite some time. What is the proper response? Julian Ku ponders self help. There are also several posts and ideas on the NYT Room for Debate blog here and here. On the subject, last fall, I had a post, "Why Don't We Hang Pirates Anymore?"

UPDATE: Apparently these pirates have been handled.

Ben S. (mail):
Nothing has to be mutually exclusive.

First, companies ought to put private security personnel on the freighters in that area, just as companies put pistols and guards on the armored cars that ferry cash in cities throughout the United States. Short of that, they should at least arm the crew and teach them in close-range defensive tactics.

Freighters may even advertise the fact that they are armed (I'm sure there is a flag for this) to encourage pirates to go after other, apparently unarmed ships.

In addition, countries should be given the authority---or use it if they already have it---to engage pirates on the open seas just as they could an alien ship in their national waters.

I think Julian Ku downplays the impact of the U.S. Navy too much. Yes, the Navy is more at home engaging other capital ships, but apparently he/she has not heard of the U.S. Navy SEALs, which make their living boarding and seizing vessels of virtually any size on the open water. Not to mention that virtually all of the amphibious assault craft in the area have helicopter gunships on board which can make short work of the "speedboats" and skiffs that pirates fancy.

I predict that U.S. flagged ships will be avoided after this incident.
4.12.2009 11:57am
subpatre (mail):
The proper response was written into our Constitution long ago.
Letters of Marque
Piracy is an unnecessary, negative externality with no contribution to the economy. So some 'stimulus' money to reward stimulate action on the Letters would be called for too.

Piracy, to some degree like terrorism, utilize civilization's inherent flaws to operate. A response by our armed services will be problematic, witness our conflicted response and Gitmo. A third party may be able to better 'deal' with the problem.

It could be (not probable but possible) that Letters would create the beginning of acceptable or even decent government in the area. If Puntland received substantial financing and recognition —for service rendered— it could well evolve toward Somoli stablility.
4.12.2009 11:59am
Ben S. (mail):

A response by our armed services will be problematic, witness our conflicted response and Gitmo.


Maybe. But the act of attacking/killing/capturing pirates who hold hostages is a more direct link than jailing prisoners for years on end for vague associations with disfavored entities in Afghanistan. Similar in principle, but the degree would make all the difference.
4.12.2009 12:15pm
Soronel Haetir (mail):
Ben,

If the other threads on this topic are correct arming crews creates its own set of issues. If the destination port won't allow a vessel with an armed crew to enter there isn't much point in making the trip.

Perhaps offload the arms onto a smaller boat in international waters then enter the port then pick up the armaments again on the way out?
4.12.2009 12:15pm
DangerMouse:
We could shell the Somali coast, blowing all pirate refugees to smithereens. And we could sink every boat in their harbors. They'd think twice before messing with an American flagged ship again.
4.12.2009 12:16pm
ArthurKirkland:
We could avoid the "Iraq" problem by refraining from intentionally, and by pretext, attacking the wrong vessels.

We could avoid the "Gitmo" problem by refraining from nearly indiscriminate roundups, holding people for years without regard to guilt or innocence, and torturing them.

I believe the United States Navy (with Marines) could handle this problem with flying colors. Drones, helicopters, satellites, warships, long-range weapons, Seal teams . . . the pirates not only wouldn't stand a chance but would likely learn quickly to avoid vessels protected by the armed forces of the United States (U.S.-flagged vessels).

This could bolster the U.S. shipping industry. (I wouldn't permit free riders among Liberian- or Panamanian-registered vessels; they would pay for U.S. security services or find their own way.)

Identify. Track. Destroy.
4.12.2009 12:24pm
NTB24601:
How about organizing flotillas for the smaller vessels with military escorts?
4.12.2009 12:26pm
Oren:

Drones, helicopters, satellites, warships, long-range weapons, Seal teams . . .

Piracy costs us about $300M a year in ransom, adding <1% to the cost of shipping through the horn. Spending tens of billions, even on principle, seems ridiculous.

How much is our current deployment costing?
4.12.2009 12:31pm
Malvolio:
Is this really a problem? $1000 worth of armament and $500 worth of training of crew would enable a freighter to sink any pirate vessel afloat. Require all US-flagged ships in the Indian Ocean to have such arms and training, invalidate on public-policy grounds any insurance proviso restricting them, and voilà, no more piracy.
4.12.2009 12:32pm
Ben S. (mail):

Ben,

If the other threads on this topic are correct arming crews creates its own set of issues. If the destination port won't allow a vessel with an armed crew to enter there isn't much point in making the trip.

Perhaps offload the arms onto a smaller boat in international waters then enter the port then pick up the armaments again on the way out?


Yes, I just finished reading some of the posts you describe. The posts seem to focus on three concerns:

1) Increased insurance premiums
2) Regulations prohibiting armed vessels from docking
3) Danger of discharging weapons on board vessels full of volatile materials

Regrading the first concern, I don't have numbers, but I'm not sure I need them to refute it. First of all, people who say it is cheaper to pay "ransom" than pay increased insurance costs for armed crew are ignoring the fact that the ransom is often being paid for the crew. The ship and cargo---potentially worth billions---is lost, witness the previously seized ships the pirates are steering into the area involving the American captain. I can only assume that this possibility comes with its own impact on insurance premiums.

Second, a plan that depends on ransom will only perpetuate, rather than reduce, the occurrences of piracy. In other words, once you set on that track, you must be prepared to pay forever. On the other hand, arming guards has the potential to discourage piracy and, over the long run, will make this practice far less common.

You addressed the second concern with the idea of flying guards on and off ships. This could work. One thing I wonder about is what those regulations actually prohibit. Do they prohibit 5" deck guns and rocket launchers seen on destroyers, or small arms? The latter seems kind of unlikely given how hard it would be to enforce such a rule. How can you find 10-20 submachine guns and pistols on a freighter of that size?

In any event, as ships with armed guards are no longer targeted by pirates, the ports would be under substantial pressure to relax their restrictions on armed vessels (assuming, again, that the restrictions actually involve small arms). In time, the ports may well allow the ships to dock, thereby obviating the need for crews to be flown in and out.

Another possibility is that armed ships refuse to dock in ports that don't accept armed ships. No doubt those ports get some sort of duty fare or docking fee to have ships dock there. This is, of course, free market thinking. Ports that DO allow armed vessels---perhaps through prior agreement with the shipping companies---may receive a sharp increase in business, thereby encouraging all other ports to accept such vessels as well. Unfortunately, I don't know enough about shipping and such to tell whether this is practical, but I think it's sound theoretically.

The final concern is a good one: The idea of firing bullets on a ship loaded with flammable or explosive cargo is dangerous. However, there are ways to minimize this harm. First, any such cargo would no doubt be stored according to regulations, which requires hardened containers. The crews could be armed with pistols and submachine guns firing, for example, 9mm rounds or other snub-nosed ammunition. These bullets do a very poor job of piercing metal objects (or any objects, really) which is what makes them the ammunition of choice for Delta Force, the U.S. Navy SEALs, or local SWAT agencies, as stray bullets are unlikely to pierce walls and other material and thereby harm other commandos or hostages in adjoining rooms. (These weapons also have the added benefit of being compact, which makes them much easier to use in tight spaces, such as a ship.)

In addition, this concern overlooks the fact that the weapons would primarily serve a deterrent role. If a ship is armed and that fact is advertised, I suspect that no weapons would ever have to be fired. Indeed, arming crews may actually reduce the danger of a fire or explosion since it may potentially discourage the pirates from coming on board with their AK-47s, assault rifles that, unlike a submachine gun or pistol, fire rounds that could very easily pierce containers and the like.
4.12.2009 12:36pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Just recently someone I know was almost carjacked right near his home in a normally safe East Bay California suburb. He resisted being pulled from this car and passersby came to his aid. In very short order police surrounded the land pirates.

At Krav Maga self defense classes they instruct you to never allow yourself to be taken hostage. Fight back with any and all means. Policemen in my own town have told me (informally) the same thing.

It's simply insane to take a passive approach to piracy on the high seas. Kill the pirates! They are not legal combatants or even ordinary civil criminals. They need to be executed on the spot. Can anyone tell us which treaty the US would violate if it killed pirates on the high seas?
4.12.2009 12:42pm
A.:
DM: We could also nuke the whole damn continent. But that, too, would be over-inclusive and dumb.
4.12.2009 12:46pm
JKB:

Perhaps offload the arms onto a smaller boat in international waters then enter the port then pick up the armaments again on the way out?


You mean the small boat that would be then be the most attractive target in the area and also would need some type of support in the way of stores, fuel, and personnel which might be impeded by port states unhappy with such an action. Simpler solution would be to stop shipments to ports in the area, defend traffic to the Suez and divert more traffic around Africa. That would raise costs to European ports but be minimal in increase cost to a US port. Maybe if surrounding port states, port of cargo origination states and states needing the route to for commerce will take action since Western governments are encumbered by progressive thinking.

Ships transiting the area are already convoying which raises costs since they must wait for enough ships to form up. Crew rates have doubled and some shipping is rounding the Cape of Good Hope to avoid the area.

The actions by the US crew has demonstrated the benefits of having a professional, trained crew rather than the minimal standards required by some flag states.
4.12.2009 12:49pm
pirates arrrrggghhh (mail):
who are these pirates and where did they come from?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TjreRSFNLTI
4.12.2009 12:49pm
TerrencePhilip:
thoughtful op-ed in the Times today.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/12/opinion/12kaplan.html
4.12.2009 12:55pm
flashman (mail):
NTB24601's suggestion of an organized "flotilla" is interesting. During WWI and WWII we called these convoys, which were an effective response to roving German U-Boats. To organize these it took a lot of US leadership (both diplomatic and military) because our (and Great Britain's) economic interests were at stake. The costs for the effort were, however, enormous and I frankly doubt that the varied interests (national, subnational, and private) currently in the region could result in anything so broadly accepted. That said, without convoys it would be virtually impossible to protect individual ships in the region.

Contrary to some other bloggers, the Somali pirates are not terrorists, but criminals operating primarily out of a failed state. There's not a big political motivation or a desire on the pirates' part to "influence an audience."

Some terrorism definitions:

Dept of State: Premeditated, Politically Motivated Violence Perpetrated Against Noncombatant Targets by Subnational Groups or Clandestine Agents, Usually Intended to Influence an Audience
22 U.S.C. Section 2656(f)

Department of Defense: Calculated Use of Violence or Threat of Violence to Inculcate Fear; Intended to Coerce or to Intimidate Governments or Societies in the Pursuit of Goals That Are Generally Political, Religious, or Ideological
DoDD 2000.12, DoD Combating Terrorism Program, Encl. 2 (15 Sep 96)

Department of Justice: International Terrorism
…activities that involve violent acts or acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State, or that would be a criminal violation if committed within the jurisdiction of the United States or of any State; appear to be intended -
(i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;
(ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or
(iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and
occur primarily outside the territorial jurisdiction of the United States, or transcend national boundaries in terms of the means by which they are accomplished, the persons they appear intended to intimidate or coerce, or the locale in which their perpetrators operate or seek asylum;
(18 USC, Part I, Chapter 113B, Section 2331 and 2332b)

Though having the US Navy on-scene in relatively short order is a great stop-gap measure, a military response to criminal activity, even though it's overseas, may be feasible, but might not be acceptable or suitable. I frankly think it fails the suitability test.

We do have a federal para-military law enforcement agency to deal with this problem, and it's called the Coast Guard. Maybe what we should consider is convoying US ships in and out of the region, demonstrate our ability to protect our own, and then use this (hopefully) successful example to entice the remaining members of the international community (and private shipping agents) to participate....all at a subsidized cost that needs to be less than that charged by the pirates for the return of a carrier.
4.12.2009 12:57pm
Tony Tutins (mail):
Send in the Marines!
4.12.2009 1:18pm
John Moore (www):
Several points...

There are ties between Somali pirates and Al Qaeda, as Al Qaeda has a strong presence in the Pirates' area - southern Somalia. Furthermore, given the cash flow, Al Qaeda will not doubt increase their presence. Also, passive resistance to pirates may cause Al Qaeda to launch terrorist piracy operations under the cover of the for-profit pirates.

If Al Qaeda had captured that American ship, and started beheading Americans, we would be facing a foreign policy challenge now.

......


A legal question exists as to what to do with captured pirates, and suspected captured pirates. In what way is that different from capture terrorists and suspects, other than the lower value of information to be obtain in interrogation of the pirates. A discussion of this issue would be illuminating.

......

The problem with using military power directly against the pirates is identification - a pirate ship is not a pirate ship until it engages in piracy, at which point it is too late to intervene unless you are immediately ready.

However, it might be very useful for the military to use its C3ISr assets to track pirates, and then subsequently exact punishment by killing them or their leaders. Drones, maritime surveillance aircraft, satellite data and other sources, if available with enough spatial and temporal density, could be useful for that.

............


I favor the use of defense teams on ships. They needn't be on every one, and they could be dropped off from a ship at one end of journey through pirate waters, and picked up by another ship going the other way. Reputable mercenary outfits could easily do this.

It might also be appropriate to use Q-ships... ships that are intentionally attractive targets that lure pirates in and then kill them (capture triggers too many lawyers).
4.12.2009 1:19pm
Oren:

... all at a subsidized cost that needs to be less than that charged by the pirates for the return of a carrier.

The US military can do many missions, at a moments notice anywhere in the world, better than any other force.

Doing so economically, unfortunately, was never part of the intended design goals.
4.12.2009 1:23pm
Bob from Ohio (mail):
Look at history. Pirates are stopped by destroying the bases from which they operate.

We know that they operate from certain villages. Start by destroying every boat in or near the water. Repeat every two weeks.

If that does not work in a few months, you are going to have to actually destroy those villages.

When they shift bases, repeat.

Nothing else is going to work.
4.12.2009 1:23pm
Oren:

The problem with using military power directly against the pirates is identification - a pirate ship is not a pirate ship until it engages in piracy, at which point it is too late to intervene unless you are immediately ready.

Indeed. Even more troubling, while I trust our boys to operate under the ROE and make a positive identification, the global perception might be different. Whether or not civilians are killed, the claim will be made.

Moreover, how hard would it be for the pirates to actually take a few fisherman onboard their ship and cast some lines?
4.12.2009 1:27pm
Oren:


We know that they operate from certain villages. Start by destroying every boat in or near the water. Repeat every two weeks.

If that does not work in a few months, you are going to have to actually destroy those villages.

Destroying the livelihood, homes and perhaps lives of the innocent just so you can avoid a 1% surcharge on your shipping?

I have no qualms whatsoever about giving our boys the right to fire on anyone they can positively id as a pirate, but this is just madness.
4.12.2009 1:30pm
Some Dude:
Don't they have yardarms on ships anymore? Or planks?
4.12.2009 1:45pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
ArthurKirkland:

I believe the United States Navy (with Marines) could handle this problem with flying colors. Drones, helicopters, satellites, warships, long-range weapons, Seal teams . . . the pirates not only wouldn't stand a chance but would likely learn quickly to avoid vessels protected by the armed forces of the United States (U.S.-flagged vessels).


I think it requires Marines and Army to do well. The big issue at the moment is the cost of the war in Iraq and our commitments in Afghanistan, Japan, South Korea, and elsewhere.

If we are going to do it, we need to do it right. This means, in all likelihood at least 100000 troops on the ground (whether all are Americans is another question), a provisional authority, etc. Really, this means taking on another Iraq-style operation.

The fundamental problem is what I call "zones of lawlessness." These areas where no civil law exists are prime grounds for all manner of problems including piracy (the real kind here, not the fake pirates the RIAA is afraid of), international terrorism, etc.

IMO, I think any serious attempt to address Somalia is going to have to either happen through international organizations with American support, or it will have to wait until our obligations in Iraq are met and we no longer have to maintain a strong troop presence there (this raises further questions as to whether containing Iran or establishing law and order in Somalia becomes a more important issue).

Merely addressing this issue as a costal problem means, in all likelihood that the problem could not be really resolved but just suppressed (temporarily!) in this way.
4.12.2009 1:47pm
davod (mail):
The rub here is the current administration is reinventing a set of guidelines set up by the Bush Administration and codified by the UN and countries around the world.

You might want to read Piracy, Policy, and Law,by By Commander James Kraska, JAGC, U.S. Navy, and Captain Brian Wilson, JAGC, U.S. Navy in the December edition of Proceedings.

I recommend reading the complete article, but I have included some extracts here:

"...Less than a year later [2006], a dhow plying the ancient trade route between India and Africa was taken over in international waters by ten Somali pirates armed with rocket-propelled grenades and AK-47 assault rifles. Fortunately for the 16 Indians on board, there was a U.S. warship nearby. When the USS Winston S. Churchill (DDG-81) encountered the besieged dhow, her immediate mission was clear: gain control of the vessel and detain the pirates.

[the USS Winston Churchill went to the aid of a ship even though it was not US flagged]

...Once the pirates were in custody, the way ahead became less clear as the destroyer's commanding officer, and more broadly, the American government and the international community confronted the myriad diplomatic and legal challenges of piracy suppression in the 21st century. Who would investigate and prosecute the case? Where would the pirates be held, and by whom? What about the Indian crew members, all of them witnesses to the crime, and what would happen to their ship and cargo?

The successful interdiction by the Churchill sparked a global effort to develop a modern playbook for confronting piracy. In the United States, the Bush administration began to develop a policy consistent with national maritime strategy, which culminated in a comprehensive piracy policy governing diplomatic and legal action and signed by President George W. Bush in 2007. This establishes a framework for warships that encounter or interrupt acts of maritime piracy and armed robbery at sea, as well as for agencies charged with facilitating the prosecution of perpetrators and the repatriation of victims and witnesses. But because much of the ocean's surface is beyond state jurisdiction, effective piracy repression demands international action and coordination...

Decisive U.S. Action
The wide-ranging policy signed by President Bush—the broadest presidential articulation of U.S. policy toward international piracy since the time of the Barbary pirates—was developed through the National Security Council by Navy judge advocates in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy and Strategic Plans and Policy, Joint Staff. It establishes seven goals, each an important component for addressing piracy...

...Dramatic Action
Perhaps most significant, the UN Security Council took historic action against maritime piracy this past summer. Resolution 1816, which was decided under Chapter VII of the UN Charter and therefore legally binding on all states, called on them to cooperate in counterpiracy actions off the coast of Somalia. The resolution authorizes operations inside Somalia's territorial waters to deny that area as a safe haven for pirates who operate outside the 12-mile limit. It also provides for disposition and logistics of persons-under-control detained as a result of counterpiracy operations.The resolution encourages states to increase and coordinate their efforts to deter acts of piracy in conjunction with the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia, a weak ruling authority inside the fractured state. It also calls on states, the IMO, and other international organizations to build a partnership to ensure regional coastal and maritime security, and is designed to bring together flag, port, and coastal states, and other states with jurisdiction under national and international law. They will cooperate in determining criminal jurisdiction for acts of piracy, in its investigation and prosecution, and in rendering disposition and logistics assistance to victims, witnesses, and persons detained
4.12.2009 2:00pm
Oren:


If we are going to do it, we need to do it right. This means, in all likelihood at least 100000 troops on the ground (whether all are Americans is another question), a provisional authority, etc. Really, this means taking on another Iraq-style operation.

Oh dear lord. I'm reminded of a quote that I just spent about 20 minutes unsuccessfully googling to the effect of exasperation at the notion that every time there is something wrong with the world, we have to raise an army and go fix it.
4.12.2009 2:01pm
Oren:
PS. If anyone could find that quote (I believe a Brit, ca 18-19C) I'd be appreciative. It's killing me.
4.12.2009 2:01pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Oren:

What do you really think would be required to solve the problem? And what would a solution look like?

I am saying that shelling fishing villages would have very little effect and pirates would probably adapt to such a strategy quite quickly. To solve the problem you have to be able to establish controls against piracy on the ground as much as on the sea.

Someone has to raise an army to deal with the problem. I am not saying it should (or even could, at the moment, given the economic, strategic, and political realities) be us. However, until law and order exists on the ground in Somalia, it will be a haven of international terrorism and piracy. I don't see how one can establish law and order in this way without an army.
4.12.2009 2:09pm
Moneyrunner43 (www):
I am shocked by the belligerent attitude expressed by those on this thread. These so-call “pirates” have the right to live too. The very idea of not treating them with compassion, to seek the root cause of piracy and to address those root causes is the obvious answer.

And to those gunslingers who want to breach international law by arming crews with the potential loss of life that could result from gunfire by untrained people is just crazy. Do you people want the “Wild West” shootouts on the high seas? Do you realize that ships’ crews are not trained in the use of firearms? The potential liability is staggering. They would end up shooting each other, if not on board ship, then in port while drunk.

There have been suggestions of capturing and hanging these freedom fighters. I’m glad that the US congress has finally seen the light and most of the Neanderthals have been replaced by people with real compassion for the downtrodden and dispossessed. Congress will stand up for these people and demand a fair trial followed by release in the United States once acquitted since their rights have been violated by the bloody butchers who use force to re-take the ship.
Our new non-political attorney general, Eric Holder, has declined to say whether the kidnappers of the American captain will be “brought to justice” by the U.S. “I’m not sure exactly what would happen next,” he declares, yet some people want to take the law into their own hands. I thought we were a better people than that; that we had outgrown out atavistic impulses with the election of President Obama.
One of the reasons that the British Navy has declined to intervene is that under the European Human Rights Act, any so-called “pirate” taken into custody would be entitled to claim refugee status in the United Kingdom and if be able to apply for government assistance during his stay. We should take a leaf from the pages of the Europeans and calm down. These people are merely Somali nationalists fighting against the aggression of a foreign occupying power. They can’t be evil, they’re a minority.

This is all a distraction from the really important needs of this country: health care, housing, education, income redistribution. Leave the President alone.
4.12.2009 2:25pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):

Moreover, how hard would it be for the pirates to actually take a few fisherman onboard their ship and cast some lines?


Or for that matter, how likely is it that pirate groups would include at least some ex-fishermen who would be competent and appearing to run a fishing vessel?

It seems to me there are two "solutions."

1) Deterrence. Make sure American ships are not targetted by hard measures when they are. Helps us out but given the chaotic nature, I am not sure what the benefits are. Once again, a deterrence strategy works better when there is one party to be deterred, not scores of little parties. Also this doesn't eliminate or even reduce piracy. It just directs it elsewhere for the time being.

2) Elimination of Somali lawless zones. This requires invasion and occupation. It would be really ideal if the Somali government were able to do this. If they can't or need help, they are going to have to get appropriate allies. However, if we are going to help, we don't want a repeat of what happened under Clinton's watch. I would prefer a larger commitment rather than a smaller one.

Really, I think long-run
4.12.2009 2:29pm
Oren:



What do you really think would be required to solve the problem? And what would a solution look like?

I don't see any solution that is more economical than paying the toll.
4.12.2009 2:29pm
norm (mail):
Declare by whatever legal means are required ( declare war if we have to ) that any boat approaching within a hundred yards of a US flag ship (and perhaps others) in a very large part of the Indian Ocean without permission will be sunk as will whatever larger boat that approaching boat came from. With our ships and surveillance aircraft we can positively identify many attackers. We won't cover all attacks, but the losses will likely deter future pirates. When the Somalis have a government which can and does prevent attacks for a year, we can return to normal peacetime rules.
Accepting piracy or any criminal behavior as a normal cost of business is insane. Innocent people will die occasionally and the piracy will continue and increase until it is violently suppressed.
4.12.2009 2:32pm
Bob from Ohio (mail):

Destroying the livelihood, homes and perhaps lives of the innocent just so you can avoid a 1% surcharge on your shipping?


Those villages are directly benefiting from the money brought by the pirates. Many people are actually pirates and others sell things to pirates. They are co-conspirators, in fact if not perhaps at law.

The "livelihood" of those villages is based on crime. So, destroy away.

I freely admit we probably won't do it but its the only thing that will work.

Otherwise, we will continue to have rescue dramas like today that sometimes won't have a good result.
4.12.2009 2:32pm
Moneyrunner43 (www):
In a world of law, resistance is futile. Relax and enjoy it. It's cheaper.
4.12.2009 2:35pm
Moneyrunner43 (www):
In times that were less enlightened, merchant vessels were equipped with cannon. Now they sail unarmed. They contract with expensive private security firms, but those security teams do not carry guns: When the MV Biscaglia was seized by pirates in the Gulf of Aden last year, the Indian and Bangladeshi crew were taken hostage but the three unarmed guards from “Anti-Piracy Maritime Security Solutions” in London escaped by jumping into the water.

Smart fellows, these. No one got hurt and the proper ransom was paid. The guards did manage keep peace on the ship before the dissidents arrived.
4.12.2009 2:41pm
Moneyrunner43 (www):
Oh no! The insurgents were gunned down just as the government negotiators were trying to re-establish contact after their initial negotiations broke down. How many rules of international law were broken by this lawless act by the US navy against civilians?
4.12.2009 2:49pm
Moneyrunner43 (www):
Oren,

It's you and me my friend against the trigger-happy, lawless militarists. We can still pay the ransom to the widows and orphans of the poor freedom fighters.
4.12.2009 2:57pm
DennisN (mail):

Those villages are directly benefiting from the money brought by the pirates. Many people are actually pirates and others sell things to pirates. They are co-conspirators, in fact if not perhaps at law.

The "livelihood" of those villages is based on crime. So, destroy away.


It is the only strategy that will work. And I agree, we're fire too civilized emasculated to do a damn thing.
4.12.2009 2:59pm
Moneyrunner43 (www):
DennisN:

Our new president is not the trigger happy cowboy that he replaced, and don't call him a eunuch. Have you seen how he looks in a suit? And how buffed he is with his shirt off? And that wife with the finely toned arms?

I’m sure the murder of the civilians accompanying Captain Phillips was caused by missed communication between Washington and the Indian Ocean. All will be well.
4.12.2009 3:17pm
Ben S. (mail):
So, just to be clear, are we all just ignoring "Moneyrunner43"? I'm cool with it, just wanted to make sure.
4.12.2009 4:30pm
Sagar:
Moneyrunner43,

Count me too in the coalition of enlightened (or is it "civilized"?) my friend! there is just not enough effort these days to understand the root causes of problems. just "tough talk" and "shooting first and asking questions next".

With you, Oren and me, we will start a movement to re-civilize the barbaric decaying West!
4.12.2009 4:36pm
Oren:


Those villages are directly benefiting from the money brought by the pirates. Many people are actually pirates and others sell things to pirates. They are co-conspirators, in fact if not perhaps at law.

The "livelihood" of those villages is based on crime. So, destroy away.

You know, I saw the clerk at a local 7-11 sell a pack of cigs to a drug dealer the other day: co-conspirator! He filled his car with gas at the Shell station: co-conspirator! Then he mailed a letter at the US Post Office: co-conspirators!

You really have no concept of what the word "conspiracy" means.

As I said, I have no problem killing the pirates and their actual conspirators. The guy at the market that sells them a bag of rice, on the other hand, what has he done?
4.12.2009 4:46pm
Bob from Ohio (mail):

You really have no concept of what the word "conspiracy" means.


Accessories then.


As I said, I have no problem killing the pirates and their actual conspirators. The guy at the market that sells them a bag of rice, on the other hand, what has he done?


The people in a small village know who the pirates are, that is the difference. These villagers are flush with cash because of the pirates.

If you knowingly aid criminals, you can't complain if you share their fate.
4.12.2009 6:40pm
Chuck Jackson (mail):
The Avalon project has a copy of Blackstone's Commentaries. Here's what he said about the law of piracy.

PUBLIC WRONGS.
BOOK IV.
CH. 5.

THE offence of piracy, by common law, confifts in committing thofe act of robbery and depredation upon the high feas, which, if committed upon land, would have amounted to felony there n. as, by ftatute 11&12 W.III.c.7. if any natural born fubjeft commits any act of hoftility upon the high feas, againft others of his majefty's fubjefts, under colour of a commiffion from any foreign power ; this, though it would only be an act of war in an alien, fhall be conftrued piracy in a fubject. And farther, any commander, or other feafaring perfon, betraying his truft, and running away with any fhip, boat, ordnance, ammunition, or goods ; or yielding them up voluntarily to a pirate ; or confpiring to do thefe acts ; or any perfon confing the commander of a veffel, to hinder him from fighting in defence his fhip, or to caufe a revolt on board ; fhall, for each of thefe offences, be adjudged a pirate, felon, and robber, and fhall fuffer death, whether he be principal or acceffory. By the ftatute 8 Geo. I. c.24. the trading with known pirates, or furnifhing them with ftores or ammunition, or fitting out any veffel for that purpofe, or in any wife confulting, combining, confederating, or correfponding with them ; or the forcibly boarding any merchant veffel, though without feifing or carrying her off, and deftroying or throwing any of the goods overboard ; fhall be keemed piracy : and all acceffories to piracy, are declared to be principal pirates, and felons without benefit of clergy. By the fame ftyatutes alfo, (to encourage the defence of merchant veffels againft pirates) the commanders or feamen qounded, and the widows of fuch feamen as are flain, in any piratical engagement, fhall be entitled to a bounty, to be divided among them, not exceeding one fiftieth part of the value of the cargo on board : and fuch wounded feamen fhall entitled to the penfion of Greenwich hofpital ; which no other feamen are, except only fuch as have ferved in a fhip of war. And if the commander fhall behave cowardly, by not defending the fhip, if fhe carries guns or arms, or fhall difcharge the mariners from fighting, fo that the fhip falls into the hands of pirates, fuch commander fhall forfeit all his wages, and fuffer fix months imprifonment.

THESE are the principal cafe, in which are the ftatute law of England interpofes, to aid and enforce the law of nations, as a part of the common law ; inflicting an adequate punifhment upon offences againft that univerfal law, committed by private perfons. We fhall proceed in the next chapter to confider offences, which more immediately affect the fovereign executive power of our own particular ftate, or the king and government ; which fpecies of crimes branches itfelf into a much larger extent, than either of thofe of which we have already treated.


================

Funny spelling. But bottom line: Yielding up voluntarily to pirates was a capital offense. Refusing to fight if armed gained six months in jail.

If the shipping companies were fined $100,000,000 for paying ransom, the piracy would end in a few week---it would just take that long to get appropriate arms on board ships transiting near Somalia.

Chuck Jackson


with pirates
4.12.2009 8:07pm
Moneyrunner43 (www):
Oren,

I am shocked that you, a student of the law are ignorant of the definition of "conspirator." What are they teaching in law school these days?

Me, I would demand a refund. You are not getting your money's worth.

And if I were you, I would be careful about attributing illegality to 7-11. They have a right to sue for defamation.
4.12.2009 8:41pm
Moneyrunner43 (www):
Ben s,

Thanks for your concern. But why? Are my comments not compelling? Do you feel that others should jump in. Why not you?
4.12.2009 8:45pm
Moneyrunner43 (www):
Praise Obama, the captives are free. Now how do we meet the legitimate demands of the freedom fighters of Somalia?
4.12.2009 8:49pm
John Moore (www):

Indeed. Even more troubling, while I trust our boys to operate under the ROE and make a positive identification, the global perception might be different. Whether or not civilians are killed, the claim will be made

That this is even an issue indicates what a sorry state we are now in. Under these circumstances, why should we give a fig what the global perception is?


I don't see any solution that is more economical than paying the toll.


Economics isn't the issue. Rule of law and anti-terrorism is.

Oh, and how about the several hundred people currently being held hostage by the pirates. How do you calculate the monetary value of that?
4.12.2009 9:04pm
Ricardo (mail):
That this is even an issue indicates what a sorry state we are now in. Under these circumstances, why should we give a fig what the global perception is?

As long as the U.S. is engaged in a Global War on Terror and as long as there is no political will for the U.S. to invade and occupy many more countries, we need help from certain key people in trouble areas. These people in turn cannot help us if the public in their country opposes the U.S.

Shelling and bombing the Somali coastline would inevitably lead to lots of loss of innocent life, property and fishing boats. The way this would be interpreted in Somalia is that Americans who don't care the least about their country (and who abandoned it after losing soldiers in the early 1990s there) blew up some poor fisherman's boat in order to protect billionaire shipping interests. That's propaganda being served on a platter to Al Qaeda and others and would almost certainly help to recruit more foot soldiers.

Unless anyone has the stomach for a prolonged invasion and occupation of Somalia, I don't see shelling the coastline as a viable long-term solution.
4.12.2009 10:07pm
Ricardo (mail):
We know that they operate from certain villages. Start by destroying every boat in or near the water. Repeat every two weeks.

If that does not work in a few months, you are going to have to actually destroy those villages.


The pirates are quite sophisticated and wealthy by now. Destroying every boat in the villages off coastal Somalia would sure destroy a lot of fishing boats but pirates would simply buy pick-up trucks and trailers and haul the boats inland. Remember, these are mostly speedboats.

Most of the support network of laundering ransom money and purchasing weapons also takes place inland. The actual pirates probably tend to live in the coastal villages but once you destroy the livelihoods of enough fisherman and boat crews, the pirates will have a large reserve army to recruit from.
4.12.2009 11:00pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
John Moore hits the nail on the head:

Economics isn't the issue. Rule of law and anti-terrorism is.


This is why I think it will eventually come to a full land invasion and occupation of southern Somalia. Killing a few pirates in order to enforce the rule of law is like arresting a few illegal farm workers to stop the tide of illegal immigration. Solving the actual problems requires a lot more effort and commitment.
4.13.2009 12:02am
John Moore (www):
I hope it doesn't require invasion and occupation, and frankly don't think it will.

What is needed is for shipowners to be incentivized and enabled to protect their ships.

I saw an interview tonight with the owner of the ship. His ship was insured (which is why these guys are willing to pay ransom) as was the crew. From his economic standpoint, it is better to pay the ransom and move on. From the standpoint of the greater good, this is unacceptable, and needs to be modified.
4.13.2009 12:37am
Moneyrunner43 (www):
According to the experts the crew of the Maersk Alabama did everything wrong.

The rules for ships are much like the rules formerly in place for planes: if captured don't resist.



According to a set of best practices for ships off Somalia as laid out by 11 international agencies including the International Maritime Bureau issued in February, when attacked by pirates a vessel should speed up, take evasive action and even turn fire hoses on their attackers. But once boarded, crews should “offer no resistance; this could lead to unnecessary violence and harm to crew.”




The crew of the Maersk Alabama was criticized by one risk management firm:

John Wick, managing director of corporate risk management firm International Security Solutions Ltd, said the crew was very lucky. “It’s all very gung ho and it’s like watching a good movie,” he said. “But what the crew did was potentially very dangerous and could have gone very wrong.” … Wick said in general Somali pirates have treated captives well and a system is in place for ransoming captured crews.



You can only imagine the horror with which he greeted the killing of the remaining pirates and rescue of the captain.

Richard Fernandez (Wretchard) makes this observation which I believe to be very true:

My guess, and it’s only a guess, is that the fear of liability prevents the arming of merchant ships. That can be incurred in several ways. One is where a jumpy merchant crew opens fire on an innocent small boat, or what is later alleged to be an innocent small boat, for which they may be sued. Alternatively, one of the crew may be hurt in repelling boarders and he may later allege that whatever he may have contractually agreed to, he is entitled to more damages.

If your crew is largely Bangladeshi, Filipino, or such, then it is probably cheaper to let them be kidnapped and ransom them. If any should die in captivity, a few tens of thousands of dollars are typically enough to buy the silence of their destitute families. Human rights lawyers are expensive to pay off. Filipino widows are comparatively cheaper to mollify.



But if ships crews are instructed to fight, how can the "civil rights for pirates" crowd be cowed?


That’s why Fred Ikle’s suggestion that the UN forbid the payment of ransom may be a good way to go. This would put a crimp in the liability argument of the human rights people because if something is mandated by the UN, then that’s the final word in their world. Things don’t have to make sense to the politically correct ambulance chasers, but the right bit of paper can make all the difference.
4.13.2009 7:19am
Moneyrunner43 (www):
Sagar,
Thanks for the comment. We few, proud members of the vanguard of the proletariat can - with Oren and a few of his associates - bring a new birth of niceness and law and compassion and fairness and peeps. Most of all peeps. But don't bite their heads off.
4.13.2009 7:46am
Oren:

The people in a small village know who the pirates are, that is the difference. These villagers are flush with cash because of the pirates.

If you knowingly aid criminals, you can't complain if you share their fate.

The people in my fine town know who the drug dealers are -- they live right down the street from me (they even have the trademark sneakers on the power lines up). They buy things from the local stores, they pay their rent and utilities. By your logic, we are all complicit. And, of course, the same for the drug dealers in your neighborhood ...

We are responsible for our actions, not for playing inquisitor and executioner for our neighbors.


I saw an interview tonight with the owner of the ship. His ship was insured (which is why these guys are willing to pay ransom) as was the crew. From his economic standpoint, it is better to pay the ransom and move on. From the standpoint of the greater good, this is unacceptable, and needs to be modified.

It's amazing how much hostility the right (phrase used colloquially) has to the freely arranged contractual affairs of men with whom they have no business. I expect the notion that certain individual contracts should be voided as a matter of "the greater good" to be a common theme on Kos, but here?

Those ship owners have the right to manage their business however they see fit, same as any business here.
4.13.2009 9:54am
Oren:

That this is even an issue indicates what a sorry state we are now in. Under these circumstances, why should we give a fig what the global perception is?


Because we are constantly asking other countries to arrest/detain/expel various people. If you want to let Yemen return to being an open-door for AQ, that's fine, but I prefer the status quo where at least the government prevents many of them from operating openly.
4.13.2009 9:57am
John Moore (www):
Oren:

Yes, and our actions towards the pirates is going to change that?

As for Yemen, they just released all their Al Qaeda prisoners. This is hardly a useful status quo.

It is better to be feared than to be liked in foreign affairs.


It's amazing how much hostility the right (phrase used colloquially) has to the freely arranged contractual affairs of men with whom they have no business. I expect the notion that certain individual contracts should be voided as a matter of "the greater good" to be a common theme on Kos, but here?

Those ship owners have the right to manage their business however they see fit, same as any business here.


Matters of freedom of the shipping lanes go way beyond the preferences of the individual users of those lanes. By your logic, we should just refrain from any attempt to deal with pirates, near Somalia, or in the Straits of Malaca, where our efforts have been greatly successful. Hey, it's just business, right?
4.13.2009 1:40pm
Tim McDonald:
I am trying to decipher how you can refer to people taking hostages and ships and holding them for ransom qualify as "freely arranged contractual affairs".

I assume if you are ever on a kidnappers jury and he gets the family to pay up, and then lives up to his part and releases the victim, he should be allowed to go free, as he lived up to his end of the "contract"?
4.13.2009 2:38pm
John Moore (www):
Tim - right on!
4.13.2009 2:52pm
road2serfdom:
I assume Oren's logic would apply to murder for hire as well. Punishing either the murderer or the person who paid him would violate their right to form a contract.
4.13.2009 3:24pm
Oren:

I am trying to decipher how you can refer to people taking hostages and ships and holding them for ransom qualify as "freely arranged contractual affairs".

I assume if you are ever on a kidnappers jury and he gets the family to pay up, and then lives up to his part and releases the victim, he should be allowed to go free, as he lived up to his end of the "contract"?

That's not what I meant. You might be new here, but you might want to read the context of the discussion. Let me recap so you don't have to go through all that terrible trouble.

Mr Moore said:

I saw an interview tonight with the owner of the ship. His ship was insured (which is why these guys are willing to pay ransom) as was the crew. From his economic standpoint, it is better to pay the ransom and move on. From the standpoint of the greater good, this is unacceptable, and needs to be modified.

To which I replied that a freely entered into contract, which referred to the one between the ship's owner and the insurance company is the freely-arranged contractual affair. The ship owner pays a premium and the insurer deals with losses and pays the ransom. He prefers that solution and it's for him to decide because it's his goddamned ship. Not yours. If other ship owners want to mount machine-guns and carry mercenaries, they can do as they please, but this ship owner does not.

To claim that "for the greater good", that contract needs to be modified is contrary to the basic proposition that free men (insurance companies, ship owners, ships crew) can regulate their own affairs without meddling. The existence of the pirates is no different than any other regular hazard that befalls commercial enterprise and can be dealt with in the same fashion -- letting the free market sort it out.

Finally, to answer your pedantic questions, we should wherever possible kill/maim/capture pirates. No, there is no right to engage in murder-for-hire. Please try to be less stupid next time.
4.13.2009 4:06pm
John Moore (www):

To claim that "for the greater good", that contract needs to be modified is contrary to the basic proposition that free men (insurance companies, ship owners, ships crew) can regulate their own affairs without meddling.


And I did not claim the contract needed to be modified, but rather than the owners be incentivized to fight piracy.

What we have in this situation is an externality. The pirates are taxing the entire world through their felonious activities.


The existence of the pirates is no different than any other regular hazard that befalls commercial enterprise and can be dealt with in the same fashion -- letting the free market sort it out.


Only in the sense of insurance. In the sense of international trade, it is piracy and cannot be treated as merely a "cost of business." Otherwise, we could say the same thing about any protection. Instead, without regard for the relative economic value, we attempt to prosecute those engaged in protection rackets.

So I'm not sure exactly what your point is.
4.13.2009 5:39pm
Tim McDonald:
Oh, I'm not all that new here. Glenn Reynolds has been linking to Volokh for years, and I have spent a lot of time reading various posts and comments over the years. Rarely do I read anything so egregious that I feel compelled to step out of the shadows, but I really do have issues with your logic.

Your logic still escapes me. It appears you want to abrogate the criminal aspects of the law for the commerical aspect. If the ship owner and his insurance company want to pay the ransom, fine. But if the USN/RN/(insert your choice of nation-state armed forces here) want to take the pirates out,they have first call. I may have misunderstood, but I thought you were arguing that the ship owner/insurance company got to make the call, which is flat wrong.

Enforcing the law comes first, and piracy is one of the few things that has settled international law with precedents to apply.
4.14.2009 8:51am
road2serfdom:
Oren, I am not sure how laundering the money through an insurance company gets the ship owner off the hook. If we agree paying the pirates directly should be illegal, then all your example changes it that the insurace company is also breaking the law by financing pirates. Both the ship owner and the insurance company would be complicit in directly financing (as well as increasing incentives for) future piracy of other ships.
4.14.2009 10:38am
Oren:
Tim, I'm not usually that keen to let the government decide first in most cases. In the future, ship owners that want their wishes respected will simply not notify the media/USN until the ransom payment is completed (and will hire crews that are on the same page, since it's much better for the crews to pay the ransom and go alive -- only one hostage has been killed in the past 20 years).

R2S said:

If we agree paying the pirates directly should be illegal ...

No, we don't agree. There can be no crime for an action taken under duress -- that's an ancient principle of law that I'm sure I quote from Blackstone if you really want.
4.14.2009 11:53am
Oren:
I should amend that, there are crimes (murder) that are not subject to the defense of duress. In the case of piracy, however, payment of the ransom clearly qualifies under the reasonable-person standard.
4.14.2009 12:02pm
SC Public Defender:
@subpatre

I don't believe Letters of Marque would be called for. No authority was needed to defend oneself against pirates. What a Letter of Marque did was give a defense to the charge of piracy if one attacked a foreign flagged ship. (Someone that does Maritime law please correct me if I'm wrong.)
4.14.2009 1:53pm

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