GAO Reports on Piracy Countermeasures–Not Complimentary

The GAO did a study of US anti-piracy efforts and the results are not good.

“…from 2007 to 2009, the most recent year for which complete data were available, the total number of hijackings reported to the International Maritime Bureau increased, ransoms paid by the shipping industry increased sharply, and attacks spread from the heavily patrolled Gulf of Aden–the focus of the Action Plan–to the vast Indian Ocean.”

Seems we don’t know how much piracy costs or how much our countermeasures cost. We have made some progress in international cooperation, but we haven’t done very well at coordinating efforts within the US government.

At least one commentator thinks the process of learning to work internationally may be more important than the actual results. He also kicked off some additional discussion here and here, including discussion of how this reflects on the Cooperative Strategy 21. (It does look like the Brits are showing some initiative.)

The Coast Guard has already been deeply involved in this issue, from LEDETs on scene to recommending best practices to mariners, and if it ever to be successfully addressed, it will be part of the solution.

Piracy Countermeasures

Reuters is reporting some new countermeasures are emerging in response to piracy in the Indian Ocean. .

First there is the idea of providing a “panic room” where the crew can take refuge, preventing the pirates from taking them as hostages before help can arrive and the second is the possibility of contracted security or, “private navies.”

“The ships will be armed with deck mounted machine guns, more formidable than anything currently used by the pirates. They may also have unmanned drones and a small airship for surveillance.”

Using the engine room as a “panic room” made possible the recapture of the Antigua-Barbuda-flagged, German–owned vessel M/V Magellan Star by U. S. Marines from USS Dubuque (LPD 8).

Referring to “panic rooms” or “citadels” the article talks about the “need to be bullet-proof, contain food stocks, communications equipment and ideally a system to immobilize the ship.”

I don’t think anyone is armoring bulkheads to make them bullet proof, but water tight bulkheads and substantial chunks of steel like engine blocks can provide a lot of protection.

Provision for comms is important. In the case of the Magellan Star the only communication was by cell phone and the battery died just before the Marines assaulted, meaning it was several hours before the Marines were able to let the crew know they had been rescued and the Marines had to damage the ship the to reach the crew.