Snippets from the News

A couple of items that might be of interest.

If there was any doubt about the viciousness of the drug wars in Mexico, this ought to clarify things: Recently a Mexican Navy Vice Admiral was ambushed and murdered.

The Italian Coast Guard launches the first of two new ships. Relatively large at 310 feet long and 3,600 tons full load, but not nearly as capable as the projected Offshore Patrol Cutter, to me this looks like an adaptation of an oil industry Offshore Support Vessel. Most interesting feature is electric propulsion. Raytheon’s integrated bridge system might also be interesting, but there are no details in the story. Reasonable question is, can they can function effectively with a crew of only 38 or do they need additional augmentation for each mission. Apparently they can routinely berth up to 60 in addition to the crew, and up to 600 additional in case of an emergency. This last is a reflection of Italy’s Alien Migrant Interdiction problem.

Piracy Update–23 October, 2011

As noted previously, Somali pirates seem to be having a harder time this year. Additionally we continue to see both increased acceptance of the efficacy of armed security guards and increasing piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.

Eaglespeak shows how the piracy problem off Somalia has increased in recent years with an animated display of attacks on a yearly basis from 2005 to Oct. 2011 that dramatically shows both the increasing number of attacks and the progressively greater geographic distribution of attacks.

The good news is that while the number of attacks is up, the number of seizures is down from this time last year. “Only 24 vessels were hijacked this year compared with 35 for the same period in 2010.”

It is probably premature, but the Somalia Report is suggesting we may be seeing an end to piracy in the region as we have come to know it. Others are not convinced.

Since the last report, it has been a bad couple of weeks for Somali pirates. Looking at the NATO data base, there have been six attacks, but none have been successful. In fact, the period has been a net loss for pirates with one of their previously seized mother ships,Β the 100-ton fishing dhow Hibid Fidi, being recaptured by British commandos, freeing its Pakistani crew.Β  A few days earlier Brits from the RFA Fort Victoria, with support from a USN helicopter from the frigate USS De Wert, broke up an attack on an Italian vessel, the 56,000-ton bulk carrier Montecristo. The vessel’s crew of 23 had taken shelter in the ship’s citadel. Meanwhile Somali authorities claim to have captured 15 would be pirates.

File:FortVictoria Plymouth.jpg

Β Royal Fleet Auxiliary Fort Victoria, from Wikipedia Commons,Β  by User:Sreejithk2000

Use of the Fort Victoria, an underway replenishment ship, shows again that, at least for this type of sea control, you do not necessarily need a frigate, any armed vessel with a helicopter, boats, and space for an armed boarding team can do the job.

There is more information on the Montcristo attack here including information that the crew may have been steering the ship toward assistance from inside the citadel.

Armed Security Teams: There is more evidence of the acceptance of private armed security teams. A Japanese Company is hiring private security, while the Japanese government considers placing military teams on Japanese flag ships, and Italy is forming ten teams of six soldiers each to guard Italian Flag ships.

Gulf of Guinea: Here the motivation and methods appear to be different, but the area is becoming increasingly dangerous. 19 attacks have resulted in eight tankers have been hijacked in 2011 compared with none in 2010. The attacks below reflect only the last two weeks. From the Office of Naval Intelligence’s Piracy website:

1. NIGERIA: Vessel (JOAN CHOUEST) attacked by pirates on 17 October near the offshore Oso oilfield, near Bonny. (Open Source)
2. NIGERIA: Offshore tug/supply vessel (WILBERT TIDE) boarded by pirates on 17 October while underway near the offshore Oso oilfield, near Bonny. The Bangladeshi master was kidnapped as 20 armed men from two speedboats boarded the vessel. (Open Source)
3. NIGERIA: Product Tanker (CAPE BIRD) was hijacked by pirates on 8 October approximately 90 nm south of Lagos, Nigeria, and was released on 13 October. No further information on whether a ransom was paid or the cargo of oil was stolen. (Open Source)

There is some indication of how piracy can work in an area where there is still a viable national government.

Ghana has ordered two 46 meter patrol boats from China (very similar in size to the Fast Response Cutter) in an effort to beef up their anti-piracy forces.

Drug Running “How to” and Radioactive Shipping Containers

Eagle Speak has taken a break from his usual favorite topic of piracy to talk about drug smuggling and Port Security. Starting with reference to a Wall Street Journal book review (I Am the Market: How to Smuggle Cocaine by the Ton, In Five Easy Lessons, By Luca Rastello, Faber and Faber, 178 pages, $22), he ties in a report of a container of radioactive Cobalt 60 that has been sitting on a Genoa, Italy pier for 6 months because no one seems to know what to do with it. Lots of questions about the container and its contents which came from Saudi Arabia, ” Why did it take so long to detect the radiation? What does this say about port security in Saudi Arabia? Were the shipping documents falsified? Was anyone paid off to allow this shipment? What other shipments of hazardous materials would a small bit of Bakeesh allow to go unchecked?”–interesting reading.