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[Eugene Kontorovich, guest-blogging, April 14, 2009 at 4:44pm] Trackbacks
Why Crews Don't Resist

In answer to Dave Kopel's bleg below, there are as far as I am aware no international legal restrictions to crews resisting pirates. A ship is governed by the laws of the flag state, and the relevant regulations would come from there.

However, the crew has no incentive to resist. The crews are not military personnel. They are just working on a ship for a living, and not getting paid much. They would not risk their lives to save the insurers/owners some money. This is exactly what pirates bank on. In the age of sail this was also the case: merchant crews almost never resisted, and thus there was little occasion for the pirates to be violent.

Nor do shipowners want their crews to resist. Shooting could result in the loss of the ship, a massive financial blow. The payments to pirates are minor in the big scheme of things (in comparison) and more easily dealt with on an actuarial basis. My understanding is that insurers insist crews be unarmed.

The resistance by the crew of the Alabama was extraordinary and unusual. I would love to know why they did it. It may be linked to the vessel being a government-chartered ship; this voyage was not about making money. Or maybe its that Southern spirit.

Oren:
So, in essence, we have all the stakeholders (shipping companies, insurers, crew) that want to continue with the status quo of paying ~$300M a year in transit fees. And yet the governments of the world are tripping over themselves to spend billions to solve this non-existent problem contrary to the wishes of everyone involved.

I could be persuaded of the merits of (expensive) military intervention if any of the parties actually wanted it, but to "help" someone against their will is the worst kind of doublespeak.
4.14.2009 4:51pm
Troll (mail):
I would never trust my fate to pirates or any criminal. I would insist my crew be allowed to arm themselves reasonably, and if the company refused I would arm them anyway and risk losing my job.
4.14.2009 4:53pm
Oren:

I would never trust my fate to pirates or any criminal.

Despite their proven track record -- one hostage harmed in the last 20 years, out of tens of thousands taken?

I'd prefer that to taking my chances in a shootout between the pirates and the SEALS. The SEALS are good shots alright, but the pirates are liable to spray the room will bullets indiscriminately.
4.14.2009 4:56pm
Angus:
I would never trust my fate to pirates or any criminal. I would insist my crew be allowed to arm themselves reasonably, and if the company refused I would arm them anyway and risk losing my job.
The point is, though, you are assuming that the crews want to be armed and resist. Which they don't, because they stand a higher chance of ending up dead by resisting than by surrendering.
4.14.2009 4:56pm
NowMDJD (mail):
There's one other factor-- the pirates hold the crews hostage. The prospect of spending a long time in captivity in a primitive place with some of the most uncomfortable climatic conditions in the world (not to mention the possibility of being killed by captors some of whose motivation is religious fanaticism) may motivate crews to resist.
4.14.2009 4:57pm
My Middle Name Is Ralph:

In the age of sail this was also the case: merchant crews almost never resisted, and thus there was little occasion for the pirates to be violent.


It's my understanding that this is true only when the merchant vessel was outgunned and that resistance was therefore futile. Conversely, when the pirate ship was outgunned, it would be rare for it to attempt to take the ship. In between, you might get a fight.

In the age of sail, merchant vessels were armed. Assuming our forebearers were not irrational, there was a reason for that.
4.14.2009 4:57pm
Ugh (mail):

Or maybe its that Southern spirit.


Jack Daniels?
4.14.2009 4:59pm
James Gibson (mail):
More likely that southern Rebel spirit, the one that caused the Captain of the CSS Alabama to sail out of harbor to engage with the stronger USS Kearsarge.
4.14.2009 5:02pm
My Middle Name Is Ralph:

So, in essence, we have all the stakeholders (shipping companies, insurers, crew) that want to continue with the status quo of paying ~$300M a year in transit fees. And yet the governments of the world are tripping over themselves to spend billions to solve this non-existent problem contrary to the wishes of everyone involved.


It seems that the rate of piracy and amount of ransom is exponentially increasing. In fact, it would be amazing if it weren't given the low barriers to entry to the pirate business, the low costs, thus far, of engaging in piracy, and the amount of money to be made. Query also whether there are external costs involved in bankrolling Somali warlords.
4.14.2009 5:04pm
Oren:

There's one other factor-- the pirates hold the crews hostage. The prospect of spending a long time in captivity in a primitive place with some of the most uncomfortable climatic conditions in the world (not to mention the possibility of being killed by captors some of whose motivation is religious fanaticism) may motivate crews to resist.

Aside from the fact that hostages have reported (up till now) being treated well and "being fed sumptuously" by the pirates. Source.
4.14.2009 5:05pm
My Middle Name Is Ralph:
Just curious, where would one go to get basic background info on these pirate problems (numbers of ships taken, general locations, amounts of ransom money, pirate tactics, etc.)?
4.14.2009 5:07pm
Oren:


It seems that the rate of piracy and amount of ransom is exponentially increasing.

Nope, just the media coverage. The maritime insurers report relatively stable outlays of $200-300M / year in transit fees for the past decade of so. Again, up till now, anyway.

Insurers are actually going to raise rates now because there is a much higher probability of violence &military action, which means a much higher risk of harm to the crew and damage to ship and cargo.
4.14.2009 5:07pm
FantasiaWHT:
For the same crappy reasons that store managers tell their employees never to resist a robber. All these calculations seem to ignore the idea that resistance will cause the number of incidents to decrease.
4.14.2009 5:08pm
My Middle Name Is Ralph:

However, the crew has no incentive to resist. The crews are not military personnel. They are just working on a ship for a living, and not getting paid much. They would not risk their lives to save the insurers/owners some money. This is exactly what pirates bank on. In the age of sail this was also the case: merchant crews almost never resisted, and thus there was little occasion for the pirates to be violent.


I can understand why crews do not resist for the reasons given. What I do not understand, however, is why shippers do not hire armed guards. Unless I'm mistaken about the numbers, weapons, and ships of pirates, it would not take that much to easily be able to defeat (and thus deter) any attack. Is it legal problems? Cheaper to pay ransom than pay guards? Something else?
4.14.2009 5:11pm
Kevin P. (mail):
The crews are essentially kidnapped and kept as hostages for months on end while their ransoms are being negotiated. Their lives are in fact at stake. That is the whole point of taking them.

Trusting your life and welfare to kidnappers is unwise. You may emerge unscathed. You may not. At the minimum, you liberty is lost for no fault of your own. The experience is not a pleasant one either. Even if a finger is never laid upon you, you know that your life hangs in the balance.

If we should do nothing about pirates in the Red Sea, then the same logic applies to domestic kidnappings. They are so rare and the economic impact so small, that no government should do anything about domestic kidnappings.

We can extend the logic further to domestic crimes such as arson and other property crimes. Since insurance will cover the damage, why should any government do anything about these crimes?
4.14.2009 5:12pm
Oren:

For the same crappy reasons that store managers tell their employees never to resist a robber.

Because $2000 of cash in the till (on the high side) is worth a million dollar judgment in case the robber hurts your employee?


All these calculations seem to ignore the idea that resistance will cause the number of incidents to decrease.


The deterrent effect of resistance would have to be enormous for it to be preferable to risk a $500M ship over a $5M ransom. The insurers have calculated it and have come to their conclusion. Moreover, since this is a nominally free market, the insurers both make the decisions and bear the costs of those decisions, something you can't say for the military that operates with no regard for the costs that it incurs.

All the stakeholders here are unmoved by these arguments, what makes you think you have anything to add?
4.14.2009 5:13pm
Dave N (mail):
Despite their proven track record -- one hostage harmed in the last 20 years, out of tens of thousands taken?
I understand your point, Oren, but prior to 9/11 the thinking was that the best way for pilots to handle airplane hijackings was to cooperate and do what they were told.

Sure, the track record was worse than it was with shipping piracy. Hostages were killed in several pre-9/11 hijackings; and yes, you can't cause as much damage if you ram a cargo ship traveling at 20 knots into something as you would by flying a jet traveling at 300 mph into a building.

Frankly, I will be happy if the governments of the world work on solving this problem--even if the ship owners are, at best, ambivilent.
4.14.2009 5:13pm
Armed Canadian (www):
The resistance by the crew of the Alabama was extraordinary and unusual. I would love to know why they did it. It may be linked to the vessel being a government-chartered ship; this voyage was not about making money. Or maybe its that Southern spirit.

Not by my standard. Why is anyone surprised an American crew decided to fight back? Sucks if the rest of the world are cowards, the French surprisingly excluded, but the words "Flight 93" should be all that is needed to understand why they did it.

Not to mention the fact the many of the crew probably had more than a passing familiarity with firearms and had good ideas or ways to assault the pirates and disarm them to their own advantage.

I would have been surprised had the American crew not fought back.
4.14.2009 5:14pm
NatSecLawGuy:
Professor, thanks for clearing the underbrush on the international law questions. I look forward to reading your posts in the coming days.
4.14.2009 5:14pm
Oren:

What I do not understand, however, is why shippers do not hire armed guards. Unless I'm mistaken about the numbers, weapons, and ships of pirates, it would not take that much to easily be able to defeat (and thus deter) any attack. Is it legal problems? Cheaper to pay ransom than pay guards? Something else?

In a free market, we can infer from the behavior of the parties that it is cheaper for them to pay their insurers (they were going to get insurance anyway, of course) than to start arming their ships. If it were cheaper to arm their ships, they would do so.

At any rate, the calculations have been done ad-nauseum and it's overwhelmingly cheaper not to resist. It's a minor (<1%) added cost that gets folded into doing business. If an upstart company wants to come up with a new business model, they are welcome to start their own shipping company.
4.14.2009 5:17pm
Oren:

Frankly, I will be happy if the governments of the world work on solving this problem--even if the ship owners are, at best, ambivilent.

I might be, depending on whether, when they are done, they have added to or subtracted from the total cost of shipping through the Gulf of Aden (oh, and how many tax dollars are spent in the process).

Remember folks, the goal here is to ship things from point A to point B for the minimum cost, not to avenge every moral wrong or rid the world of scoundrels.
4.14.2009 5:19pm
gab:
Fantasia writes:


For the same crappy reasons that store managers tell their employees never to resist a robber. All these calculations seem to ignore the idea that resistance will cause the number of incidents to decrease.


May be true, but if I'm the employee who resists, and I risk getting shot, I can't say I'm really going to care much about the long-term deterrent value of my resistance.
4.14.2009 5:22pm
More Importantly . . .:

the calculations have been done ad-nauseum and it's overwhelmingly cheaper not to resist


Your calculations are fundamentally flawed, in that they fail to account for the normative cost of being deprived of one's liberty by an unjust aggressor.

Perhaps you'd care to argue that it's cheaper, too, for accosted women to just lay back and take it?
4.14.2009 5:22pm
c.gray (mail):

In the age of sail, merchant vessels were armed. Assuming our forebearers were not irrational, there was a reason for that.


Merchant vessels were armed, but true merchant vessels ordinarily set sail with crews as small as possible in order to save the operator cash. That meant the same thing then as now: pirates could outgun and, more importantly, outman a large merchantman with a much smaller vessel.


An armed merchantman with 20 crewman simply could not offer efective resistance to a pinnace crammed with 80-100 buccaneers. I doubt modern cargo container vessels, with a crew of roughly 20, could offer effective armed resistance to a few speedboats crammed with 80 Somali khat-chewers, either.
4.14.2009 5:29pm
Tom952 (mail):
Cheap and effective rocket propelled grenades allow a small band of pirates to inflict major damage on a merchant vessel should the episode escalate to shooting. If one happens to be properly positioned in a lawless state, piracy is a good bet for a fast buck.
4.14.2009 5:31pm
whit:

For the same crappy reasons that store managers tell their employees never to resist a robber. All these calculations seem to ignore the idea that resistance will cause the number of incidents to decrease.



no, the fundamental difference is this. in the case of civilian "IN COUNTRY" crimes, the store employees, bank employees, etc. are generally told not to resist. but the stores, banks, etc. know that law enforcement follows up these cases, and for example, in the case of bank robberies, the VAST majority of the bad guys are caught.

the pirate thang is totally different. how do we expect law enforcement to conduct a followup investigation and "arrest" the pirates after the fact, not to mention all the jurisdictional international aspects of doing that?

the dynamics are different. if we don't take the pirates out when they are in the process of committing the act, they likely get away.
4.14.2009 5:32pm
pintler:

The insurers have calculated it and have come to their conclusion. Moreover, since this is a nominally free market,...


I'm not sure this 'market' is particularly free. If, say, the Maersk line wanted to purchase a pair of M-2 Brownings for each of their ships, do the laws of the ports they visit, or US law, allow that? If not, I don't think you can ascribe their failure to do so as the market at work.
4.14.2009 5:32pm
VtFedCt:
It seems more than a little ridiculous to suggest that "not being taken hostage and entrusting your welfare to a group of heavily armed Somali pirates" is not an incentive to resist.

Not to mention other instinctual factors that do not necessarily feat neatly into a cost-benefit analysis. You must be a law and econ guy.
4.14.2009 5:35pm
More Importantly . . .:

if we don't take the pirates out when they are in the process of committing the act, they likely get away


Well, we could always do the logical thing: warn the population of known pirate port cities that their complete thermal destruction will occur should they not depart at once, and after a reasonable period of time, blanket the area with fuel-air explosives.

Why we're patroling, at immense cost, for ships and boats not capable of extended operations is entirely beyond me.
4.14.2009 5:40pm
Chris99 (mail):
Professor,

I agree with the statement that the crew members do not have a financial incentive to resist but I believe that there lack of resistance is more cultural than financial. This will offend some of the more progressive readers, but persons from the "third world" are more fatalistic to their condition because their spirit has been battered for centuries. Americans have a reputation of not only using self defense to protect themselves but protecting others.

See the attached link for a slanted view of life that Americans do not experience.

http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/ johann-hari/the-dark-side-of-dubai-1664368.html
4.14.2009 5:41pm
My Middle Name Is Ralph:

I doubt modern cargo container vessels, with a crew of roughly 20, could offer effective armed resistance to a few speedboats crammed with 80 Somali khat-chewers, either.


Wasn't it only 4 guys who took the Alabama? I was under the impression that typical attacks involved less than 20 and often less than 10 Somalis. Speedboats also do offer much in the way of protection. A couple of mounted .50 cal machine guns should be able to deter anyone in a speedboat armed only with AK-47s and RPG rocket launchers. But, I'm really not too sure of what is happening out there. Basic info on pirate tactics, numbers, numbers and rates of ships seized, how seized, where seized, how much is paid in ransom, who pays, the costs of warship patrols, etc. would be useful to this discussion.
4.14.2009 5:44pm
Hadur:
Am I correct in saying that just like crew members have no incentive to protect the ship or the cargo, shipping companies have no incentive to protect the crew? I mean, they are just contract laborers, right? A shipping company would not care if a crew member is killed because there is no difference to them between re-hiring that member and hiring a new one.

Unless they're held liable for crew members killed by pirates, of course.
4.14.2009 5:45pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
The insurers, not being governments, do not in fact have the option of taking effective armed action against the pirates. Paying the ransoms may be their most cost-effective option available to them, but that doesn't mean that they have freely chosen that option.

Small arms (including automatic weapons) are not sufficient to stop these pirates, who are armed with RPGs and likely other weapons with greater range than, say, an M-16. Even if longer-range weapons were legally available to the insurers and the shipping companies, to be effective, they would likely have to fire at the pirate skiffs while they are some distance away from the ships... and that means a risk of mistaking some innocent fishing vessel for pirates and killing the lot of them. No private company could risk criminal charges of murder. They have no option but to wait until the pirates are close enough to make their intentions crystal clear (to a second-guessing jury in God knows what jurisdiction), which is way too long to wait for someone to threaten you with an RPG.

The pirates are criminals. They have no right to my money, or your money, or the shipping company's money, or the insurance company's money. Those ransoms don't just come from some money jar in the sky; we all pay increased costs for goods because of it. If you've invested in insurance companies (or your retirement account has), your profits are down a bit because of the pirates.

One should never appease evil. It may be necessary from time to time to ignore it for a bit, but appease it? That just encourages the evil, and makes you tacit in it.

Millions for guns, not a penny for tribute!

P.S. This situation isn't really analogous to the rules laid down for bank and convenience store employees. The police are pretty successful at catching and locking up armed robbers of such locations, so there is a deterrent against such activities without endangering the lives of the clerks or innocent customers by armed resistance (not that I fault armed resistance by those who choose to do so). With pirates in international waters off the coast of Somalia (an essentially lawless state itself), there is no deterrent mechanism whatsoever except armed resistance or military force.
4.14.2009 5:47pm
twwren:
Oren:
Why do you use the term "Transit Fees" rather than ransom payments? Is Piracy a legitmate business enterprise not unlike charging a toll to use a private road?
4.14.2009 5:47pm
geokstr:

Oren:
Because $2000 of cash in the till (on the high side) is worth a million dollar judgment in case the robber hurts your employee?

Or even if your employee hurts the robber.
4.14.2009 5:49pm
alkali (mail):
Is this post based on anything other than speculation?

If we're just guessing, I might guess that one reason that commercial ships aren't heavily armed is that they have to come into port in a lot of different countries where such weapons (rightly or wrongly) may or may not be permitted.
4.14.2009 5:54pm
wfjag:

Despite their proven track record -- one hostage harmed in the last 20 years, out of tens of thousands taken?

Cite for this assertion? I've seen quite a few news stories, and some US Coast Guard statistics, about people disappearing and their ships later being found, over the past couple of decades. There are certain areas in which this is not uncommon, including the Gulf of Mexico along suspected drug smuggling routes.

If you are referring only to merchant/cargo ships, then I'd still like to see a cite. That is more believable since, at least recently, the pirates are ransoming ships, cargos and crews, so that harming any of them reduces the ransom paid. If, however, it's decided that the ship or cargo are more valuable than a potential ransom, then likely the crew becomes an unnecessary obstacle that is easily disposed of. Recently that was a concern as to the Ukrainian ship that tanks, arms and ammo on board, since someone or group other the company that owned the ship might be interested in the cargo, sans crew.
4.14.2009 5:58pm
LoopFiasco:
Four more brazen pirate attacks today. Oh noes. What bout letters of marque and reprisal? Could that be an option for the present administration?
4.14.2009 5:58pm
Chris99 (mail):
Geokstr,

You're assuming that US law applies. You have to look at where the incident happen, where the ship is registered, nationalities of parties, etc. Minimum contacts, International Shoe and progeny.
4.14.2009 5:59pm
geokstr:
The US has 11 aircraft carriers in service and one being built, the Brits have 3 and the French have 2 or 3. While I understand there is a lot of ocean to patrol, we always have one or two in that general neighborhood anyway, don't we, if for no other reason than to support the Iraq war?

If one was patrolling that general vicinity all the time, why couldn't fighter jets be scrambled upon getting an SOS from a ship under attack? I would think that most merchant ships have sophisticated enough electronics to detect a potential pirate long before it got to them, and if attempts at radio contact fail, call in the air support.

They could rotate out on a regular schedule, with the other nations supplying every third rotation.
4.14.2009 5:59pm
pintler:
I have a hypothetical for the people who don't believe it is feasible for a merchant ship to defend itself, if there were not legal obstacles. Let's suppose one of the smaller Coast Guard cutters, let's say the USCGC Confidence is transiting the Somali coast for some reason. It does have a large complement (75 total), and has 2 M2 Brownings and a 25mm.

Would you advise that crew to not resist an attempt at a takeover by pirates? Do you think they would be better served by awaiting ransom or resisting? If you do think they should resist, is it because you think the three weapons in question could not be manned in an emergency by a crew of 20, but the larger crew would make that feasible? That maintaining an M2 requires a level of skill beyond the abilities of the people who keep the ship's engines in good repair? That training to use one couldn't be scheduled in between man overboard drills, fire fighting drills, and lifeboat drills? What do you feel makes it wise for the cutter to resist, but unwise if the container ship does?
4.14.2009 6:08pm
Oren:

Your calculations are fundamentally flawed, in that they fail to account for the normative cost of being deprived of one's liberty by an unjust aggressor.

Almost all ransom-resolved hijacking are resolved within 72 hours.
4.14.2009 6:09pm
cal:
Isn't it also not cost-effective for law enforcement to go after Mafia truck-hijacking operations? Why not just pay the street tax?
4.14.2009 6:13pm
Oren:


Why do you use the term "Transit Fees" rather than ransom payments? Is Piracy a legitmate business enterprise not unlike charging a toll to use a private road?

No, it's illegitimate, but ultimately that doesn't matter since the goal is (or should be) to transit goods from port A to port B for the minimum costs. It is not the job of the US government to rid the world of bad people if doing so is antithetical to the interest of the taxpayers (e.g. if doing so increases the cost of shipping).

I guess what I'm saying is that the morally correct thing is not always the best option. Consider the following options:

(A) Pay $300M/yr in ransom.
(B) Pay $0/yr in ransom, paying $1B /yr in military costs + 1% rise in the cost of shipping.
(C) Pay $0/yr in ransom, paying $20B /yr in military costs + 10% rise in the cost of shipping.
(D) Pay $0/yr in ransom, $10000000000T/yr in military costs,
+ 1000000000% rise in the cost of shipping.

Then I prefer (B) followed by (A) followed by (C) then (D). That is to say, there is some threshold of taxpayer money + increased cost of insurance that I'm not willing to pay for the moral satisfaction of not paying ransom. Despite their grandiose rhetoric, I think that's true for everyone.

So there are two debates then.

(1) How much will it cost to stamp out piracy, relative to the costs of paying ransom, both in taxpayer money and increased insurance premiums? That is, what are the actual options available to us and what are the consequences of those actions?

(2) What ratio of those costs is acceptable? For starters, I venture that I'm willing to pay a factor of 10 more for the satisfaction of not paying the pirates, but no more.
4.14.2009 6:18pm
ShelbyC:

So, in essence, we have all the stakeholders (shipping companies, insurers, crew) that want to continue with the status quo of paying ~$300M a year in transit fees. And yet the governments of the world are tripping over themselves to spend billions to solve this non-existent problem contrary to the wishes of everyone involved.



It's not that they want to pay the ransome, but it sounds like a collective action problem. It's less risky for the crews not to resist, and it's cheaper for each individual shipping company to pay the ransome. That doesn't mean it's better overall to continue with the status quo.
4.14.2009 6:19pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
Oren... so you have no objection to me kidnapping you and holding you for ransom from your family, for up to about 72 hours, so long as I feed you "sumptuously"? You're being awfully cavalier about the liberty of other people. How about your own?
4.14.2009 6:20pm
Oren:

What do you feel makes it wise for the cutter to resist, but unwise if the container ship does?

(1) The cutter is liked to an early-warning system that alerts them when a ship is closing on them. That alone gives them an immense advantage over a merchant ship that is taken at night without warning.

(2) The cutter can maneuver/accelerate to avoid being boarded.

(3) The cutter is designed to take fire.

(4) The cutter's crew are trained in combat operations.

I could think of more, if you like . . .
4.14.2009 6:21pm
Oren:

Oren... so you have no objection to me kidnapping you and holding you for ransom from your family, for up to about 72 hours, so long as I feed you "sumptuously"? You're being awfully cavalier about the liberty of other people. How about your own?

(1) You are awfully cavalier about overriding the wishes of the crew, shipping company and insurers in imposing a military solution when they, with only one exception, seem to prefer paying the toll and getting on with the business of transporting cargo. Insurers don't want to blast a $500M ship for the sake of a $2M ransom.

(2) I don't have hostage insurance, so my family would actually have to pay the ransom (which they likely wouldn't have).

(3) If you were already in the act of holding me at gunpoint, I would prefer to cooperate than to get shot in the face.

(4) Your comment evinces a real lack of desire to engage the concept of choosing the most desirable option from a somewhat limited (and crappy) set of options. There is a limited menu of things we can do with regards to the piracy problem. If, at the end of the day, we've spent huge wads of taxpayer money and shipping is much more expensive and dangerous than it was before, I will judge that we have failed.
4.14.2009 6:26pm
More Importantly . . .:
And of course, the crew knows ex ante that they'll only be held captive for three solid days.

Even if it was an assured limit of 72 hours, you've still not addressed the point about the failing of your calculation. If it's a very brief rape, does that make it a cheaper one?
4.14.2009 6:28pm
Oren:

It's not that they want to pay the ransome, but it sounds like a collective action problem.

But they emphatically do want to pay the ransom. It costs them very little (<1% of costs) to buy insurance and the pirates had a track record of doing things quickly and leaving the cargo and crew unharmed.

It's presumptuous to tell someone else what situation they would prefer when they've already clearly expressed their desires in no uncertain terms (one exception, already noted). All the stakeholders want the status quo -- it's cheap and dependable.
4.14.2009 6:29pm
More Importantly . . .:

the most desirable option


It is your subjective and ill-supported definition of the term "desirable" with which some of us are taking issue.
4.14.2009 6:30pm
Tom952 (mail):
letters of marque

Now you're talking. A merchant vessel that I free from pirates is my salvage, right? And since my letter makes me legitimate, I can take my salvaged ship to a civilized port and wait for payment from from Mersk or whoever owns it. Where do I apply? Any of you heros want to sign up for a share of a booty cruise?
4.14.2009 6:34pm
Oren:

And of course, the crew knows ex ante that they'll only be held captive for three solid days.

Even if it was an assured limit of 72 hours, you've still not addressed the point about the failing of your calculation. If it's a very brief rape, does that make it a cheaper one?

They know because the pirates had a powerful incentive to get things going quickly. That's how it worked -- so long as you don't harm the ship, the crew or get them off schedule, you got your payoff.

The question of what is preferable to the crew is for them to decide, not you. They are intelligent human beings that are capable of making their own choices. Quite frankly, I don't see any reason for a poorly paid shiphand to risk his life so that his employer's insurer can avoid a payout. The employer and his insurer don't want the shiphand to risk the ship and cargo to avoid paying a small ransom.

The opinions of the stakeholders that will actually bears the costs and face the consequences of the actions are much more persuasive to me than those whose only investment in the situation is theoretical. They should be the ones to make decisions, not us.
4.14.2009 6:34pm
geokstr:
I haven't seen any description yet anywhere of exactly how these pirates commandeer the merchant ships.

Is the account in one of the earlier comments accurate, about it often being a small number of pirates in a speedboat? Don't these merchant ships sit much higher out of the water? The pirates would have to use grappling hooks and clamber up ropes to get on board.

What about a few relatively inexpensive defensive measures like electrified fences around the hull, or barbed wire fences?
4.14.2009 6:35pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
(1) You have not demonstrated that the crew, shipping company, and insurers would prefer not to see a military solution. As I noted earlier, they (being private entities) can not impose a military solution; I don't see them sending letters to the government asking them NOT to provide military escorts, make targeted strikes on the Somali coast, etc.

(2) So it's less bad to steal money from insurance companies as opposed to real people? I'm sure your family could at least scrape together $10,000 or $20,000 in a pinch.

(3) How many times, with how many guns being pointed at you, will you cooperate, before you decide that maybe living in fear of being kidnapped every day of your life is indeed worse than risking injury or death by defending yourself?

(4) Not at all. I agree with the general concept behind your formula in an earlier comment. What you continually refuse to do, throughout this thread, is to include in it some value for the lives and liberty and freedom of the crews involved. Further, you've yet to actually produce any sources to support the facts you cavalierly dash off, or to even acknowledge the possibility that decisive military action might actually deter pirates. It may not take $1 billion / year to effectively deter most of the pirates; perhaps it will take $1 billion for one year to deter pirates for the next 10.
4.14.2009 6:36pm
Oren:

It is your subjective and ill-supported definition of the term "desirable" with which some of us are taking issue.

So, how much are you willing to pay (in taxpayer money) to avoid paying $300M a year in ransom? Billions? Trillions? Shall we devote the entire GDP to policing the horn of Africa?

Everything has a price, you can debate on the actual value of it but to pretend like it's incommensurable with dollars is naive. I'm not willing to spend an unlimited amount of money here, perhaps you are. . .
4.14.2009 6:36pm
Angus:
Oren... so you have no objection to me kidnapping you and holding you for ransom from your family, for up to about 72 hours, so long as I feed you "sumptuously"? You're being awfully cavalier about the liberty of other people. How about your own?
A better hypothetical is: a certain number of people will be kidnapped in the following year, no matter what. Assume that if the ransom is paid, all of the kidnappings will end with the person released unharmed.

Possible scenarios:
(a) All the ransoms get paid, all victims emerge unharmed physcially
(b) Police decide to attack in each situation. This costs more than the ransoms and a certain percentage of hostages will be killed in the rescue attempts.

Personally, I find (a) to be a better option than (b).
4.14.2009 6:36pm
Tom952 (mail):
"Ahoy Capitan. Disable your electric fence and let us board, or we will fire our RPG into your hull."
4.14.2009 6:37pm
Oren:

I agree with the general concept behind your formula in an earlier comment. What you continually refuse to do, throughout this thread, is to include in it some value for the lives and liberty and freedom of the crews involved.

I did! I said I'd pay $1B a year in military costs to avoid $300M in ransom! I just won't pay $100B a year to avoid $300M in ransom.
4.14.2009 6:38pm
Angus:
Well, we could always do the logical thing: warn the population of known pirate port cities that their complete thermal destruction will occur should they not depart at once, and after a reasonable period of time, blanket the area with fuel-air explosives.And what would stop the pirates from also leaving and then coming back afterwards?
4.14.2009 6:39pm
Oren:
Also, I think the crew's lives, as opposed to liberty are best protected by requiring insurance that covers the ransom. The pirates have no reason to kill a crew if doings so lessens the likelihood of getting paid.


(2) So it's less bad to steal money from insurance companies as opposed to real people?

It's not stealing if the insurance is particularly written to cover the act in question! That's the whole point of insurance. If Loyd's of London specifically says "For a premium of $1000/trip, I will insure your vessel against pirates and pay their ransom requests", then that company has willingly entered into a contract whereby a predicate act results in them paying a sum. That's not theft, it's the usual course of business for insurance companies.

If insurers didn't want to issue these policies or wanted to charge more than the shipping companies wanted to pay then I would reconsider.
4.14.2009 6:42pm
Oren:

How many times, with how many guns being pointed at you, will you cooperate, before you decide that maybe living in fear of being kidnapped every day of your life is indeed worse than risking injury or death by defending yourself?

That depends on a number of things. If I carried ransom insurance, then I wouldn't care because no logical kidnapper would kill me and thus deprive themselves of good money.

At any rate, that's for me, not you, to decide.
4.14.2009 6:43pm
geokstr:

Oren:
Your comment evinces a real lack of desire to engage the concept of choosing the most desirable option from a somewhat limited (and crappy) set of options.

As a CPA, I am well aware of cost/benefit arguments, but this is like paying protection to the mob. Paying for protection from the people charging you for the protection.

It is also the same type of thinking that someone like Ralph Nader loves to excoriate GM for. If a car or a tire company makes an otherwise rational but strictly economic decision to not recall a product line because it's actually cheaper to pay the lawsuits, they should be allowed to do so as well if we're going to subsidize piracy.

And like all other things economic, if you want more of something, subsidize it.
4.14.2009 6:48pm
Oren:

Ahoy Capitan. Disable your electric fence and let us board, or we will fire our RPG into your hull, crippling a $100M ship costing $ZZZM in repairs and delays, possibly destroying or damaging $XXXM worth of cargo and killing your crew for a $YYYM insurance payout


And people wonder why insurers don't like the thought of gun battles.
4.14.2009 6:48pm
Monty:
There are alot of variables to consider that would influence the decision you make. Lets assume first that the ship involved is not carrying volatile cargo. It therefor is unlikely that the ship would be destroyed during a shootout, even if the pirates have some rpgs. We should also assume that the crew is willing to fight, otherwise they would just surrender - weapons or not. Now lets assume you have a large attack of 40 pirates attacking a crew of 20. Due to concern about accidently shooting fishermen, the pirates wont be fired on untill close by or even boarding the ship. Would the crew win?

It doesn't actually matter, there is no way the pirates could take the ship without suffering many casualties, and they would have a bunch of dead and dying hostages (no good for the ransom). Furthermore, you are now on a big, slow moving ship, having killed 20 US Nationals, and you are fresh out of human shields... Now, why would the pirates choose to attack a US flagged ship, which they will know may be armed, when there are many other ships transiting the area. Ships whose flag countries do not allow them to carry arms. Why would any rational, profit driven pirate choose to attack the American flagged ship in those circumstances?

We don't need to stop piracy, we just need to make sure the pirates don't attack US flagged ships.


Other thoughts:
There aren't all that many US flagged ships, you have to pay western wages, and meet much stricter safety and environmental standards. Would it be possible to put Marines onboard US flagged ships in the region? If there are 10 or 20 ships in those waters at a given time, it wouldn't be much of a strain on our troops.

I'm not saying we shouldn't help out the general anti-piracy efforts, but we should make sure that US flagged ships are protected.
4.14.2009 6:49pm
ShelbyC:
Oren:

It's not stealing if the insurance is particularly written to cover the act in question! That's the whole point of insurance.


Uh, the pirates are still stealing, whether they do it from insurance companies or shipping companies.

And did you know that more Anglo-Saxon pence have been found in Scandinavia than in England? Because once you pay the ransom, you never get rid of the pirate.
4.14.2009 6:49pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
Angus: Assume all kidnappers are polite criminals who don't really want to harm anybody. Sure. While we're at it, why not assume that all military counterstrikes will kill only pirates, and not innocent civilians nearby?

Seriously? That's the best you've got? To assume something so patently untrue, that criminals and pirates are 100% rational, will never kill somebody to get rid of witnesses, will never overreact and kill a crewmember they think insulted them, or maybe who tried to resist?

Oren: It's stealing FOR THE PIRATES. The pirates have no right to any of that money whatsoever. It's stealing for them. Banks are reimbursed by insurance companies for their losses from robberies, too. That doesn't make the bank robbers any less criminals, doesn't mean they haven't stolen from the banks.
4.14.2009 6:50pm
Oren:

As a CPA, I am well aware of cost/benefit arguments, but this is like paying protection to the mob. Paying for protection from the people charging you for the protection.

Suppose, arguendo, it's 100X more expensive not to pay. Still the better option?

Nader and his cronies have been peddling the same crap as here in the environmental world, claiming that no cost/benefit analysis of regulation is appropriate because the environment is "priceless". I didn't buy it then and I don't buy it now.

As I said earlier, I'm willing to pay a very substantial, but not unlimited amount to deprive pirates of their ill-gotten gains. I trust you agree with that vague sentiment?
4.14.2009 6:51pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
Oren... I'm glad you have such faith in the rationality of kidnappers. Never heard of a kidnapper making a rational decision to kill his hostage (after receiving the ransom money) to avoid being recognized and caught?

Seriously, you're usually just loopy lefty, but you're being downright stupid here.
4.14.2009 6:51pm
Oren:
PatHMV, accepted. Of course it's still morally reprehensible to pirate. I never claimed otherwise. I just don't buy the idea that we have to do the morally upright thing at any cost.

My original statement was hasty, I take it back.


To assume something so patently untrue, that criminals and pirates are 100% rational, will never kill somebody to get rid of witnesses, will never overreact and kill a crewmember they think insulted them, or maybe who tried to resist?

You don't assume, you look at their track record. If things change, and they become violent, then you can reassess.
4.14.2009 6:53pm
More Importantly . . .:


So, how much are you willing to pay (in taxpayer money) to avoid paying $300M a year in ransom? Billions? Trillions? Shall we devote the entire GDP to policing the horn of Africa?


I'm willing to pay for the summary destruction of all costal infastructure capable of supporting piracy--something that would very, very cheap. Like weeds, the pirates would eventually rebuild their docks, replace their ships, and return to their razed costal towns. Like weeds, we would simply burn them down again.
4.14.2009 6:53pm
pintler:

(1) The cutter is liked to an early-warning system that alerts them when a ship is closing on them. That alone gives them an immense advantage over a merchant ship that is taken at night without warning.

Does anyone know whether modern merchant ship radars can detect a speedboat at a range of, say, one mile?

(2) The cutter can maneuver/accelerate to avoid being boarded.

My googling says the Maersk Alabama is faster than the Confidence, but certainly less maneuverable.

Both #1 and #2, though, argue over how likely resistance is to work. If the cutter can fend off the pirates 95% or the time, and the container ship only 50% or the time, does that mean the container ship shouldn't try? Look at it from the pirate's viewpoint - half the time you win, and half the time you die. Somali pirates are admittedly desperate, but there's a point where it won't be worth it for them.

(3) The cutter is designed to take fire.

Are you sure? Larger navy ships like destroyers have no armor at all - their hull plating wouldn't stop your average deer rifle. They are even worse off than a merchant ship, as their smaller size makes it more likely a hit will be to a vital area.

(4) The cutter's crew are trained in combat operations.

Any reason the merchant crew wouldn't be, just like they are trained in first aid and to fight fires? How much training do you think it takes to establish minimal competency with an M2?
4.14.2009 6:54pm
Oren:

Never heard of a kidnapper making a rational decision to kill his hostage (after receiving the ransom money) to avoid being recognized and caught?

Not if he's a repeat customer, because then he won't get his money next time. The Somali pirates have demonstrated by a long history that they don't harm hostages. When that changes, I'll reassess.

It's funny that a "loony leftiy" is arguing for the obvious free-market solution (insurance) in line with the commercial interests of all involved (quick transit, unharmed cargo/crew). The righties have to make do by arguing for a massively-expensive government intervention that might just make things substantially worse than they were before.
4.14.2009 6:56pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Oren:

First I agree with many of your points. I think that the debate about piracy misses the problem entirely and I think that ransome and SOME deterrence regarding our own citizens is probably reasonable for now.

However, I also think that focusing on piracy misses a larger and more distressing picture. Southern Somalia is more or less a lawless zone. There are no police on the ground. There is a constant civil war. If you want a good comparison (and why I favor eventual military action), think of it as Afghanistan in the lte 1990's.

These lawless zones are basically festering sores which produce all manner of bad things and have a number of ways of seriously hurting us in the long run. We know Al Qaeda is operating in that area. It isn't a stretch to assume they have deals with many of the pirate warlords. Given a chance we will see international terrorism beyond piracy emerge as a major threat from that area.

I am not saying we need to raise an army ourselves. Ethiopia and other countries have been militarily involved in Southern Somalia, so it seems possible we could build a regional coalition which has a strong interest in the return of the rule of law to that area. Perhaps there are small missing pieces we could help with?

I am a firm believer that the solution to the piracy problem is soldiers on land and this is more important than ships at sea.

I am not even saying "now, we must..." but simply rather that "someday, someone will have to..."
4.14.2009 6:57pm
ShelbyC:

You don't assume, you look at their track record. If things change, and they become violent, then you can reassess.


Of course, you can predict things will change. By your logic, the pirates have an incentive to set each ransom so that the predicted cost of future ransoms is just under what it would cost to get rid of the pirates. But the total cost of the ransoms will be greater than what it would cost.
4.14.2009 6:59pm
Oren:

My googling says the Maersk Alabama is faster than the Confidence, but certainly less maneuverable.

They can't get to up speed as fast.


Any reason the merchant crew wouldn't be, just like they are trained in first aid and to fight fires?

If you want to triple your insurance costs, go ahead.


Look at it from the pirate's viewpoint - half the time you win, and half the time you die. Somali pirates are admittedly desperate, but there's a point where it won't be worth it for them.

Given that the payouts are huge (even the drones get $100k), I don't think you could deter them with those odds.

Look, if it were a viable option shipping companies would have already done it. In a free market, I make the inference that the actors have considered their options and chosen the one they feel is best. Since they bear the consequences of that decision, I feel like those that want to contradict them face a large burden.
4.14.2009 7:01pm
Oren:

I am a firm believer that the solution to the piracy problem is soldiers on land and this is more important than ships at sea.

And I am a firm believer that the world is a diaper that I'm not responsible to change.

There are bad places and bad men out there, I'm not charged with the task of ridding the world of them.
4.14.2009 7:02pm
ShelbyC:

In a free market, I make the inference that the actors have considered their options and chosen the one they feel is best.


By definition, piracy is not a free market.
4.14.2009 7:03pm
My Middle Name Is Ralph:
Oren's argument that there can be a deterrence price too high to pay is absolutely correct. I'm just not convinced that (1) paying ransom does not lead to an ever worsening situation; (2) there are no external costs by giving these pirates millions of dollars; and (3) there are no more potentially efficient means of dealing with the problem than individual shipping companies or insurers paying ransom.
4.14.2009 7:03pm
Oren:

By your logic, the pirates have an incentive to set each ransom so that the predicted cost of future ransoms is just under what it would cost to get rid of the pirates. But the total cost of the ransoms will be greater than what it would cost.

No, because we place substantial value on not paying them off. I will pay $200 to avoid $100 in ransom. I will even pay $1000 to avoid $100 in ransom. I will not pay $100,000 to avoid paying $100 in ransom though, and neither would most of the folks here (assuming it was their money -- taxpayer money is very easy for everyone to spend).

They will therefore calibrate their ransoms to be far below the cost of ridding ourselves of them and so the total cost of ransom might be significantly lower than the cost of ridding ourselves of them.
4.14.2009 7:05pm
Oren:

By definition, piracy is not a free market.

It's just another cost of business, same as equipment failure and hurricanes. You can spend billions on building a hurricane-proof ship, or you can insure yourself against loss and try to avoid the Bahamas in July. You can even sail around the horn of Africa (wasting billions in gas and lost time) to avoid the risk of being seized in the Gulf of Aden.

These companies are not irrational -- they aren't out to lose money. They are in the business of moving cargo from point A to point B for the least amount of money possible. Insurance for piracy is <1% of those costs.
4.14.2009 7:08pm
Chris99 (mail):
Another reason that several comments have danced around for the lack of resistance is the same rational behind not resisiting a plane hijacking, a bank robbery or convenience store robbery. Cooperate and everything will be fine.

There appears be much debate on how to defend a ship from pirates and whether a small crew can effectively do so. Ship owners have been training crew members to use fire hoes and the use of other non-lethal defense methods and they have had limited success. Almost all of the recent comments and articles that I have read deal with the problems with self defense; crew members being injured/killed, upsetting the pirates, loss of ship/cargo, trauma for the families and the like. However, depending on the type of ship, they certain have certain advantages over the pirates.

First and foremost is that prepared defenders have the advantage because they only have to repeal the attack and prevent the pirates from boarding. If they do that they win. If they do it by using speed and maneuvers, fire hoses, calling for help, cutting the boarding ropes, ramming the boarding boat or using deadly force they still win.

The greater the distance the ship takes protective measures the better the defense. All weapons have limited effective ranges, RPG-7 around 500 meters, AK- 800 meters, M-16 400-600 meters, 12 gauge shotgun 100-200 meters, see globalsecurity.org.

Size of the ship will also dictate the type of defense. Faster ships can use their speed to slow down being over taken and boarded. Big ships can't out run the faster boarding boat but they have a distinct advantage of the high ground. If it becomes necessary to open fire they can position person(s) on top of the cargo and increase range and reduce exposure. If the boarding party makes it alongside they still have to come aboard and have to fully expose themselves to come aboard at one point. Defenders can reduce their profile, shoot down and change firing positions up and down the length of the ship.
4.14.2009 7:14pm
ShelbyC:

No, because we place substantial value on not paying them off. I will pay $200 to avoid $100 in ransom. I will even pay $1000 to avoid $100 in ransom. I will not pay $100,000 to avoid paying $100 in ransom though, and neither would most of the folks here (assuming it was their money -- taxpayer money is very easy for everyone to spend).

They will therefore calibrate their ransoms to be far below the cost of ridding ourselves of them and so the total cost of ransom might be significantly lower than the cost of ridding ourselves of them.




However, the cost of ridding ourselves of them is probably a downward sloping curve. And, since I would imagine that the value we place on not paying them off would diminish the more we pay them off, the ransom is an upward sloping curve. So the ransomes will go up untill the lines meet, and we lose our sunk costs every year. That is exactly how it worked for the Anglo Saxons.
4.14.2009 7:16pm
JK:
"Southern Spirit"? I thought the captain of the ship was a Vermonter? It doesn't get more Yankee than Vermont.
4.14.2009 7:32pm
Just an Observer:
There aren't all that many US flagged ships, you have to pay western wages, and meet much stricter safety and environmental standards. Would it be possible to put Marines onboard US flagged ships in the region? If there are 10 or 20 ships in those waters at a given time, it wouldn't be much of a strain on our troops.

I'm not saying we shouldn't help out the general anti-piracy efforts, but we should make sure that US flagged ships are protected.


I have wondered something similar. Actually, I would not be surprised if some variation of this idea is on the table as the Pentagon games out the options.

That would have the political benefit of protecting our national pride as well as our ships. Of course, by itself it would have no significant effect on the global piracy problem because victims are almost never U.S. vessels. We can be sure that the Liberian government (and other flag-of-convenience governments) will not do the same for "their" ships.
4.14.2009 7:42pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
ShelbyC:

That is exactly how it worked for the Anglo Saxons.


Not really. I am probably one of the few on this forum who has studied both the Viking Age and Anglo-Saxon England.

Typically the issue with Danegeld is that the Norse would come into areas which were involved in wars and start pillaging until they were paid to leave. This is what started the whole thing (in France with Charles the Bald). This strategy worked very well and they started to get more money until people decided that fighting amongst eachother was less productive than fighting the Norse. By then, Norse had settled in large parts of England. Eventually the Anglo-Saxons more or less united first behind Alfred and then behind his daughter Aethelflaed and the Danes were driven back and then defeated. This was of course before Cnut the Great.

So the payment of tribute had a lot to do with avoiding fighting multi-front wars rather than just paying folks to go away.

Unfortunately the Anglo-Saxons got really phobic of this practice and SHOULD have tried to pay off enemies when they didn't later. If Harold had offered Harald The Ruthless tribute, would the Normans have won at Hastings? Remember that Harold's army did not get a chance to recover from the forced march from Stamford Bridge (where Harald the Ruthess was defeated) to Hastings and that was a major factor in the defeat.
4.14.2009 7:42pm
Xenocles (www):
"It's not stealing if the insurance is particularly written to cover the act in question! That's the whole point of insurance."

'It's not fraud! I had fire insurance on the house, and I burned it down. Pay up!'

'That guy is probably covered for a hit-and-run, so why bother stopping?'

'That store window is insured, so here goes a brick...'
4.14.2009 7:47pm
Just an Observer:
By definition, piracy is not a free market.

To the contrary ...


PIRACY, n. Commerce without its folly-swaddles, just as God made it.

-- Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary


It would seem that both pirates and shipowners are making calculated, rational economic decisions that foster the recent growth of this industry. Left to their own devices, unless the risks and rewards change, neither party is likely to change its behavior.
4.14.2009 7:52pm
John Moore (www):
Oren:

We have all the stakeholders (shipping companies, insurers, crew) that want to continue with the status quo of paying ~$300M a year in transit fees.

We are also stakeholders, both in the shipping costs and in the the rule of law.

Also, in an interview a couple of nights ago, crews members from the ship in question were very firm that they wanted the ability to fight off the pirates.

The insurers and owners are not on the ships. The crews are. Their interests are not congruent. The crews have human dignity (which was mightily offended by this, based on their reaction). They know that piracy is not zero risk. Having pirates in control of your ship is inherently dangerous, as is having untrained, drugged criminals running around with weapons. The captain of the ship was in grave danger - three people were shot to death right next to him.

It's just another cost of business, same as equipment failure and hurricanes. You can spend billions on building a hurricane-proof ship, or you can insure yourself against loss and try to avoid the Bahamas in July.

Not at all. Hurricanes don't change their behavior as a result of human activity regarding them in the past. Pirates do. We are providing a lot of funding to a lawless part of the world, and this will only increase the danger.
4.14.2009 7:54pm
Abdul Abulbul Amir (mail):





I would never trust my fate to pirates or any criminal.




Despite their proven track record -- one hostage harmed in the last 20 years, out of tens of thousands taken?




That statistic is suspect to say the least. Is there an international central repository to report harm suffered while a pirate hostage? Is each and every hostage interviewed? Are ships passengers and crew killed or injured by pirates without being a hostage ignored?
4.14.2009 7:55pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Oren:

When the Dalton gang tried to rob two banks simultaneously in Coffeyville Kansas, all but one of them got killed by the townsfolk. Those people didn't have to do that, and using your economic and moral calculus they were foolish to even try. Just let them rob the bank. But a lot of people believe that free men have a duty to resist evil and preserve their honor. The pirates are evil. To give in to them is also dishonorable. I realize that the concept of "honor" sounds a little quaint in this amoral age, but at one time people took it very seriously and many still do.

There is also the slippery slope of compromise. Without a firm boundary, when do we stop giving in and fight? Otherwise we will eventually lose everything, including our dignity.
4.14.2009 8:16pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Chris99:

You do realize that bigger ships on the ocean usually are faster ships right? Usually the peak efficient speed of a ship with a non-planing hull is calculated as follows:

1.34 * square root of length in feet = peak efficient speed in knots.(souce)

A 100-foot long ship ends up peaking out at about 13 knots unless it has a planing hull. A 1000-foot ship will have a peak speed of about 42 knots. The largest container ships would by this calculation have a top speed of about 48 knots and the top supertanker would have at top speed of about 52 knots. Of course usually the engines don't supply this much power, so most smaller container ships opt for a less expensive travel route and go about 20knots, while the biggest ones cruise at about 36 knots.

36 knots is still pretty hard to overtake for pirates. Also one of the articles one of the VC'ers previously linked to (on Strategy Page, I think) suggested that most pirate boarding craft run at about 20 knots, meaning that only smaller container ships are really viable targets most of the time (or supertankers when taken by surprise, or taken by unusually well equipped crews).
4.14.2009 8:19pm
LibertyCowboy:
I'de like to point out a couple things:

1) Most insurance companies do a remarkably poor job assessing policy-related risk. Everyone would be far better off self-insuring.

2) The government artifically raises the cost of defence. If shipping crews were allowed to lawfully purchase weapons at reasonable and customary rates, pirates could be defended aginst for far less than seven figures, even if they were in a contiuous firefight from port to port.
4.14.2009 8:39pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
einhverfr:

Your speed law come from the Froude number-- right?

As described here.
4.14.2009 8:49pm
The Drill SGT:
Cannon balls.

The standard defense against boarding from small boats in the age of sail was the threat to drop a 24 pound shot from 30 feet up, through the bottom of your small boat.

still ought to work today :)
4.14.2009 8:52pm
mariner:
I am a U.S. merchant marine officer with about twenty years' experience; before that I was a U.S. Naval officer.

@pintler:

Does anyone know whether modern merchant ship radars can detect a speedboat at a range of, say, one mile?

Yes I do, and generally no they can't.

The speedboats we're talking about are very small and are made of wood or fiberglass.

On large ships the radar antenna is high enough from the water that small vessels within about 2 nautical miles aren't distinguished from the sea surface.

Further away they aren't detected because wood and fiberglass are not very radar-reflective.

@einhverfr:

... most smaller container ships opt for a less expensive travel route and go about 20 knots, while the biggest ones cruise at about 36 knots.

I suspect you meant 26 knots; this is common for the largest ships (~1000 ft). AFAIK there are no 36-knot container ships. (About 30 years ago SeaLand Service built several very fast container ships but couldn't make money with them; they are now the U.S. governments fast sealift ships).

That's plenty fast to evade Somalian pirates, but not Indonesian ones.

I am qualified in small arms to Dept of the Navy standards, so that I am eligible for jobs on government-chartered ships. That is a very minimal training standard and barely sufficient for safe handling of firearms in non-stressful situations. I would be horrified if some of my brother seamen ("qualified" or not) were issued small arms.

Our training is NOT combat training. Generally we would be hard-pressed to defend ourselves against heavily-armed pirates, firearms or no, although a few of us would be able to give a good account of ourselves.

I don't know exactly how the Maersk Alabama crew overpowered the pirate they held (and I hope they have the sense not to blab that to the media). The pirates made several tactical errors their compatriots will not likely repeat.
4.14.2009 9:05pm
Moneyrunner43 (www):
Oren has been very persuasive. In fact if you reconsider the last century you realize that if FDR had simply considered Pearl Harbor as a distraction, think of the money that could have been save in not fighting World War 2.

Simply not fighting while the Axis, the European powers and Russia fought to a bloody stalemate would have been much more cost effective since the US mainland was not under attack and Germans' declaration of war was ineffective since the Nazis could not project power this far.

See how thinking things through the Oren way instead if reacting viscerally works out?

A note on the low cost of acceding to piracy is that most of the crews are poor Asians whose families can be bought off for a few thousand dollars even if they are tossed overboard. Cost-benefit analysis works wonders as long as you're dealing with low cost lives.
4.14.2009 9:26pm
Xenocles (www):
Moneyrunner -

Don't forget about the trade we lost with Japan, too!
4.14.2009 9:33pm
Moneyrunner43 (www):
Mariner,

The first boats the pirates used were not speedboats. Rather they appear to be fishing vessels which are multitasking. As they get wealthier they can afforde better equipment. Here's a video of one that was sunk.

Here's another.

I'm sure that the ransom money allows them to upgrade their equipment. Wait till they get their hands on some elderly navy patrol boats.
4.14.2009 9:40pm
Moneyrunner43 (www):
Xenocles,

I did not want to appear too mercenary, but you're right. One of the reasons for Japan's attack was our decision to withhold supplies like oil. I'm fairly sure that we could have struck a commercial deal with all sides in that conflict: lending the British old destroyers in return for a few islands, selling the Japanese oil and steel, making tanks, truck and planes for anyone who could pay. The profit potential would have been enormous if only those jingoes around Roosevelt had not been so militaristic. Those Swedes knew how to profit from a war.
4.14.2009 9:53pm
Moneyrunner43 (www):
Belmont Club's Richard Fernandez has some interesting quotes from the poeple who make policy regarding ships cres and pirates:


How should the crew have responded?
Belmont Club:

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.
4.14.2009 10:00pm
Moneyrunner43 (www):
oops: "the people who make policy regarding ships crews and pirates"
4.14.2009 10:02pm
Chris99 (mail):
einhverfr,

If you reread my comment you will see I'm discussing general principles of defense not on a specific plan. Regardless of the theoretical speed of a ship you have to defend what you have and countless factors come into play including the conditions of the crew, the condition of the ship, the weather, how far from port, number of boats that are attacking, type of cargo. One size doesn't fit all. The objective is not to get into a shoot out but to prevent someone from overtaking and boarding the ship so you develop a multi layer defense layer. A simplistic plan would start with knowing where and what the danger is and then decide if the trip is worth the risk. From there you track incoming vessels from far away as possible using radar, ship to ship communication, satellites, a guy with a pair of binoculars. As the target gets closer you mobilize a defense, speeding up, charging fire hoses, sending out distress calls etc.

And as Drill Sgt points out, defense doesn't have to be high tech. If you fill a 55 gallon barrel with water and are able to drop it 30 ft onto a small boat, there is a good chance that it's going to disable it, if not sink it. Not very glamorous but effective.
4.14.2009 10:10pm
RowerinVa (mail):
Wow, Oren is fighting a brave fight tonight! Oren's logic is correct as far as it goes. PatHMV and Geokstr, it's not realistic to use big guns (and that counts airstrikes) against most of these pirate attacks. The pirates have all the advantages of offensive asymetrical combat: they act like civilians up until perhaps ten minutes before they strike; they choose their time and targets; and they can match their weapons to the opponent. In short, they only choose to attack when they are certain they will win. They'll be on the boat by the time any military (unless traveling in convoy) can reach them, at which point big guns won't be useful.

No economically feasible system is going to stop these guys before they get on the boat. Tall-sided freighters and tankers must be built that way, and the design gives them huge blind spots. Get near them from many angles and they can't see you (even, sometimes, in broad daylight) -- any small boat sailor knows this, which is why we avoid the suckers or get plowed down -- which makes them great targets. You could make them perfectly smooth on the sides (at great cost) but the pirates would just nail handholds. So, the only realistic defensive alternative is to fight them on the boat. Interestingly, most cargo ships are well designed for this: crew quarters is typically in something of a blockhouse amidships. Install heavy weapons and post a guard, and you'd be relatively safe, except you would lose the occasional crewman who would be captured outside.

Thus the alternatives are to arm and fortify crews at some serious cost, and demand that they fight back, which is feasible. But they will need to sacrifice the crewmembers who weren't in the fortress at the time of the attack -- and there's the rub. Some crews will fight, whether because they don't have anyone outside or because they say the heck with it. But a lot of crews won't fight, for the reasons Oren mentions.

So arming crews can be part of the solution and isn't nuts but the only real solution is to destroy the pirates' land bases and floating bases when the pirates aren't red handed in the act, and that will take political will and a tolerance for false positives measured in dead civilians. That's a tough choice, particularly for a world that waits for an overextended America to do its policing, then attacks America whenever she isn't unrealistically perfect about her policing (see, confrontations in the Red Sea).

Where I part company with Oren is that I believe it's a collective action problem in that paying the criminals is rational for the insurers but funds terrorism and destabilization and raises prices to us all, and thus is a good case for use of military resources. And use of the military means, inevitably, some tolerance for accidental civilian death and friendly fire incidents -- don't ever pretend otherwise. But Oren, before you quite fairly call me out on this, I admit that I don't have an economic proof that my belief is rational. I'd like to see someone work it up.
4.14.2009 10:13pm
Chris99 (mail):
Mariner,

So if you were on board the Alabama, you would have encouraged everyone on the ship to surrender?

I am qualified in small arms to Dept of the Navy standards, so that I am eligible for jobs on government-chartered ships. That is a very minimal training standard and barely sufficient for safe handling of firearms in non-stressful situations. I would be horrified if some of my brother seamen ("qualified" or not) were issued small arms.

Our training is NOT combat training. Generally we would be hard-pressed to defend ourselves against heavily-armed pirates, firearms or no, although a few of us would be able to give a good account of ourselves.
4.14.2009 10:15pm
Ariel:
Oren,

You're making a fallacious economic argument, but one which I've been tempted to many times, when you say that the fact that people engage in a practice is evidence that that is the best practice. I'll illustrate:
* If you find $20 lying on the street, it must not be there, right? If it was there, somebody would have already picked it up.
* Before Staples created the office superstore business, such a business did not exist. Therefore, there was no market for it.
* Before Wal-Mart, or Amazon, or Akamai, or well, you get the point, any new company, etc., etc.

In the particular case of piracy, there's a serious free rider issue that corresponds nicely to the example of bank robbers. Any particular bank is better off just paying off the robbers. But if every bank does so, everyone will become a bank robber. If the banks cooperate with each other, they can hire people to try to stop the robberies. Such people are currently referred to as police, and paid for by society in general.

Just as with defense - it doesn't make sense for any one of us to pay for national defense. But if none of us do, it's a real problem.
4.14.2009 10:28pm
Adam J:
"Oren has been very persuasive. In fact if you reconsider the last century you realize that if FDR had simply considered Pearl Harbor as a distraction, think of the money that could have been save in not fighting World War 2."

Godwins law took longer then usual. Clearly crews not resisting pirates is the exact same thing as the holocaust. Really, this argument is NOT a strawman.

Truly, I also love the righteous indignation of all the people who aren't remotely affected by this problem. Crime is going unpunished somewhere, due to rational actors making an economically efficient decision. Apparently they haven't yet realized that we don't yet live in a perfect world. Of course, I doubt that righteous indignation extends as far as their pocketbooks, but if it does I'm willing to start a new foundation to protecting these merchantmen from the deprivations of piracy, lets call it the Defend All Merchantmen from Piracy Foundation, or DAMP for short.
4.14.2009 10:35pm
Adam J:
Ariel- The flaw in your logic is only takes a few criminal investigators to stop a bank robber... whereas it takes a number of multimillion dollar warships and their crews to deal with pirates.
4.14.2009 10:39pm
Adam J:
Ariel- also, actually the collective action problems with piracy are with enforcement- on land there is only one state that has jurisdiction and responsibility to deal with the robberies, whereas at at sea no state/all states have the responsibility.
4.14.2009 10:42pm
Ariel:
Adam J,

FWIW, I don't know how much it costs to deal with them, whether costs are multimillions, or merely arming the crew members. I'm not qualified to address that question.

I was only addressing one question - if something is a commercial practice, does that mean that it is the best of all possible worlds? My answer was no, b/c of the free rider problem, for a situation very analogous to the situation here.

You could still argue that it's not worth it, under the circumstances. To which I will have to answer - I have no clue.
4.14.2009 10:43pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):
While in the Red Sea it may be the case that pirates rarely injure the crew and that the situations are resolved rapidly, that is not the case in some other parts of the world. For example, as I understand it, Malay and Thai pirates, who typically go after yachts and small cargo ships (not to mention refugees - they rape the women and rob them), usually kill all aboard. I know people who have sailed in these waters who say that they do arm themselves.
4.14.2009 11:06pm
JKB:
So let's say, you have a Greek owned ship, operated by an Italian company, carrying cargo for an Indian shipper, flying a Liberian flag, crewed by British officers and a Filipino crew.. Some say the ship should carry arms which would require an import permit for every port visited as well as an export license depending on the laws of Greece, Italy, Liberia or Britain as well as the US should the weapons ever having been of US origin or under US control. Violation of any of these licenses subjects the captain to fines and jail time under many jurisdictions.

But let's say the ship has small arms. Now if you supply the crew with arms, they had better have documented up-to-date training for the type of weapons the ship possesses (to what countries standards), recent drill with the onboard weapons, and the policies on the use of deadly force meticulously followed. (This is a law blog, anybody want to guess what happens if guns are issued and used without recent and current certification in the use of that weapon by the crew?)

So let's say during a drill, someone drops a gun breaking their foot. Now the owner/operator is responsible for Maintenance (pay/housing for duration of engagement) and Cure (medical until no more cure is possible) under ancient admiralty law. Under US law, they could also pursue a Jones Act claim as well as an unseaworthiness claim (injury by weapon was foreseeable).

Let's say the ship used deadly force against Somali pirates. Now when the ship enters some country sympathetic to the pirates sometime in the future, the captain and crew could be arrested along with the ship and cargo due to charges pressed by Somalia, the family of the injured pirate, some trumped up European Union court or given today's environment, some lefty environmental group.

Perhaps the charges have no merit but for the years this is in process, the captain and possibly the crew are in jail, possibly some African jail, the ship is tied up and prohibited from leaving port and the cargo is held.
4.14.2009 11:19pm
Chris99 (mail):
JKB,

Have you taken conflicts of law?

I'm not a maritime expert, but I would say Liberian law would apply because that's the legal home of the ship.

You also solve most of the problem with a jursidictional contract clause that all suits will be brought in ABC
4.15.2009 12:04am
Chris99 (mail):
Have you taken conflicts of law?

I'm not a maritime expert, but I would say Liberian law would apply because that's the legal home of the ship.

You also solve most of the problem with a jursidictional contract clause that all suits will be brought in ABC



So let's say, you have a Greek owned ship, operated by an Italian company, carrying cargo for an Indian shipper, flying a Liberian flag, crewed by British officers and a Filipino crew.. Some say the ship should carry arms which would require an import permit for every port visited as well as an export license depending on the laws of Greece, Italy, Liberia or Britain as well as the US should the weapons ever having been of US origin or under US control. Violation of any of these licenses subjects the captain to fines and jail time under many jurisdictions.
4.15.2009 12:08am
Chris99 (mail):
JKB,

Register the ship in Texas which recognizes the right to self defense. Approaching pirates also would qualify as an emergency and hard to convince a jury that the company was negligent for allowing crew members to defend themselves. However, owner would be liable for actual damages.

But let's say the ship has small arms. Now if you supply the crew with arms, they had better have documented up-to-date training for the type of weapons the ship possesses (to what countries standards), recent drill with the onboard weapons, and the policies on the use of deadly force meticulously followed. (This is a law blog, anybody want to guess what happens if guns are issued and used without recent and current certification in the use of that weapon by the crew?)
4.15.2009 12:11am
Chris99 (mail):
JKB,

Can't pursue Jones Act, Liberian ship, international waters, Filipino national, no min. contacts under International Shoe.

So let's say during a drill, someone drops a gun breaking their foot. Now the owner/operator is responsible for Maintenance (pay/housing for duration of engagement) and Cure (medical until no more cure is possible) under ancient admiralty law. Under US law, they could also pursue a Jones Act claim as well as an unseaworthiness claim (injury by weapon was foreseeable).
4.15.2009 12:15am
zuch (mail) (www):
Eugene Kontorovich:
The resistance by the crew of the Alabama was extraordinary and unusual. I would love to know why they did it. It may be linked to the vessel being a government-chartered ship; this voyage was not about making money. Or maybe its that Southern spirit.
Oh, the ship resisted?!?!? But even then, it's owned by a Danish company. Albeit they are to the south ... of the good-natured Norwegians, who have never had a predisposition to violence....

Cheers,
4.15.2009 12:19am
Chris99 (mail):
JKB

Does Somalia have a recognized govt that can prosecute the charges?

There is also the opposite argument for prosecuting the captain and owner for negligence, manslaughter, for not using reasonable force to protect it's crew member from a known hazard.



Let's say the ship used deadly force against Somali pirates. Now when the ship enters some country sympathetic to the pirates sometime in the future, the captain and crew could be arrested along with the ship and cargo due to charges pressed by Somalia, the family of the injured pirate, some trumped up European Union court or given today's environment, some lefty environmental group.
4.15.2009 12:19am
einhverfr (mail) (www):
A Zarkov:

You are correct on the origins of the calculation. Alas it has been a long time since I was in a physics class so I had forgotten the name of it.

Also as for the fastest cargo ship on record, it turns out I wasn't able to find good numbers for supertankers, but Guiness Book of World Records (FWIW) lists the biggest cargo ship as having a cruising speed of 31 knots.
4.15.2009 12:20am
einhverfr (mail) (www):
On further research it looks like most supertankers are in the 15-20 knot range.
4.15.2009 12:22am
skh.pcola:

A 1000-foot ship will have a peak speed of about 42 knots.


Uh, yeah, if it has the Space Shuttle booster welded to its transom. Nice attempt at pretentious pedantry, though.
4.15.2009 12:22am
Chris99 (mail):
zuch,

But the ship is registered in the US, which makes it subject to US laws.

Personally, I had rather be on the ship with an American captain than say one from the EU
4.15.2009 12:23am
Avatar (mail):
One points out that making a conscious policy decision to ignore Somalian piracy will almost certainly have the effect of, er, encouraging additional Somalian piracy. A merchant shipper might not mind paying a few million dollars once a year, but they're probably going to be pretty cross if they're getting jacked three or four times a voyage.

For that matter, why limit it to Somalis? If it's just a well-understood business transaction involving the payment of a "transit fee", well then, I wouldn't mind going there and setting up shop. A few million dollars divided by a small number of people goes a long, long way.

Oh, what? If a bunch of Somalis do it, it's okay, but if an American wants to get in on the act, suddenly morality becomes an issue again?
4.15.2009 1:41am
Hayek222 (mail):

As a CPA, I am well aware of cost/benefit arguments, but this is like paying protection to the mob. Paying for protection from the people charging you for the protection.


Sort of like paying taxes to the government?
4.15.2009 4:41am
Moneyrunner43 (www):
Adam J.

Your knowledge of history is as shaky are your logic. The US entered WW 2 because it was attacked by the Japanese who -- news flash -- were not responsible for the Holocaust. In fact, the Holocaust was not even a gleam in Hitler's eye in 1941 when FDR went to war. It appears you were the one invoking Godwin's law. But I understand. To Liberals and other youngsters WW 2 = Holocaust.

Interesting little war. You should read up on it.
4.15.2009 7:29am
PhanThom:
James Gibson,

The captain of the CSS Alabama, would have been Raphael Semmes, the greatest commerce raider of the Civil War (and coincidentally, my great^5 uncle).

The irony here is that, depending on your perspective, commerce raiding could be considered a form of state sponsored piracy.

--PtM
4.15.2009 7:29am
zuch (mail) (www):
Chris99:
zuch,

But the ship is registered in the US, which makes it subject to US laws.
True. But I never disputed that. Just as a Danish-born (or Korean) person is subject to U.S. law while in the U.S.
Personally, I had rather be on the ship with an American captain than say one from the EU
The cheese-eating surrender monk... -- umm, sorry, the French -- have hardly been pushovers for the pirates; they've mounted three raids so far to free ships and crew. Unfortunately, in the last operation, one hostage died as well. But that's one of the risks in the more aggressive approach. I'd note that in many cases, it seems to be the shipping company rather than the government that decides whether to pay the ransom. I'd also note that crews on ships (possibly excepting cruise line ships where good English is a requirement for the service staff) are usually predominantly foreign, even for U.S. flagged ones. They're cheaper, you know....

Cheers,
4.15.2009 8:14am
pintler:

Your knowledge of history is as shaky are your logic. The US entered WW 2 because it was attacked by the Japanese who -- news flash -- were not responsible for the Holocaust. In fact, the Holocaust was not even a gleam in Hitler's eye in 1941 when FDR went to war.


We're wandering pretty far afield, but I can't let that stand. The holocaust was well afoot by Pearl Harbor. And of course the Japanese had accumulated a long list of war crimes by then too, most prominently the Nanking massacre.
4.15.2009 8:14am
Ben Franklin (mail):
Oren makes a hell of a lot of assumptions. Crews don't want to be armed or fight back? Who says? When was the vote taken? It would be irrational for them to want to be taken captive when a show of force would often be enough to get the pirates to scurry along somewhere else and certainly, were crews well armed the piracy problem would have abated long ago --- if it had not stopped all together.

Ship owners don't want their crews to fight back? More likely owners don't want to be liable for having a policy of letting their crews fight back. Owners won't lose their ship in a firefight (that is absurd and self-defeating for the pirates even if possible) but they will lose its usage if the pirates are allowed to take it with impunity. But they can lose the ship and more just as easily in a courtroom. They are constrained by laws and liabilities whereas the pirates are not. Given the choice of dealing with the lawyers or the pirates they quite sensibly choose the pirates as having the more rational system --- though it is not at all what they might wish were they less constrained.

And yes, we in the South are not so emasculated that we would let another man take us prisoner if we have the means to resist. And we would always have that means given our druthers. I find it difficult to believe that it is otherwise anywhere else on the planet. In fact I do not believe it to be so.

I am also not sure that there have been "tens of thousands" of hostages taken nor that they have all been treated well. I would imagine there have been rapes, torture and threats to one's life, limbs and dignity. I am sure the pirates want everyone to think otherwise and the idiots who make up the international left are only too eager to help spread the propaganda. Islam is peace, they only want to feed their children, you see it's all right there in the brochure.

Oren later mentions billions spent to solve the problem. This is again due to lawyers. We could roll up all of the ports along the coast in very little time and at very little expense. We could run convoys or mount deck guns on private ships at very little expense. We could put seal hunter/killer teams on shore at very little expense. We could offer bounties for dead pirates totaling much less than $300 million dollars and solve the problem for good. It isn't a hard or expensive problem to solve but to this point it hasn't been worth having to deal with the laws or the lawyers.

We won't even get into how truly bad a policy it is to encourage this sort of piracy in the age of terrorism where one ship, in one port, with one bomb could wipe out an entire city.

Other than these few minor nitpicks I think Oren is otherwise correct.
4.15.2009 9:57am
Stevie:
Ben Franklin-
What exactly does "very little expense" encompass for you? Do you have any idea what your proposals would cost? Ballpark?
4.15.2009 10:09am
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Avatar:

Somali piracy represents problem because it emanates from a lawless zone in Southern Somalia. Indonesian piracy is similar because it emanates from lawless/civil war zones in that country (probably currently Papua is the main province I would think would be involved).

These are different from Americans getting involved in piracy because we don't have lawless zones of the same type in this country. Now, if and when Texas fights a war of secession, maybe we will see Texan pirates.... Of course letters of marque change the situation entirely but I am not aware of any such letters being issued by any state in recent history. (Distant ancestors of mine obtained letters of marque from the British Crown and proceeded to pirate, legally, Spanish shipping....)

Unfortunately killing a few pirates, and making a small minority of boats armed (and identifiably so) isn't going to solve the root problem. Unless you are proposing that WE require every boat in a portion of international waters to be armed, it isn't going to happen. Even in that case, it isn't clear to me that we wouldn't just see consolidation of pirate groups and more careful/coordinated attacks involving larger numbers of pirates.

What such killing of a few pirates might do is send a message that the US will do everything we can to protect our citizens and that pirates should avoid American ships and should abandon attacks if Americans are discovered on the crew. But it even that doesn't REALLY solve the problem of payments of ransom.
4.15.2009 10:17am
Adam J:
Moneyrunner43 - my knowledge of history is just fine. I apologize if I was mistaken in thinking you were claiming allowing pirates to continue is akin to allowing the Nazis to continue in your comparison to WWII. As a side note, you should know that you're quite wrong on your dates for when the Holocaust began- over a million Jews were killed by the Nazis in '41 &twice that in '42. Some advice, before being critical of others knowledge, make sure your own knowledge is correct.
4.15.2009 11:33am
Joe T Guest:
An armed merchantman with 20 crewman simply could not offer efective resistance to a pinnace crammed with 80-100 buccaneers.


True, but a sailing of the India Fleet merchantment, with say 10 sail, provided a few dozen guns that could be brought to bear at any one point. The stouter, taller merchantman did not need to win a hand to hand fight; it just needed to be able to bring to bear effective fire on the pirate, and having three or four friends immediately in convoy would have helped. For such events, grape, cannister and chain shot were developed.
4.15.2009 11:47am
Smooth, Like a Rhapsody (mail):
1. In what percentage of the shipping that goes through these danger zones does the US have a cognizable interest?

2. How easy is it for a pirate to tell the legal provenance of a vessel--given I take it that the flag it flies may not indicate the nationality of the crew or by whom the cargo is owned? (the point being that if we, say, just arm "our guys" and no one else does, how will the pirates know this until they come aboard?

3. What is the range of the vessels that these pirates are using? How easy is it to extrapolate back to their port?

4. The economic arguments being made here could, prima facie, be made to do away with virtually all sovereign law enforcement.

5. "Millions for defense; not one cent for tribute."
4.15.2009 11:50am
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Smooth:

In what percentage of the shipping that goes through these danger zones does the US have a cognizable interest?


Where is the threshold? Is 1 TFC (or even a fractional TFC) sufficient? Does it matter what is in that TFC? Or do we only care about citizens and possibly ownership of the ship itself?

In short, does cargo count? If I have a TFC full, of, say, stuffed animals (bears, seals, and the like), is that sufficient cause to send in the SEALs?
4.15.2009 12:20pm
James Lindgren (mail):
Eugene:

Daniel Ellsburg (of Pentagon Papers fame) has a classic article (ca. 1960) on Blackmail.

As I perhaps imperfectly recall, he tells of an older woman who robs banks, using as a weapon a glass of clear liquid that she tells tellers is a glass of acid.

Tellers give in, not because they really think she's probably telling the truth that it's acid, but rather because they have no personal incentive to find out.

Eventually, some teller thinks the threat too incredible and the bank robber is arrested. It's only water.
4.15.2009 12:29pm
Oren:


But a lot of people believe that free men have a duty to resist evil and preserve their honor. The pirates are evil. To give in to them is also dishonorable. I realize that the concept of "honor" sounds a little quaint in this amoral age, but at one time people took it very seriously and many still do.


Yup.
There's evil in Darfur -- send the army!
There's evil in Tibet -- send the marines!
There's evil in Zimbabwe -- send the coast guard!

I am not responsible for ridding the world of every conceivable evil.
4.15.2009 12:37pm
alittlesense:
Tom952: Arrrggghhh Cap'n! I be with ye on the booty cruise. But I be wantin' to know...do we get booty on the cruise or do we have to be waitin' till we get back to port for the booty?
4.15.2009 12:43pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
On "Millions for defence but not one penny for tribute,"

The key questions seems to be less whether WE should take this question but rather we have the right to say that, say, the Yemenis have to take the same position when their tugboats are siezed.

Also there are times and places (whether this is one of them) where payment of tribute makes sense. Charles the Bald of France was the first to pay tribute to the Vikings and his reasoning was sound: Pay one enemy to leave so you can fight a war on one less front. Had Harold of England taken the same tactic and paid off Harald the Ruthless, maybe Hastings would have come out very differently. I think that tribute makes sense in cases where one wants to temporarily buy time (literally!) to deal with another problem first.
4.15.2009 1:08pm
Allan Walstad (mail):
I haven't read all the comments, so this may have been suggested earlier. I wonder if it would make sense to organize as much of the shipping as possible in convoys? Then if you have, say, a dozen freighters traveling together, and if each possessed a modest armament, they should be able to defend themselves pretty well. Or maybe one of the freighters would be more heavily armed and take on the responsibility. All this could probably be organized without government involvement, although perhaps not without government interference.
4.15.2009 1:13pm
Chris99 (mail):
Moneyrunner43

Pick up a copy of "The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide"


Your knowledge of history is as shaky are your logic. The US entered WW 2 because it was attacked by the Japanese who -- news flash -- were not responsible for the Holocaust. In fact, the Holocaust was not even a gleam in Hitler's eye in 1941 when FDR went to war. It appears you were the one invoking Godwin's law. But I understand. To Liberals and other youngsters WW 2 = Holocaust.

Interesting little war. You should read up on it.
4.15.2009 2:23pm
Chris99 (mail):
zuch,

Yes the French have rescued French nationals but that was after they surrendered. The American captain and his crew took action to prevent being hostage and then limiting the number of captives.

If you read my earlier post, you'll see that I point out that each case is different and in some cases surrender without a fight is the best option. However, the common mentality of all to many is surrender first and work out a price.


Personally, I had rather be on the ship with an American captain than say one from the EU

The cheese-eating surrender monk... -- umm, sorry, the French -- have hardly been pushovers for the pirates; they've mounted three raids so far to free ships and crew. Unfortunately, in the last operation, one hostage died as well. But that's one of the risks in the more aggressive approach. I'd note that in many cases, it seems to be the shipping company rather than the government that decides whether to pay the ransom. I'd also note that crews on ships (possibly excepting cruise line ships where good English is a requirement for the service staff) are usually predominantly foreign, even for U.S. flagged ones. They're cheaper, you know....
4.15.2009 2:36pm
JKB:
In regards to why resisting creates lots of legal problems, here is a post about lawyers filing suit against Germany for legal fees and support to defend pirates Germany turned over to Kenya for prosecution.
4.15.2009 2:41pm
_Harold_ (mail):
There are numerous case of crews disappearing. In the South China Sea, another pirate hotbed, on large merchants. In the Caribbean, yachts and small vessels.

And, in the days of sail, armed merchants resisted often. In the case of the East India Company, whose ships often outgunned smaller warships, attcks by pirates were always resisted.

Americans know they are special hostages, more likely to be killed. Which would be part, but not all, of the reason the Maersk Alabama crew took back their ship.
4.15.2009 2:42pm
Chris99 (mail):
einhverfr,

I'm not sure I understand the root problem, is it protecting American flagged ships or ALL ships, or bringing peace to the world?

I disagree with your assumption that killing, or capturing, pirates is not part of the solution. Pirates and boats are a finite number



Unfortunately killing a few pirates, and making a small minority of boats armed (and identifiably so) isn't going to solve the root problem. Unless you are proposing that WE require every boat in a portion of international waters to be armed, it isn't going to happen. Even in that case, it isn't clear to me that we wouldn't just see consolidation of pirate groups and more careful/coordinated attacks involving larger numbers of pirates.

What such killing of a few pirates might do is send a message that the US will do everything we can to protect our citizens and that pirates should avoid American ships and should abandon attacks if Americans are discovered on the crew. But it even that doesn't REALLY solve the problem of payments of ransom.
4.15.2009 2:51pm
Smooth, Like a Rhapsody (mail):
einhverfr
My question about the size of the dog we have in this fight was not rhetorical at all. I honestly wanted to know.
Point being, if only 10% of the trade that goes through there is "ours", it might not make sense to commit the USS Eisenhower--however if 75% of the stuff that goes through there (stuffed animals or not) is "ours", whatever that means, then the incentive to get involved increases.
4.15.2009 3:07pm
TM Lutas (mail) (www):
No matter the past behavior, present pirate policy seems to have rendered most of this debate moot:

"Somali pirates vowed to hunt down American ships and kill their sailors "

full article

The incentives have changed at the drop of a hat and now we have some very exposed sailors running past the coast of Somalia who sailed from Europe or Asia under the old rules and are entering pirate waters under a very different dispensation.
4.15.2009 3:40pm
Chris99 (mail):
TM Lutas

No problem, put 10 Marines on each US flagged ship with several Javelin missiles as well as stationing a US submarine in the area and let the Mark 48 take care of the mother ship.
4.15.2009 4:16pm
Oren:



No problem, put 10 Marines on each US flagged ship with several Javelin missiles as well as stationing a US submarine in the area and let the Mark 48 take care of the mother ship.


Aside from the fact that most nations will not let you just sail a ship with armed soldiers into their ports thus defeating the whole point of running a shipping business, sure.
4.15.2009 4:25pm
Chris99 (mail):
They can't stop you from sailing in international waters but I know what you are arguing, but I'm not sure that it applies to active US military because US warships make regular port calls, unless your a sailor they aren't regular enough. However, if the ban does apply a simple solution is to place a US ship in international waters and transfer the Marines before the ship enters port.
4.15.2009 4:32pm
zuch (mail) (www):
Chris99:
Yes the French have rescued French nationals but that was after they surrendered. The American captain and his crew took action to prevent being hostage and then limiting the number of captives.
The Maersk Alabama was originally taken captive. The action to regain the ship came later (apparently as opportunity arose). I'd note that sailing yachts have less resources to resist (perhaps they ought to have enlisted the 3 year old on board the Tanit to man the gunwales?), although some have been quite resourceful under duress/fire. The take-home lesson is that having a steel-hulled yacht has its advantages at times. But you're simply wrong in dissing the French; they have been remarkably aggressive in handling the pirates; more so than the U.S. so far. But they take their yachting seriously....

Cheers,
4.15.2009 4:37pm
Chris99 (mail):
JKB,

I don't see a problem, the US always does this by providing a public defender to those who can't afford a lawyer.

Are you advocating that the indigent should not be represented in criminal proceedings?



JKB:
In regards to why resisting creates lots of legal problems, here is a post about lawyers filing suit against Germany for legal fees and support to defend pirates Germany turned over to Kenya for prosecution.
4.15.2009 4:41pm
Chris99 (mail):
zuch,

As I've said numerous times, each case is different and sometimes it's best to surrender.

Personally, I believe that anyone sailing into dangerous waters without being prepared for known dangers/hazards is either naive or stupid regardless of the color of the passport. It's the same thing as taking the family on a sightseeing trip at midnight in a known drug area and expecting that nothing bad will happen, it might not but then again you never know.

There is some debate as to whether the pirates controlled the Alabama as one of the crew stated but that isn't important.
4.15.2009 4:55pm
Chris99 (mail):
zuch,

After sending the last reply, I read the link you provided fully expecting to read about how a French pacifist had talked his way out of the problem by providing the pirates counseling and referring them to a self esteem program. Imagine my surprise when I read the article and learned they were not from the EU but Americans and that they had taken reasonable defensive measures including planning their trip, reducing light pollution, sailing as fast as they could, traveling in pairs and OMG carrying a shotgun with 00 buck shot. And I couldn't believe that they used their boat as a weapon and they managed to repel pirates armed with automatic weapons (AK-47s?) with just ONE shotgun and that the only killed were the pirates.

You see having a steel boat as the answer, but I think the shotgun did more to defeat the attack.

zuch (mail) (www):
Chris99:


I'd note that sailing yachts have less resources to resist (perhaps they ought to have enlisted the 3 year old on board the Tanit to man the gunwales?), although some have been quite resourceful under duress/fire. The take-home lesson is that having a steel-hulled yacht has its advantages at times.
4.15.2009 5:22pm
mariner:
chris99:

So if you were on board the Alabama, you would have encouraged everyone on the ship to surrender?

No.

I'm pointing out that "arming the crew" is not the solution many people believe it to be.

The Maersk Alabama's Chief Engineer saw the opportunity to act, and he took it. Bravo!

He only had that opportunity because the pirates screwed up big time, and we shouldn't count on other pirates to repeat their mistakes.
4.15.2009 5:24pm
Chris99 (mail):
Mariner,

I appreciate you being honest instead of theoretical. If you've read my earlier posts (see below) you will see that we agree that simply "arming the crew" is not the solution, but an option, one that I believe will be more effective than many believe. I know that there will there be injured/killed crew members but this occurs anyway. The oceans are just as deadly as ever.



"If you reread my comment you will see I'm discussing general principles of defense not on a specific plan. Regardless of the theoretical speed of a ship you have to defend what you have and countless factors come into play including the conditions of the crew, the condition of the ship, the weather, how far from port, number of boats that are attacking, type of cargo. One size doesn't fit all. The objective is not to get into a shoot out but to prevent someone from overtaking and boarding the ship so you develop a multi layer defense layer. A simplistic plan would start with knowing where and what the danger is and then decide if the trip is worth the risk. From there you track incoming vessels from far away as possible using radar, ship to ship communication, satellites, a guy with a pair of binoculars. As the target gets closer you mobilize a defense, speeding up, charging fire hoses, sending out distress calls etc."
4.15.2009 5:56pm
Chris99 (mail):
Mariner,

Because we all like a good hypothetical which option would you choose considering; the sun is just setting 250 miles off the coast of Somalia, the sea has 2-3 foot waves, 5 knot wind, the Alabama is traveling at 15 knots, a suspicious fishing boat is trolling at 5 knots 1.5 miles ahead when suddenly 2 fast boats appear from behind the fishing boat…………..

Be a crew member on the Alabama that has 10 US Marines or 10 French Legionnaires average age 19.5 years with one year of military service, that are armed with standard military rifles (range 500 meters), 1 fully equipped semi-automatic 50 cal sniper rifle (range 1500 meters) and 6 Javelin anti-tank missiles, (range 2500 meters)

OR

A crew member on the assault team of 50 pirates that consist of two Skull &Cross Bones fast boats with 25 attackers in each boat who are each armed with an AK-47, 300 rounds each (range 800 meters) 10, RPG-7 (range 1000 meters since the ship is a huge target), aluminum ladders and boarding ropes as well as assorted knives. And to make it interesting the 50 may or may not been doing khat since learning that a ship was approaching.
4.15.2009 6:22pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Chris99:

If you are looking at multi-layered defence, it seems to me that one important component would be military escort. Is it strictly required? no. But I am not sure that machine guns will do more than barbed wire and water hoses.

The big issue though is that our current strategy is based on the premise that if you are walking with a dwarf and encounter a dragon, you don't have to outrun the dragon, only the dwarf. Such approaches create fat dragons because there are always other easier targets nearby.

Your proposal also creates a few major problems too. Suppose pirates pick out one of the less defended ships on the perimeter and board. You don't have elite marksmen on the other ships and so they only have to overcome the crew of that one ship. Suppose they do (never mind how). Then they radio to the next ship and say "surrender or we will ram you." Pretty soon the entire convoy including the more heavily armed ships might be taken as well. Either that or you end up with sunk ships and angry insurance companies!
4.15.2009 7:45pm
Oren:

They can't stop you from sailing in international waters but I know what you are arguing, but I'm not sure that it applies to active US military because US warships make regular port calls, unless your a sailor they aren't regular enough. However, if the ban does apply a simple solution is to place a US ship in international waters and transfer the Marines before the ship enters port.


Military port calls have to be arranged by different channels than a regular commercial vessel. Formal permission must be granted, blah blah blah. . .

Having to coordinate two ships is a logistic nightmare.
4.15.2009 9:16pm
zuch (mail) (www):
Chris99:

zuch, [a]fter sending the last reply, I read the link you provided fully expecting to read about how a French pacifist had talked his way out of the problem by providing the pirates counseling and referring them to a self esteem program....

Your lack of reading comprehension is something I'm powerless to remedy.

Imagine my surprise when I read the article and learned they were not from the EU but Americans and that they had taken reasonable defensive measures including planning their trip, reducing light pollution, sailing as fast as they could, traveling in pairs and OMG carrying a shotgun with 00 buck shot.

... in a link in which I suggested that aggresive tactics can be successful.

And I couldn't believe that they used their boat as a weapon and they managed to repel pirates armed with automatic weapons (AK-47s?) with just ONE shotgun and that the only killed were the pirates.

There's other accounts of this incident on the web if you don't believe me.You see having a steel boat as the answer, but I think the shotgun did more to defeat the attack.We'll never know. I've mixed feelings about whether we should carry firearms when we set off around the world (prevention and avoidance is really the first line of defence, and firearms are a hassle or even banned in some countries; I posted a rundown on this previously). But getting hit by a steel cutter puts a crimp in your plans. As Bill Cosby said, "How long can you tread water?...."

Cheers,
4.15.2009 10:04pm
Chris99 (mail):
Einhverfr

To answer your questions:

Do you have the assets to provide an escort for all ships? If yes, no problem, but even if you ask Oren about whether it's going to be a logistical nightmare.

Are machine guns going to be more effective than barbed wire and water hoses? Yes!!! Apparently you have never been shot at!!!!

Regarding your analogy about the dwarf, little people is the more pc term, you have answered your own question from above, armed ships are a deterrent, (if you are a shoplifter and you have a choice wouldn't you go where they don't have security and cameras). However, even if a small number use active self-defense, that will free up assets to protect those that aren't. If you have 100 ships in an area and only 10 are armed, that allows the military to focus on the 90 that aren't and significantly improves the effectiveness of the military.

Regarding the pirates focusing on the less defended ships, I would fully expect that to happen, the pirates are uneducated but they're not stupid. If an owner chooses not to protect his crew/ship and that increases the probability of attack, that's their choice but they will have to pay the higher insurance rates and pay the crew more for the risk.

If I'm on the armed ship and they radio and tell me to surrender, and my immediate family is not on the other ship, then I tell them paka, paka (bye, bye). I would feel for the other captain but I have no duty to protect him.

Angry insurance companies?? I don't think so. Lloyd's Of London has been insuring ships and their cargos since 1688.
4.15.2009 10:25pm
Chris99 (mail):
Oren,

Is the logistics of this more difficult than rerouting numerous naval ships, planes, flying in hostage negotiators and FBI teams to investigate?

Having to coordinate two ships is a logistic nightmare.
4.15.2009 10:34pm
Chris99 (mail):
zuch,

I must apologize because I was commenting on your reply(s) in the full context of your other statements, as well as being somewhat sarcastic, my bad.

Regarding my understanding of the "Sailing, The Beauty of Sail," as I've stated earlier, ramming the attacker is one element of a defense strategy, but it shouldn't be your only element. If you go back and reread the cited article, you'll see that the shotgun disabled one boat and that the second boat that was rammed had focused on the unarmed boat but that even after the boat had been rammed it was the shotgun that finally stopped the boarding.

I know the first paragraph of the article states that, "They also won the distinction of having thwarted the ambush, mostly because Jay swung the steel-hulled sloop around and rammed one of the two boats, crushing it, while Rod Nowlin, skipper of the 45-foot steel cutter Mahdi, sailing alongside, opened up with a pump shotgun. Nowlin killed two, perhaps three, of the pirates," but the subsequent paragraphs state the pirates continued trying to board and it only stopped after they were shot.


Gandalf's boom had been slacked to port, allowing Jay to swing her hard around and ram the nearest boat. Rod, ex-Navy, was blasting away with his shotgun loaded with 00 buckshot, knocking out the engine of the boat closest to Mahdi and making sure the pirates kept their heads down. By that time, Jay had crushed the other pirate boat and reversed gear for fear the wreckage would damage his rudder.

"With Rod shooting, those pirates decided not to shop at Mahdi any more, so they headed straight for us," he said, describing how the attackers nudged their bow against Gandalf's stern and began climbing aboard, but Rod shot them dead.
"That was nice of him," Jay said flatly, while Carol nodded enthusiastically.
4.15.2009 11:16pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Chris99:

Are machine guns going to be more effective than barbed wire and water hoses? Yes!!! Apparently you have never been shot at!!!!


Hundreds of miles off the coast.... If you don't think a water cannon that can knock you overboard (at 40 ft up!) has the potential to be as lethal as a machine gun, I want to know how far you can swim, how long you can remain afloat in the sea, etc. If it is just psychological effect, what makes you sure that in lawless Somalia the pirates aren't used to being shot at?
4.15.2009 11:58pm
Chris99 (mail):
einhverfr,

And what is the range of a fire hose/water cannon?

I contend that if pirates are within water cannon range the odds of repelling a boarding party sink significantly.

The greater the distance you can keep between the ship and a boarding party, the greater your chance for success.

Which one would you choose considering; the sun is just setting 250 miles off the coast of Somalia, the sea has 2-3 foot waves, 5 knot wind, the Alabama is traveling at 15 knots, a suspicious fishing boat is trolling at 5 knots 1.5 miles ahead when suddenly 2 fast boats appear from behind the fishing boat and you have a choice between

A firehose

or

A semi-automatic AR-15?
4.16.2009 1:03am
Chris99 (mail):
einhverfr

Range of water cannon, 131 ft. http://www.securityprousa.com/wacasyforric.html

Mobile water cannon for riots, $700,000 http://www.smh.com.au/news/national /wet-v-wild-riot-squad-shows-off-its-700000-weapon/2007 /08/20/1187462176707.html

OR

11:55am UK, Sunday August 14, 2005
Trials of water cannons to control riots have been abandoned because they make police officers fall over.Home Office scientists designed two versions of the cannon, which are worn like backpacks. http://news.sky.com/skynews/Home/ Sky-News-Archive/Article/200806413410697?f=rss
4.16.2009 2:11am
Oren:


Are machine guns going to be more effective than barbed wire and water hoses? Yes!!! Apparently you have never been shot at!!!!

For the millioneth time, you cannot bring armed ship into port in most of the destination countries.


Is the logistics of having every ship coordinate their movements on each transit more difficult than rerouting numerous naval ships, planes, flying in hostage negotiators and FBI teams to investigate once in every 20,000 transits?

Yes. You forgot to put the proper weights.
4.16.2009 10:23am
Chris99 (mail):
Oren,

Because this is legal blog and because you are so emphatic in your belief, what are the regulations for Singapore, China and Kuwait?
4.16.2009 12:58pm
Oren:


Because this is legal blog and because you are so emphatic in your belief, what are the regulations for Singapore, China and Kuwait?

Easy.

Singapore requires anyone in possession of a gun to have a Arm &Explosives license. Merchantman has a 9mm handgun in his quarters, docks in Singapore and is now guilty of unlawful possession.

Kuwait bans all private gun possession. Same merchantman sails into port, is guilty. No change of getting a license either.
4.16.2009 1:25pm
Oren:
Whoops, link.
4.16.2009 1:26pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Chris99:

The same ships often have water hoses for fire control. The general proposals are to harden the ships and provide training in use of the water hoses for purposes of repelling boarders. These seem reasonable and seem to pose few problems.

Also if you wanted to take this a step further, you could anchor water cannons in certain places so that a single person could use them. This would have the welcome side-effect of helping with fire control too.....
4.16.2009 8:47pm
Moneyrunner43 (www):
Pintler and Adam J,


We're wandering pretty far afield, but I can't let that stand. The holocaust was well afoot by Pearl Harbor. And of course the Japanese had accumulated a long list of war crimes by then too, most prominently the Nanking massacre.



Actually, no. Please read my comments and study your history. I think that people in the law business were good at nuance. Perhaps not. The US entered WW 2 because of the attack on the fleet at Pearl Harbor. Period. Full Stop.
The fact that the German army was being beastly to Jews and Commissars in Russia during the invasion of that country in WW 2 is not regarded by most people as "the Holocaust" although it gave a pretty good preview of what was to come.

The Germans massacred many of the Russians for a variety of reason: hatred of Jews, hatred of Communists, revenge for resistance and - not so incidentally the desire to rid the land of its previous owners and replace them with German farmers.

The "Final Solution" was first ordered in 1942 following a meeting that is referred to as the Wannsee Conference in January of 1942. It was after this date that the extermination camps were set up.

And while the Japanese had massacred hundreds of thousands if not millions, this was not the cause of the US entering WW 2. If you have not noticed, the US does not go to war, even today, over the massacre of millions otherwise we would be at war with Sudan or Rwanda.

Thanks for playing.
4.16.2009 10:24pm
Chris99 (mail):
Oren

The examples may or may not be right because if weapons never leave the ship they may or may not be deemed to be within the country or the laws may not apply to maritime shipping.

As someone who has traveled extensively for the past 10 years and who took an interest in the 4th Amendment during law school, international ports of entry have their own laws and exceptions to what we take for granted including the 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th (maybe) and the 8th.

For example, per US law, just because you are physically on US soil does not mean that federal agents need a warrant to search. It's called the border exception and you can be singled you out for search up to and including a strip search, X-rays or not allow you entry until you provide a bowel movement. Even if you have a valid visa to enter the country that is nothing more than a license to apply for entry at the entry point. And if you make it past the border checkpoint, there is the close to the border exception where border agents can set up check points to search for illegal aliens.

Several examples of when being in US waters does not mean that you automatically apply for US law protection and US laws may or may not apply:

If you recall back in the 80s, one of the ways that the govt denied Cubans the right apply for asylum was to prevent them from landing on the beach. If the Coast Guard intercepted off the beach they were sent back to Cuba even though they were within a rocks throw at times, if they hit the beach then they could apply.

A recent example is prisoners being sent to Cuba instead of to federal jails on US soil. It's a US military installation but not US soil which was a way around trying to keep them out of federal courts.

Another example is back in the Cold War Russian sailors would often jump overboard and then apply of asylum. Provided they were still on the ship the State Department would not act on their behalf.

So considering that the examples above are exceptions to the 4th, 5th, 6th, maybe the 7th and 8th, foreign gun laws may or may not apply if weapons on kept on board.


Easy.

Singapore requires anyone in possession of a gun to have a Arm &Explosives license. Merchantman has a 9mm handgun in his quarters, docks in Singapore and is now guilty of unlawful possession.

Kuwait bans all private gun possession. Same merchantman sails into port, is guilty. No change of getting a license either.
4.16.2009 10:30pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
chris99:

Often certain classes of laws do apply though, and this may vary on a nation-by-nation (or even a port-by-port basis) basis. If you get off a plane in Singapore and are transiting to go to, say, Pakistan and are carrying marijuana, even if you don't go through immigration or customs, the port authority could of course detain you, and presumably even press charges.

I would presume the laws regarding possession of illegal goods would apply in port unless there was a clear exception to this in the laws.
4.17.2009 6:14pm

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