How will Canada respond to new developments?
The spectacular increase in number and importance of the ships seized by Somali pirates now rates many daily commentaries in the press. Such increased attention paid to their actions and the mounting economic consequences has spurred the United Nations into action.
On Tuesday, December 2nd, the Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 1846. This resolution cites the Suppression of Unlawful Acts (SUA) clause from the United Nations Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the safety of Maritime Navigation, to which Canada is a signatory of both the 1988 Convention and Protocol.
Admiral Chad Allen, Commandant of the United States Coast Guard, describes the significance of UNSCR 1846 thusly:
SUA establishes a framework whereby masters of ships may deliver suspected SUA offenders to a coastal State Party and the coastal State Party is obliged to accept custody and extradite or prosecute unless it can articulate why the Convention is not applicable. Leveraging States SUA obligations in conjunction with existing international law against piracy provides an effective legal framework to deliver an "endgame." We have worked for several months now with our partners on the Joint Staff, through the "interagency process", and with our international partners to pursue this outcome. This is definitely a step in the right direction and I will provide updates in the future.
You can read Admiral Allen's full message here.
Meanwhile, the International Maritime Organization has called for a policy on arming merchant ships. While discouraging the arming of merchant seafarers, IMO secretary-general Efthimios Mitropoulos said flag states should work with owners of ships flying their flag to consider in what circumstances ships would be allowed to carry armed professional security teams. There is some concern from port states about accepting ships that carry such security teams. It seems clear, however, that conventional measures to deter piracy through 'sea control operations' are largely ineffective off the Somali coast.
Canada, whose naval vessels have already participated in anti-piracy operations, could soon find a very different scenario when its warships return to the region. UNSCR 1846 will oblige intervention beyond the previously passive measures undertaken in the past. Beyond this, armed security parties, which could be uniformed or not, may be present onboard merchant vessels to be boarded and inspected. This will significantly complicate matters and increase the danger factor to Canadian sailors, from simple misunderstanding due to language barriers, to accidental discharge of weapons, and a myriad of other scenarios.
The 'piracy problem' has now reached a critical threshold, one that will present many new challenges for Canadian naval personnel.
USNI Proceedings articles available on-line
The December issue of the United States Naval Institute's journal Proceedings contains a number of open articles on piracy that can be viewed by non-members here.
Daily developments - more complications.
Yesterday, the New York Times carried a report that the United States will place a proposal before the Security Council that could authorize attacks on pirate bases in Somalia by land or air. You can read the article here.
In addition, yesterday's press also carried the news that the proceeds from piratical activities are making their way to North America and into the hands of expatriate Somalis. An article from the Associated Press carried by the Toronto Star claimed that "among the 200,000 Somalis living in Canada, [some of them] offer funds, equipment and information in exchange for a cut of the ransoms." Further, it said: "Omar Jamal, executive director of the Somali Justice Advocacy Centre, an organization based in St. Paul, Minn., with ties to Toronto, says the network is "an open secret within the (Somali) community."
As the complexity of the tactical situation off the Somali coast increases and new operational avenues are explored, the relevance of distant pirate attacks to Canada has taken on a more human dimension that just a statistical one concerned with the cost of shipping commodities.
Backgrounder - Piracy and the United States Navy
The backgrounder "Piracy and the United States Navy" by Peter M. Swartz and Christine Fox can be found here.
Questions of liability complicate offers of security forces.
Lloyd's List news service is reporting that the European Union is forming "vessel protection detachments" which will be offered free of charge in an effort to counter pirate attacks in the Gulf of Aden. This move follows an earlier move by France. World Food Programme ships will be offered the EU service first. The report also indicated that the detachments will first offer advice on what means ship masters can use to avoid a confrontation with pirates, before resorting to force.
Another report on the Lloyd's List indicates that questions of liability for death or damages resulting from actions taken by the vessel protection units are complicating matters for ship owners. "While their presence in itself probably would not automatically invalidate cover, the question of whether the owner is acting as a 'prudent uninsured' in allowing them onto his ship may arise, according to one expert. Moreover, injury or death to armed forces personnel is not covered by typical war risk policies, he added." A war risks underwriter: "If armed guards are on board, there are potentially quite serious insurance implications. Certain flag states prohibit weapons being carried on board ships as well."
These articles and others on piracy are available on the Lloyd's List service, here.
An interesting press release from the US HQ in Bahrain :
"New Counter-Piracy Task Force Established" at:
There are several interesting components to this. The first is organizational:
"Some navies in our coalition did not have the authority to conduct counter-piracy missions," said Vice Adm, Bill Gortney, CMF Commander. "The establishment of CTF-151 will allow those nations to operate under the auspices of CTF-150, while allowing other nations to join CTF-151 to support our goal of deterring, disrupting and eventually bringing to justice the maritime criminals involved in piracy events."
In that light it will be interesting, therefore, to see where the European Union's piracy force fits in given concerns a few of its ships had rather weak ROE for the piracy mission. After Javier Solana, the EU foreign policy chief, announced their counter piracy force would have "robust rules of engagement," within days leaked documents revealed that the German government was "not prepared actively to pursue and arrest pirates" with regard to the ships it was sending. The keen military observer will no doubt recognize that most governments announce they are providing "robust rules of engagement" whether they are doing so or are not. One does not admit one is providing inadequate ROE, and in this case the opposite claim was an obvious howler. So one has to ask whether the new CTF 151 will exclude those EU forces without the political authority to actually capture pirates.
Next the flagship is the USS SAN ANTONIO - an amphibious ship or "Landing Platform Dock." This undoubtedly gives it the headquarters facilities and helicopter capabilities needed to coordinate forces, attack pirates, house them until turnover to the appropriate regional court (Kenya and Yemen have been mentioned), or, intriguingly, prepare for taking the counter-piracy mission ashore. Watch this space.
Finally, this forces one to ask where will the next Canadian ship go? CTF 150? or CTF 151?
The good news in all of this is that the current naval forces, however limited, are reportedly reducing pirate activity but much more apparently still needs to be done.
Hostage Taking Off the Horn
Patrick Lennox, CDFAI
A revealing story was published recently by Spiegel Online that detailed the aborted attempt of an elite group of German GSG-9 police to take back the German freighter, Hansa Stavenger, which had been hijacked by Somali pirates. You can read the lengthy piece of investigative journalism for yourself here.
The 'long and skinny' of the piece is that after mustering more than 200 elite force police armed with advanced weapons, speedboats, and helicopters, and teaming with USS Boxer, the plan to rescue the German freighter and its mainly German crew from the pirate sanctuary of Harardere was called off due to fears that it would result in a "blood bath" tantamount to a "suicide mission." It was a "Mission Impossible" that was ultimately nipped in the bud by US National Security Advisor, James Jones. Jones evidently didn't want Boxer involved in delivering German police into a situation they wouldn’t emerge from. His decision was supported by officials of the German Federal Police.
The piece caught my eye because I had actually used the exact term "blood bath" on The National in response to a question from CBC reporter Krista Erikson about what might happen if warships were to become more aggressive in rescuing ships that had been pirated.
This was a couple of days after US Navy SEALS had dramatically executed three Somali pirates that were holding the Captain of the container ship MAERSK Alabama, Richard Philips hostage onboard the Alabama's lifeboat. Just days before that, a French Special Forces unit had successfully liberated a French yacht, killing a number of pirates in the process.
It seemed like the media had all of a sudden become thirsty for Somali pirate blood, and wanted to know why more of this sort of stuff wasn't happening. Why were warships like HMCS Winnipeg so seemingly ineffective in combating Somali piracy?
My answer was that once a vessel has been hijacked by heavily armed pirates, the situation becomes a hostage taking like any other, and any proactive response carries with it the possibility of serious loss of life. I had in mind the mass execution of a crew, followed by the mass execution of the pirate gang, with the possibility of casualties to the boarding party or Special Forces unit that precipitated the shoot out by mounting an ill-fated rescue attempt. "It could be a bloodbath out there," I said to Krista.
The case of Hansa Stavenger reveals plainly just how difficult mounting a successful rescue is even for the most heavily armed and capable forces. At anchor in Harardere, Hansa Stavenger was under the command of at least 30 pirates armed with their usual weaponry—AK 47s, RPGs, etc. Half the hostages were held on the bridge, the other half below decks. All of the ships lights were on, and the pirates kept close watch on the surrounding area.
The scenario that led to the aborted German rescue mission should be taken as the norm when it comes to thinking about the piracy of the Horn. The dramatic rescue of the captain of MAERSK Alabama was an isolated and fortunate case. The fact will have to be accepted that Somali pirate gangs have developed an extremely effective business model that comes complete with an equally effective security policy.
This business model might more accurately be labeled hostage taking, rather than piracy. In any event, it is a form of maritime predation that is bound to get worse before it gets better.
For a detailed study of this issue see my "Contemporary Piracy off the Horn of Africa" Nexen Papers, Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute (CDFAI).
Countering Somali Piracy – All International Eggs in one Basket?
(Reprinted from “Seaways,” Journal of the Nautical Institute, September 2009, pp. 30-31.)
David Mugride, CFPS Research Fellow
The focused intervention of foreign naval forces off the coast of Somalia raises as many questions as it answers. Why Somalia and not Nigeria or Indonesia? Why so much emphasis on treating it as a simple maritime issue rather than looking at its root causes? Why has international law proved so ineffective in dealing with piracy? This article will examine the issue and context of Somali Piracy as well as offer some advice on self protection measures for merchant ships. The International Institute for Strategic Studies recently produced an informative and readable fact sheet on the issue of Somali Piracy. Its author makes some direct and apposite observations over both the threat to the merchant community and the nature of the international response. This work is highly recommended and would be of value to those working in corporate offices within the maritime industry and to those in command at sea as a short digest of the issue.
Piracy in one form or another has existed for centuries but why has Somali piracy captured such international attention, when incidences of piracy in Nigeria or Indonesia fail the headline test? To my mind, this is because Somalia has provided the global media with a very newsworthy series of stories in which dramatic images of captured merchant ships and their crews can be played out in front of an increasingly “sea-blind” home audience. They have managed to deliver news spectaculars in which super-tankers, vessels carrying tanks or weapons have been held hostage and critically individual personal stories in which Western hostages have been freed in daring special forces’ missions. All of these are manna from heaven for a western news media hungry for stories which offer a new angle on the desperate nature of life in the failed state of Somalia.
There is no doubt civilian sea-farers can do more to help themselves when transiting areas of risk. Arming seafarers is a common cry but are ship owners and crewing agencies going to pay the training bill to keep weapon handling and tactical skills are an appropriate level? The answer is probably not but collective / corporate responses like transit convoys, registering with regional naval forces, embarking military personnel / private security companies, implementing self protection measures such as vessel lock-downs and extra on-watch crew all make their ships less attractive and harder to assault than those who do not implement these relatively easy counter-measures.
A review of Op Atalanta, the EUNAVFOR (European Union Naval Force) mission shows a highly evolved and focused naval mission which in conjunction with the activities of the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet and those of other interested countries has become one of the largest international military activities seen outside of combat operations in recent years. But is this surge of military activity the right course of action or is it sustainable? How many of the countries currently involved will still be able to send ships and personnel in a year or even in a decade? History has taught us that such military adventures are the thin edge of a longer term and enduring wedge. The Royal Navy’s decision to gap its on-station warship in the Falkland Islands in preference to its contribution to counter piracy operations off the Horn of Africa is reflective of its need to retain command of the deployed EUNAVFOR for political reasons but also illustrates a failure to balance its commitments and resources. After-all the argument must go “no contribution, no task-force command” and the Royal Navy needs this deployed command so it can justify its current command structure to an over-stretched, battle weary Army or an overly ambitious, maritime sceptic Royal Air Force?
While talk of surge activity is common in the fight against insurgents or terrorists, such activity seems incongruous in the maritime context. Unlike the comprehensive military campaigns being waged in Iraq or Afghanistan there seems to be little activity, apart from guaranteeing the security of food aid convoys, which is looking to address the break-down of Somali society or the very reasons why piracy developed in the Horn of Africa. If the excellent work of Generals Patraeus and Mattis can be adapted for this maritime campaign then perhaps the recent lessons learnt on their turf could be applied in the maritime surf. Piracy is only in part a maritime issue because its root causes are political, economic and social. Failure to address these is a sure-fire guarantee of this becoming an enduring issue.
Questions over the viability or value of certain countries military responses have been raised across the globe. Naval vessels deployed to the region without robust Rules of Engagement or the capability to deter incidents of Piracy are very much paper tigers, whose contribution is purely political. HMCS Winnipeg’s recent deployment saw the Canadian public opinion question the value of sending such a capable unit for an extended deployment with only the ability to detain, to disarm and to release persons suspected of piracy. The British government’s much heralded bilateral agreement with Kenya, which allows for suspects to be tried in Kenyan courts, just illustrates the failure of today’s international law in dealing with this increasingly violent problem.
The value of delivering a regional solution rather than imposing one from outside cannot be overstated. Up until now for the want of equipment, expertise and resources neighbouring states have been unable to contribute more effectively in the battle against the pirates. There are pleasing examples of where Western nations are now building local capacity to redress years of political under-investment in the region but these will all take time. Yet it is hoped that just as a capable Iraqi Navy now patrols its own territorial waters under the guidance of the coalition Task Group, so in years to come the likes of Yemen, Kenyan, Djibouti and Somalia will be able to deter piracy in their own waters and protect the 20% of global trade that passes through the Bab El Mendeb Straits. Here the excellent work undertaken by the Royal Navy, amongst others, in Iraq and Nigeria can be used to great effect. There we saw training teams deployed into theatre to deliver the capacity building required delivering viable water-borne law enforcement, but if this job is to be done then unlike Iraq it must be resourced appropriately so that full local technical co-operation and participation can be achieved.
At the moment Flag Officer Sea training in Plymouth is providing its usual brand of focused and realistic training for NATO navies deploying East of Suez. Its combination of Task Group and individual platform training is complemented by mobile, deployable teams who add polish to units on their transit to operations. This work is essential if those asked to discharge dangerous military missions are to be fully prepared for what challenges lie ahead. Yet in this resource driven world, we must hope that the work of such organisations is not viewed by those who only know its financial cost and not its long term value.
Countering piracy is one of the clearest examples of how many navies are responding to today’s security challenges with both Cold War doctrine and equipment. Despite nearly a generation passing more appropriate equipment and platforms is still a long way off. Perhaps only the USN is able to field modern bespoke ships which are custom built for this sort of task. Yet although the train of progress is slow there are clear examples of countries that recognise the value of constabulary maritime activity to their national security. The recent Australian Defence White Paper does exactly that, unequivocally showing Australia’s resolve to procure and deploy a strong, capable Navy to provide defence in depth of its national interests.
Legal problems and seemingly inappropriate rules of engagement have done much to hamstring an effective response to either piracy or maritime based terrorism. There is a plethora of international law which should deal with these issues but in the case of Somalia we see almost a “back to the drawing board” stance being taken by military lawyers who scramble between establishing hasty bilateral agreements with neighbouring states and compromising a commander’s ability to conduct their mission with heavily caveated rules of engagement. From an outsider’s perspective the lack of prosecutions under existing international agreements like ISPS or SUA suggests they are not being used at this time of greatest need because they are not up to the mark.
In conclusion, Somali piracy is not an easy problem to solve but with collective military, legal and commercial collaboration it is highly likely that it can be managed effectively. Measured and sustainable military activity which addresses regional shortfalls is required in the short-term until a viable and resourced regional solution can be established. The international community is guilty on focusing upon this one region as a cause celebre and as a consequence it has forgotten that piracy is a widespread issue. All hotbeds of piracy require international collaboration and action unless we are to sacrifice the safety and welfare of seafarers as they go about their professional lives where-ever that may be. The lessons being identified off Somalia need to be learnt and then applied where-ever piracy occurs.
EU Anti-piracy Naval Force Warship Tracks Down Pirate Mother Ship
Ken Hansen, CFPS Defence Fellow
The European Union scored a major success on Thursday, 12 November, when the French warship Floreal tracked down and apprehended the pirate attack group responsible for the recently reported attacks against the large tanker BW Lion, 500 miles northwest of the Seychelles. This was reported as the furthest any vessel had been attacked from the Somali coast by pirates. You can read more about the event here.
The operation entailed the use of intelligence to cue search assets, the use of a long-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft, and a high-endurance, patrol-type warship. Hunting for small ships in an area that is over 350,000 square nautical miles is proving to be a cost-intensive operation.
Whether to Protect the Sea or Protect the Ships?
Ken Hansen, CFPS Defence Fellow
The capture by pirates of another super tanker, the Greek-owner MV Maran Centurus, approximately 800 nm off the coast of Somalia was reported this week by the BBC. The BBC report quotes Somalia analyst at the International Crisis Group think-tank Rashid Abdi as saying “the world's navies has made little difference to the problem of piracy. So I don't think the solution is in building the naval deployment there, or increasing the naval deployment.”
The commander of the EU Naval Counter Piracy Force, Rear-Admiral Peter Hudson, is also voicing the opinion that naval options are unproductive (read article here): "The news of a few days ago of a 300,000-ton tanker being seized is illustrative of the problems in protecting and policing an area of the world's oceans that amounts to an area of about 1 million square miles." The article quotes Hudson as saying, “the EU force will never fully secure such a large area. The EU Naval Force's strategy in the smaller Gulf of Aden is to lengthen the amount of time it takes pirates to get on board so that a warship or helicopter can be dispatched to the scene.”
The obvious problem here is one that has been repeated previously many times in the practice of the protection of trade. The idea that the ‘sea must be controlled’ instead of ‘the ships must be protected’ has led to many misguided efforts at such things as ‘sea control’ or ‘defended lanes’ and ‘patrol boxes’. During the Second World War attempts at ‘offensive interception patrols’ in the Bay of Biscay by both aircraft and surface warships proved to highly cost intensive and very ineffective. Meanwhile, the ships themselves lacked for escorts, and the losses continued. The analysis of these failures was not registered, evidently, as the Cold War saw many similar plans resurrected but never put to the acid test.
Now the same thing is happening, although the threat is not akin to the one from the historical examples cited. However, the principle is exactly the same. Until close and continuous escort is provided for the shipping in the recognized danger area the losses will continue. Arguments against convoying will obviously arise, just as they always have in the past. The basic problem is that patrolling activities or stationing boxes will never be reactive enough to address the problem.
The IMO has the authority to institute an international danger area and to order merchant shipping to accept direction from military authority, which the IMO can designate. Such protection can be provided by armed parties put onboard, by the direction of shipping around known danger areas, and by the close or distant escort of shipping. Using evasive routing and distant escort techniques is entirely reliant upon accurate intelligence of the enemy’s location, strength and intentions. As the recent history shows, such actionable intelligence is sadly lacking. Until it does become available, the only effect answer is the same as it has always been: convoying.
The weakness of Defended Lanes exposed by an ‘audacious pirate attack’
Ken Hansen, CFPS Defence Fellow
In my post on 7 December, entitled “Whether to Protect the Sea or Protect the Ships,” I argued that efforts to create defended lanes are a “misguided effort at sea control” and that history has shown repeatedly that they are based on a flawed operational concept. I did not realize at that time that it would take only one month for the Somali pirates to expose this fact.
World Sentinel reports that the British-flagged chemical tanker St. James Park had left southern Spain, bound for Thailand, and was hijacked on New Year’s Day in the International Recommended Transit Corridor, a ‘patrol zone’ through the Gulf of Aden. The corridor is promulgated by the USN Liaison Office (MARLO) in Bahrain. You can find more information on the corridor here. You can read the International Maritime Bureau “Live Piracy Report” and see a map depicting the location of the attack here.
The report in World Sentinel makes it clear that there was no escort for St. James Park because, in the words of Commander John Harper, spokesman for the EU's anti-piracy flotilla, “St James Park opted to act independently and unfortunately there was no naval ship close enough to offer assistance in time.” The object of a defended lane tactic is to provide sufficient presence in a specific area so that the level of force deters the aggressor from acting against the transiting ships. There are two problems with this plan.
First – the Somali pirates are not at all deterred by presence of the naval anti-piracy force, nor are they concerned with their potential actions even if they should happen to be present. The ‘catch-and-release’ policy means that even uneducated Somali pirates can figure out the risk-reward equation.
Second – the anti-piracy naval forces can never be reactive enough when in such close proximity to land. The pirates use high-speed and very manoeuvrable small craft for these dash-and-grab raids. In such circumstances, the naval vessel must be in the immediate vicinity of the target ship in order to be sufficiently reactive.
In case the conceptual point of distinction here is lost, I will spell it out clearly: a naval vessel that is compelled to be in close proximity to a merchant vessel that requires protection is NOT ON PATROL. This arrangement is known as CLOSE ESCORT and it is used in the protection of trade for a tactical system known as CONVOYING. By definition, a convoy can consist of as little as one vessel under naval direction. The degree of protection provided can range from simple routing instructions, to distant escort, and down to close escort. The degree of the protection provided depends on the level of threat and the ability of the assigned forces to counter that threat.
In my earlier post, I cited the commander of the EU Naval Counter Piracy Force, Rear-Admiral Peter Hudson, who said: “The EU Naval Force’s strategy [sic: it is actually an Operating Concept] in the smaller Gulf of Aden is to lengthen the amount of time it takes pirates to get on board so that a warship or helicopter can be dispatched to the scene.” This statement means that the naval forces are relying on a concept of ‘directed dispersion’ to place ships in the correct patrol locations (more likely patrol boxes) necessary to intercept pirate craft before they can seize a merchant ship. They are attempting to use their limited number of escorts in an intelligent fashion to achieve the maximum benefit. They have narrowed down the area of the sea they wish to ‘control’ to the smallest amount possible by declaring the International Recommended Transit Corridor and focussing their patrols in this area, hoping for the maximum return on the investment of time, resources and energy. Nevertheless, they are still engaged in patrolling, not escorting.
The losses will continue so long as the pirates hold the advantages of numbers, initiative, speed, reaction and manoeuvre over the naval anti-piracy forces. Only once the naval force resorts to the concept of ‘concentration’ for local effectiveness will the situation change. The warships and aircraft cannot be everywhere at all times. In fact, they cannot even be most places for most of the time. The key concept must become that they only need to be where the shipping is sailing and only at the times they are needed. (This may need to be narrowed down further to where the most important shipping is through a critical vulnerability analysis.) The only way to do this effectively is to concentrate the shipping and provide an adequate level of escort. Patrolling areas of ocean that are empty of both merchant ships and pirate craft is a complete waste of time. This has always been the case in the past and it is the case again now.
Background and Update on NATO Counter Piracy Operations off Somalia
Commander Larry Trim, CF.
I have read all the posts about piracy and find them very interesting…but somewhat misinformed in certain areas. I am also somewhat disappointed that there is an absence of information about NATO’s contribution to combating piracy off the coast of Somalia. I am presently the second in command of the N3 (naval operations) department within the Maritime Component Commander Northwood, United Kingdom. I have been in this position for six months, and throughout this time have only worked the piracy issue. I offer the following information with respect to NATO Counter Piracy Operations off the coast of Somalia.
NATOs first deployment to the region was early 2009, when NATO was deploying to Australia to conduct an out of area deployment. However, due to the exponential rise in piracy the ships were diverted and began operations in the Gulf of Aden to combat the pirates. The initial operation was called Operation Allied Protector, which has since morphed into Operation Ocean Shield (which was approved by the North Atlantic Council August 2009). Since this time, ships from SNMG1 and SNMG2 have been rotating into the Gulf of Aden every four months, and will continue to do so into the indefinite future. Now to address some of the piracy posts on Broadsides.
First the UNSCRs that deals with Somalia. UNSR 1897 is a merging of authorizations given in UNSCR 1846 and 1851. In practical terms the most important aspects of the UNSCRs is that it allows naval forces to enter the Territorial Waters (TTW) of Somalia. This means that the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia is giving up a portion of its sovereignty to allow the international community to police its waters. Why is this important for NATO? One of the posts here mentions the Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor. This eastbound/westbound highway on the seas stretches about 550 nautical miles. Within this corridor, naval units from NATO, European Naval Force, and Coalition Maritime Force station there units to allow for the safe transit of the many merchant vessels that transit the corridor each day. To the south of the corridor, along the coast of Somalia in a region called Puntland, where the pirates originate from. As mentioned above, with the ability to enter the TTWs of Somalia, the naval forces are preventing the pirates from departing their strongholds. Combine this ability with patrolling the corridor, Maritime Patrol Aircraft flying over the area, and the actions of the Puntland authorities, we have seen a significant reduction of pirated attacks within the GOA. Until the recent hijacks of the two vessels end Dec 09 and early Jan 10, there were no successful hijacks in over four months in the Gulf of Aden. If you compare this to only one year ago, this is a significant achievement.
Second, one post mentions the arming of merchant vessels that transit the Gulf of Aden and Somali Basin. One would think that this would be an acceptable solution to piracy. I totally agree with this assessment. However, the merchant community and owners feel differently. When a CEO of a shipping company was visiting our headquarters to provide his experience with the ransom process I asked him that question. His response was that this would raise the level of violence between the merchant crews and pirates. Additionally, the cost of hiring firms that could effectively conduct this business model was considered prohibitive. Combine this with flag state issues, flag states of convenience, entering countries with armed teams onboard and you can see how complicated this issue becomes. For the most part, the shipping owners and companies don’t want to start arming their crews to combat pirates. Without armed teams onboard, the only way to defeat the pirates is by following Best Management Practices (BMP). Uk Hydrographic chart Q6099 explains the BMPs in detail if you are interested. So, why are ships still being pirated? Well, you would think that all owners and merchant captains would take these Best Management Practices to heart and employ them with vigor. About 80 percent of the ships are following these BMPs…but there is another 20 percent that are not. There are still vessels that are pirated within the 80 percent, but for the most part it is those vessels that are not taking any precautions to stop the pirates. Of course it is a combination of following BMPs, alerting naval forces of attacks, and how fast the warships can respond. In the Gulf of Aden, warships are stationed to respond within 15 minutes of an attack. The window is between 15-30 minutes to arrive on scene to stop a pirate attack with helo or warship. This has been accomplished on many occasions over the past few months.
Another post mentions that there will be significant risk to naval boarding teams due to the arming of merchant vessels, miscommunication due to language, poor weapon handling etc. This position is inaccurate due to the fact that the naval vessels in the region are not visiting these merchant vessels. The merchant traffic is the ones that need protecting. So why would we visit? The naval boarding teams are spending their entire time finding and boarding small vessels used for piracy, and DHOWS that are often used as mother ships. There have been many inspections suspected and actual pirate vessels. Often as the warship approaches ladders and weapons are thrown overboard. Many weapons, cell phones and GPS have been confiscated, and useful intelligence has been gathered. Of course, these inspections lead one to ask the question about the “Catch and Release Policy” that NATO exercises. I will address this in the next section.
Many of the posts mention the problems with legal arrangements and inadequate Rules of Engagement (ROE). It is no secret that NATO doesn’t have legal arrangements in the area, to allow NATO ships to embark detainees and deliver them for justice at the local magistrate. On a more careful inspection of this topic, one must ask “is it really a limiting factor” that will cause the failure of NATOs mission? Based on the success that NATO has had in the Gulf of Aden I would suggest no! More to the point, what overall impact will it really have to prosecute and jail a 20 year old Somali youth that is only trying to improve his lot in live? Wouldn’t it make more sense to actively seek out those that plan, finance, and provide logistics for pirate operations? Additionally, those organizations and countries that have entered into arrangements with Kenya and Seychelles quickly understand that the devil is in the details. Those that are detained and brought before a judge in Kenya must do so within a limited timeframe. This become very problematic when you detain in the Gulf of Aden and must transport to Kenya. This long transit significantly impacts the ability of that warship to patrol in the IRTC, and conduct other operations to stop acts of piracy. Also, the limited number of prosecutors and judges means that cases are often not heard for months. In fact we have a post commanding officer that travels to Kenya on a regular basis to participate in the court process…months and months after the actual detainment and handing over to Kenyan officials. So, suffice to say that having legal arrangements to detain and prosecute is not the panacea that many of the posts mention. I would postulate that many of the organizations that are presently taking detainees will stop this process due to the problems mentioned above. Finally, the subject of ROE. I won’t go into the details due to security concerns but suffice to say that NATO has robust and excellent ROE. The mission has seen great successes over the past five months in the Gulf of Aden and contrary to a few posts NATO ROE in no way hampers or restricts the commander’s ability to conduct his mission.
A few posts mention that the IRTC is not an appropriate method to ensure the safety of the merchant traffic in the area. In fact, there are many convoys or group transits that take place every day. Nations like Russia, China, India, and Japan are conducting these types of operations daily. Those that are not part of the group transits can proceed via the IRTC and combined with their Best Management Practices is a very safe method to transit the Gulf of Aden. A more difficulty problem is the Somali Basin. The majority of the successful pirate attacks have taken place in this massive area of sea. One can easily place the entire eastern seaboard of the United States in this area as a comparison of its size. The pirates that operate in this area are very different from those that ply the waters of the Gulf of Aden. They operate in open boats out to a range in excess of 900 nautical miles, for weeks at a time. Combine this tactic with those merchant vessels not registering with naval authorities (United Kingdom Maritime Trade Organization in Dubai, NATO Shipping Centre in Northwood, or Maritime Security Centre Horn of Africa in EUNAVFORCE in Northwood) to allow them to receive information about pirate areas of concern in the Somali Basin, and not practicing Best Management Practices and you can see why there has been a significant rise in vessels pirated in this larger area.
Finally, I would like to close this post with some information about SHADE. This stands for Shared Awareness and Deconfliction. This is a group of likeminded organizations and countries that are committed to ending piracy off the coast of Somalia. This group meets in Bahrain monthly and ensures that there is continued success in the IRTC. NATO, EU, CMF and countries such as China, Russia, Japan, and India meet at the tactical level and work together. As a Canadian Naval Officer working for NATO I often have lunch with Russian and Chinese officers to discuss how to improve the situation in the Gulf of Aden. I would suggest that the recent agreement by China to become more actively engaged in the IRTC is historic.
A strong voice demands change in anti-piracy operations
Ken Hansen, CFPS Defence Fellow
The Hong Kong Shipowners’ Association (HKSOA) has released what is described as “a furious statement” condemning the current organizational construct and tactical practices employed by naval forces to prevent piratical activities off the Horn of Africa. They accuse the international community of “tolerating piracy instead of eliminating attacks” and “sending out the message that piracy carries little risk for generous reward.” The HKSOA has demanded “a more robust approach from the international community.”
One analyst, from Tactical Defence Concepts (Maritime), reports “This is a stance that will resonate across the shipping industry that is becoming increasingly frustrated with pirates who seem able to operate with impunity. Military patrols in the Gulf of Aden have prevented many attacks but the pirates have simply moved far out to sea.” Patrols, vice escort, seems to be the basis of their objection to the current plans.
The advent of ‘group transit’ tactics (convoying by any other name) by some of the naval contingents in the region is a very welcome development. Cdr. Trim’s post reports that they are being undertaken by “nations like China, India, and Japan.” Not being members of the various naval coalitions operating under the task force construct likely compels these nations to accept one of the only tasks open to them. There has always been a resistance to escort operations, vice independent patrols, amongst navies.
Convoying has always been viewed as a lower order of naval work than patrolling. Canadian author Ken Macpherson characterized accurately the general perception of convoy work before the Second World War among professional destroyermen in the Canadian navy: “The 1939-45 war was to change [Canadian plans for offensive ‘hunting’ patrols by groups of destroyers against enemy surface raiders] and see most of them, like thoroughbreds in harness, cast in the plodding role of watchdog to trade convoys.” (Macpherson, The River Class Destroyers, p.15). There has never been (to this point) an effective alternative to group transit when the enemy holds so many operational and tactical advantages as they do now. The escort system must extend to the limits of the danger area, so far as it is known. In this case, it is somewhat limited. In other cases, it has been much more extensive.
The idea of navies engaging in a global system of trade protection has repeatedly been rejected by naval leaders. Admiral Sir Herbert Richmond felt strongly that there was just such a requirement. But, he had already been declared something of a heretic for his unconventional views on the size and missions for capital ships during the inter-war period and he was dismissed summarily when, quoting President Franklin Roosevelt, Richmond advocated for “a navy not only to protect our shores and our possessions, but our merchant ships in time of war, no matter where they go” (Richmond, Seapower in the Modern World, pp, 56, 223. Emphasis in original text).
There were many areas of the world’s oceans where convoying was not instituted during the last war. One such was the west coast of Canada where the threat was viewed an on-going low level menace from Japanese submarines with the potential for a sporadic medium-level problem due to a Japanese surge operation. The director of plans, Captain (later Vice Admiral) Harry DeWolf, conducted a staff estimate to assess the threat and examine possible courses of action. Not surprisingly, DeWolf recommended that convoying not be instituted, that air and surface local patrols be mounted only in the focal areas near ports and straits, and that evasive routing and air patrols in more distant areas were enough to provide a “reasonable degree of protection.” The danger to shipping was perceived to be too slight to merit institution of a system that would reduce the carrying capacity of shipping by 35 percent and instigate a plethora of other logistical problems. The decision to convoy is a very difficult one and is not to be undertaken lightly, whether dealing with a conventional military threat or something else.
The question now devolves to a question of the perception of threat and the actual risk involved. The perception of the Hong Kong Shipoweners’ Association appears to be quite different from that of the planners responsible for organizing the anti-piracy operation. If the analyst from TDC Maritime is correct, and this perception “resonates across the shipping industry,” there will likely be some naval planners digging into the history books as they look for other options.
A profitable situation – for both sides?
Ken Hansen, CFPS Defence Fellow
The February 2010 issue of SEAPOWER in its section entitled “Intercepts” (p. 10) contains the following comment by Jan Fritz Hansen, Vice President of the Danish Shipowners’ Association:
“The waters east of Africa are a grey zone because developing countries don’t have resources to fight pirates. It’s a temporary solution that a shipper has hired a warship from another country, but there’s no alternative.”
The comment by the TDC (Maritime) analyst (cited in my 25 January post) that the dissatisfaction expressed last week by the Hong Kong Shipowners’ Association with the current anti-piracy effort “will resonate across the shipping industry” appears to have at least one other supporting voice.
However, the notion that naval forces are ‘for hire’ raises an entirely new dimension to the question of how to provide marine security in danger zones.
How much is safe transit worth?
Ken Hansen, CFPS Defence Fellow
An article in Stars and Stripes provides some insights into the fees being charged by private security contractors now offering escort boats and onboard armed parties to ward off pirate attacks.
Jim Jorrie, CEO of Espada Logistics and Security-MENA, a San Antonio-based company, is reported as citing the following for such services:
- $54,000 for a three-day escort through the Gulf of Aden; and
- $74,000 for a four-day protection that covers East Africa and the Horn of Africa down to the Seychelles or Mombasa, Kenya.
A variation on this arrangement is reported in the same article as the contracting out of the services of the newly formed and still developing Yemeni coast guard to provide merchant vessels escort as they transit the Gulf of Aden. This service is handled by Muse Professional Group Inc., headquartered in Ukraine. The article reports that Muse charges private companies $25,000 for escort through the Gulf of Aden.
A new assessment of escalating costs provides further insights.
Ken Hansen, CFPS Defence Fellow
An article from Defence IQ provides more data on the growing piracy problem in the Indian Ocean and the effect it is having on local economies. You can read the article here.
Here is a short summary of the data presented:
- Number of global piracy attacks in 2009: 406 (highest number since 2003).
- Average ransom paid: between $2M and $3M
- Average cost of a hijack (to shippers): $1M.
- Value of hijackings to Somali economy: $90M (to Nov 2009).
- Number of nations contributing to naval anti-piracy forces: 20.
- Average number of warships patrolling daily: 17.
- Drop in attacks since patrolling began: 50 percent.
- Number of cargo ships that transit yearly: 30,000 (= 80 daily (approx.)).
The article reports that a meeting of the East African Community Sectoral Council on Transport, Communications and Meteorology in Arusha, Tanzania, resulted in a declaration by ministers attending: “Piracy off the Somali coast is having a serious impact on the local economy and transportation.” They urged all partner states to support anti-piracy efforts in the Indian Ocean.
The article also records complaints about the expense of the current naval-centric approach. Thomas Countryman, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Political-Military Affairs with the U.S. State Department, is quoted as saying: “The locus of pirate activity has shifted and we are trying to deal with it. It's expensive, and that's why we feel strongly the need to pursue the lowest-cost options to deter piracy. Defensive measures taken by ship owners and crews are the lowest-cost and most-effective way to deter pirate attacks.”
Another article in Defence IQ, entitled “Security Companies Cash In on Anti-Piracy Operations,” reports: “However, these criminals have become bolder, as well as better armed and equipped, so attacks have grown dramatically both in number and ferocity.”
The great value of the gains from piracy means that the revenues are now a ‘vital interest’ to the sub-national forces in Somalia. They will continue to innovate, escalate the use of force, improvise and operate further a field to continue the flow of cash. Secretary Countryman’s comment that “defensive measures taken by ship owners and crews are the lowest-cost and most-effective way to deter pirate attacks” is a not-too-subtle declaration that the rising cost of naval operations to counter a criminal activity could be reduced or prevented by adequate commercial operators. The dynamic tension over whose responsibility it is to counter pirates is now clearly stated.
The third party in this relationship is the global consumer public. The cost will be passed along, either in the form of increased taxes or rising commodity prices, or both, if one or the other, or both, of the operational players decides that piracy is no longer their problem.
Regionally, the consequences could be much more serious than increased costs. The meetings in Tanzania are clear indications that the local effects of piratical attacks against the sea transportation system are straining already fragile local economies. The support for anti-piracy operations from the regional partners could take many forms and should increase as the realization that their own vital interests are at stake. Whether this situation escalates into a regional conflict remains to be seen, but the understanding that vital interests are threatened indicates that the potential for such an outcome has heightened.
Tactically, the prospects for incidents of violence are also increasing. As the seriousness of the situation for the global and regional actors rises, the likelihood of the use of force increases. The pirates are clearly increasing their tactical capabilities and the naval forces in the region are increasing in number. At some point, the efforts by both sides to deter and intimidate will become a provocation. The question then becomes: “Which side will resort to violence first?
The cost of armed security guards.
Ken Hansen, CFPS Defence Fellow
Sam Bateman, Senior Fellow with the Maritime Security Programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), has published a RSIS Commentary on 5 March entitled “Riding Shotgun: Armed Security Guards onboard Merchant Ships.
Bateman explains that several private security companies are offering armed protection services for ships transiting high-risk piracy areas off the Horn of Africa. The cost of a three-person detachment runs around US$21,000 a day. After a pro and con assessment of the issues, Bateman concludes saying “The IMO should develop global guidelines for the employment of PSCs and armed security guards at sea.” You can read the article here.
Armed Security Guards Kill Pirate in Shootout.
Ken Hansen, CFPS Defence Fellow
Fox News (FoxNews.com) is reporting that armed security guards have shot and killed a Somali pirate for the first time. You can read the news report here. The incident took place on Tuesday, 23 March, and was directed against the Panamanian-flagged, general cargo vessel MV Almezaan (IMO Registry No.7906710). The ship’s owners are from the UAE and it regularly plies these waters hauling small cargoes (2,886 DWT). This is the third time Almezaan has been attacked; she was capture twice and ransomed both times in 2009. The vessel is 89 metres long and has a beam of 13m.
The incident raises fears of escalating violence between two groups that are not subject to controls on their use of force. The article cites Patrick Cullen, from the Barcelona-based International Politics Institute and the co-author of an upcoming book on private maritime security companies, as saying, “Regulating maritime security companies is a very gray area.” Other organizations are echoing the concerns expressed here, including the International Maritime Bureau, about the use of armed security contractors inducing pirates to be more violent.
The Fox article claims that incidents of violence between ships and pirates are on the rise:
“Crews are becoming adept at repelling attacks by pirates and many more ship owners are using private security guards. Pirates are becoming more aggressive in response, shooting firearms and firing rocket-propelled grenades at ships to try to intimidate captains into stopping. The International Maritime Bureau says 39 ships were fired off Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden in 2008, but that number increased to 114 ships by 2009. Earlier this month, four separate shoot-outs [occurred] in a single day between pirates, security guards and military personnel aboard commercial vessels.”
Almezaan is a small, slow freighter whose owners have had enough of paying ransoms. This represents the baseline for the entire piracy issue, not an exceptional incident involving a high-value target. The next move by the pirates will be very illuminating, although it may take some time before a trend emerges.
Is it coming down to ‘Crunch Time’?
Ken Hansen, CFPS Defence Fellow
Gordon Lubold of the Christian Science Monitor (CSMonitor.com) quotes Admiral Mark Fitzgerald, Commander U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Commander U.S. Naval Forces Africa, in a report on 19 April as saying the problems of piracy off the coast of Somalia are growing and that the USN cannot continue these costly operations indefinitely: “I don’t think we can sustain the level of operation we’ve got down there forever.”
Pirates have begun to escalate the use of force when they are confronted by warships. Last week, USS Ashland (LSD-48), a Whidbey Island-class amphibious ship, was fired upon when the ship moved to intercept a pirate skiff. Ashland returned fire and the pirates were apprehended.
A clear dichotomy has developed between ship owners and operators, who feel that armed security is not their responsibility, and naval authorities, who feel that more needs to be done to deter pirates before naval forces become involved. Admiral Fitzgerald, whose position on the cost of naval anti-piracy operations is clear, stated: “The maritime industry has got to make a decision about how seriously they want to take this on.”
Although the free use of the seas is often cited as a vital interest of the modern, globalized economies of the world, it appears that there are limits to how far the states providing forces will go to provide security for stateless corporations. Multinational shipping corporations, and even some state-owned ones, seem to be intent on offloading their security costs, either directly onto security providers or indirectly onto insurance companies.
Another escalation as the pirates grow bolder.
Ken Hansen, CFPS Defence Fellow
AFP news services have reported Somali pirates were able to capture the Bulgarian chemical tanker MV Panega (IMO number 8511586, 5,846 DWT, built in 1986) on Tuesday, 11 May. The crew of 15, all of whom are Bulgarians, have been taken hostage. The ship was enroute from the Red Sea to either Pakistan or India (there is some confusion on this point of the destination.).
What makes this event different is that the ship was under the protection of the EU naval force in a convoy. While the convoy size, organization and number of escort forces are not know, it underscores the points made earlier in this discussion: the pirates are not deterred by a catch-and-release policy; they hold numerous advantages; and they have been escalating their use of weapons and tactics. The article reports that the pirates employed “heavy artillery” when they hijacked a German chemical tanker on Saturday.
The naval forces in the area have also been escalating their use of force. The same article reports: “Russian marines on Thursday stormed a hijacked Russian oil tanker in the Gulf of Aden in a daring early morning raid, killing one of the Somali pirates aboard and capturing another 10.” The surviving pirates were later “set free” some 300 miles from shore in a boat that had no navigational equipment. The article quotes a Russian defence source on Tuesday saying the pirates are “most probably dead after failing to reach the shore.” This is not exactly the same approach to catch-and-release.
The protection of trade has always been a difficult endeavour. Convoying is the most effective means but it has never been foolproof. Most of the major sea battles in naval history stem from the need to protect a collected group of ships. In the case of pirates, as with the case of lone naval merchant hunters, the ability to cut one or more ships out from a group has been accomplished many times. The goal of protecting trade has never been to assure absolute, 100-percent security: the goal is to reduce the risk to acceptable levels. But, with escalation still taking place and naval authorities stating openly that this level of effort cannot be maintained, it is difficult to know what the ‘steady state’ will become.
MV Panega was typical of the small, slow ‘targets’ that maritime predators have feasted upon in other convoy scenarios. But, in relative terms, it is a meagre meal. This is poor consolation for the owners of the vessel, the shippers of the cargo, and the families of the mariners. But, it is a historical truism that sea power works slowly through a process of strangulating exhaustion. In this case, it will be a test to see who reaches that state first.
The tremendous advantages held by the pirates do not bode well for the other side: they have a safe base of operation; they have had enormous success; built up an almost mythical culture and cadre of loyal followers; and most importantly they are from such poor circumstances that even the more meagre gains of taking smaller ships will seem like a major victory to them. Stamping this scourge out will be practically impossible within the current construct. Watch for more signs of escalation and exhaustion as time progresses.
Solving Somalia, by CFPS Research Fellow Dr. Martin Murphy.
Ken Hansen, CFPS Defence Fellow
The July issue of Proceedings features a number of articles on the issue of Piracy (Vol. 173, No. 7). Among them is one by Martin Murphy, who has recently joined CFPS as a Research Fellow. Unfortunately, the article is only available on-line to members.
New Statistics from IMB reinforce existing trends, show new ones.
Ken Hansen, CFPS Defence Fellow
The statistics on piracy attacks for the first and second quarters of 2010 have been released. They contain data that shows the Somali pirates are expanding their capabilities to conduct long-range operations and avoid the multinational naval force patrols. You can view the report here.
The first two quarters of 2010 have resulted in 196 incidents of armed robbery and piracy, compared to 240 incidents during the same period in 2009 (-44). A total of 597 crewmembers were taken hostage in these attacks and 16 were injured.
The 18.3% decline in total attacks is attributed to events two areas:
- Attacks in the Gulf of Aden dropped to 33 from 86 in 2009 (-53). This is attributed to the affects of the naval patrols and the adoption of best practices by ship owners; and
- Attacks have also decreased off the coast of Nigeria, although the IMB knows that many attacks in this area go unreported.
Increased activity in other areas, some of which is very significant, detract from the positive news.
Somali pirates continue to expand their area of operations. A hijacking has taken place beyond longitude 69◦ east and an attempted attack occurred at 12◦ south. The IMB has expanded the area to be avoided to 70◦ east and 10◦ south, with the acknowledgement that attacks are already occurring outside of these bounds. Most of the attacks by Somali pirates now involve weapons and their escalation in the use of force continues.
The impending monsoon season offers some hope of a reduction in pirate attacks in the Indian Ocean, although this generally means an increase in attacks in the Red Sea.
Another trend is the increase in attacks in the South China Sea, which have more than doubled to fifteen attacks from seven over the same period last year.
Chemical and product tankers are continuing to be a favoured prey of pirates, with 51 being attacked. An increase from 21 in 2008, to 39 in 2009 (+86%), to 51 (+31% from 2009) in the first half of 2010 indicates that these ships are both valuable and vulnerable.
In a separate report, JoyoNews quoted a 28 July report from Platts Commodity News (www.platts.com) that states: “Pirate attacks on tankers in Asia have jumped by a whopping 127% in the first half of this year…” The knowledge that small tankers are easy prey and quickly ransomed for good prices has obviously spread outside of the Indian Ocean. The pirates are showing their ability to learn from each other and adapt their operations to changing circumstances.
Private contractors to train Somali anti-pirate forces?
Ken Hansen, CFPS Resident Research Fellow
An article by Jason Lewis, entitled “Paul and Rachel Chandler: British mercenaries hired to take on Somali Pirates,” in the 20 November issue of The Telegraph claims that the U.K. government is preparing to pay a private contractor to employ British ex-special forces personnel to train and assist Somalis: “Acting as ‘mentors’ the ex-SBS men will be allowed to accompany the new crews on patrols going into action in armed encounters with the gangs.”
Apparently, problems between the transitional Federal Government of Somali and the Puntland district authorities have delayed plans for the creation of a Somali Coast Guard. According to Lewis, it called for a “Somali Coast Guard unit equipped with 8 fast patrol craft and 96 personnel and coastal observation teams.” Arguments over who would control the coast guard have brought that idea to standstill.
Now, a new approach is being brokered that will, “get better intelligence against pirate bases ashore and to be prepared to take action against them.” The new concept seems to involve closing the coastline to the pirates, augmenting the efforts of naval forces offshore: “Operating in fast boats capable of outrunning the pirates’ converted fishing vessels, the plan is to retake the coastline and prevent the pirates from putting to sea or returning to shore with kidnap victims.”
There are several problems with this new plan. The coastline is extensive, so the intention of closing it to pirates will not be fully achievable, even in the long run. As noted by Lewis, existing law enforcement agencies are notoriously unreliable, due to low pay, poor administration, and shoddy (sometimes corrupt) oversight. The federal government does not control the coastline (which is the cause the problem in the first place), so the Somali-U.K. teams will not have a secure base from which to operate, forcing them to concentrate for defensive purposes. This will mitigate against their mounting effective offensive operations. The pirate cartels are steadily becoming more powerful, organized and wealthy. They will be able to mount their own counter moves to whatever ad hoc forces are thrown against them. This could involve simply outbidding the contractor for their Somali supporters, or even intimidating them into not cooperating. They also hold a large number of hostages, which might be used to compel the contractors to withdraw.
There is no easy answer to the piracy problem. Somali is so far gone as a failed state that reconstruction will be a slow, dangerous and expensive process. So long as more reward is available through the proceeds of piracy than through aide and reconstruction, the condition will persist.
The ‘Global Spill-over Effect’ of lawlessness at sea.
Ken Hansen, CFPS Resident Research Fellow
An article entitled “Piracy sidelines Third of Taiwan’s Indian Ocean tuna fleet,” released on 26 November by AFP details the plight of fishermen operating in the Indian Ocean. Taiwan has reported to the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Bluefin Tuna (ICCAT) that 66 of its 141 vessels equipped to fish Bigeye Tuna “have ceased their operations due to the escalating situation.”
Somali pirates have captured three Taiwanese fishing vessels. One was released after a 10-month period of captivity and the payment of a large ransom. The other two vessels and crews continue to be held hostage.
The Taiwanese are claiming that, because of the threat of pirates, they should be permitted to send 15 vessels to fish for Atlantic Bluefin Tuna. The problem is that Bluefin Tuna are officially in danger of extinction due to over fishing in every region of the Atlantic, except for Atlantic Canada where they are able to sustain a limited fishery. Will quotas be reallocated that could threaten the local fishery as the result of illegal activity half a world away?
The article reports that the Taiwanese request would be limited to 2010 and 2011. Then, “Once the problem of piracy is resolved, or the period is expired, the vessels ... will return to the Indian Ocean.” The problem is that substantial harm to stocks of Atlantic tuna can be wrought in two years and there is no evidence to support the assumption that the piracy problem will be rectified after that time. By then, the Taiwanese will be established in the Atlantic fishery and will be able to claim existing rights. The fishery is regulated on a voluntary basis and there is, again, no evidence to support the idea that they Taiwanese would withdraw willingly if the Indian Ocean were still too dangerous for them to exploit. In the globalized world, issues of crime at sea can have indirect effects that ‘ripple’ about endlessly.
Somali pirates’ eastward expansion by Ben West
Ken Hansen, CFPS Resident Research Fellow
An article was released on 6 December by Strategic Forecasts [STRAFOR]. STRATFOR analyst Ben West examines the reasons why Somali pirates have increasingly looked to the Indian Ocean for hijacking targets. My thanks to CFPS Research Fellow Dr. Stan Weeks for bringing this article to my attention.
Editor’s Note: Transcripts are generated using speech-recognition technology. Therefore, STRATFOR cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.
Somali pirates hijacked the Bangladeshi vessel MV Jahan Moni on Dec. 5 off the coast of India. This latest incident represents a growing trend in which Somali pirates are targeting vessels farther east.
The expansion of Somali pirate activity farther east off the coast of India doesn’t necessarily represent a new capability on the part of the Somali pirates. As we’ve seen they’ve been hijacking ships to the south an equal distance away from India down by the Seychelles and Madagascar for several years now. What’s allowed them to do this is the acquisition of larger motherships such as large fishing trawlers and midsize cargo ships. We’ve also noticed more recently they have been leapfrogging. For example, they can hijack a fishing vessel or a cargo ship maybe 500 or 600 miles from the coast of Somalia and instead of taking it back to Somalia, expanding on that and going farther east.
The increased geographic scope of Somali pirate activity is likely attributed to the greater maritime security force that has been deployed in the Gulf of Aden in past years. By providing protection for cargo ships traversing the Gulf of Aden, the international maritime forces that have been deployed there are making it harder for Somali pirates to target those ships. This has forced the pirates to move their operations elsewhere, namely the Indian Ocean. So far, international forces have really only focused on the Gulf of Aden for providing secure transit for international trade. While this disperses the threat it certainly doesn’t do anything to remove the root causes of piracy that is based out of Somalia.
The reason for expansion eastward toward India is likely opportunistic in nature. We don’t have any indications that Somali pirates are interested in the strategic implications of their expansions. They’re simply out to make money.
EU NAVFOR Admits Piracy Problem Far Greater Than Reported
Ken Hansen, CFPS Resident Research Fellow
This article from Ecoterra International was released on 27 January as part of their ongoing series entitled “Status of Seized Vessels and Crews in Somalia, the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean.” The reports can be found on the Australian News website at this URL: http://www.australia.to, under the “Ecoterra” tab. My thanks to CFPS Research Fellow Tim Dunne for bringing this article to my attention.
“Today, 27 January 2011, 23h00 UTC, at least 48 foreign vessels plus two barges are kept in Somali hands against the will of their owners, while at least 868 hostages or captives - including a South African yachting couple - suffer to be released. But even [the commander of] European Union Naval Forces (EU NAVFOR), who counts only high-value, mostly British insured vessels, admitted now that on their rather understating account 723 hostages on 30 vessels are recorded as kept hostage, while the IMB spoke of 32 vessels and 746 hostages before the latest sea-jacking. Having come under pressure, EU NAVFOR’s operation ATALANTA felt compelled to publish now their list of those vessels , which EU NAVFOR admits had not been protected from pirates and were taken. EU NAVFOR also admitted for the first time that actually a larger number of vessels and crews is held hostage than those listed on their file. Since EU NAVFOR’s inception at the end of 2008 the piracy has started in earnest and it has now completely escalated. Only knowledgeable analysts recognized the link. Request the Somali Marine & Coastal Monitor from ECOTERRA Intl. for background info and see the situation map of the PIRACY COASTS OF SOMALIA.”
The sentence that is underlined in the text is highlighted to emphasize the central point made repeatedly under this discussion topic: naval practices that focus on the creation of protected areas or defended lanes are destined to fail, just as they have failed in every other historical attempt to apply these types of ‘Sea Control’ operations. The main problem is that Sea Control is a concept. It is not a practice. The practical application of naval power for the conceptual purpose is achieved through a wide variety of activities, which are all situation dependant. As the antagonist changes tactics, venue or intensity, so too must the protagonist. If the conceptual answer to the problem is ‘Sea Control’ the next questions should be: where, for how long, against whom, and by what means?
The basic advantages of the Somali pirates remain unchanged, as I described them in my post on 7 January 2010, entitled “The weakness of Defended Lanes exposed by an ‘audacious pirate attack’”:
“First – the Somali pirates are not at all deterred by presence of the naval anti-piracy force, nor are they concerned with their potential actions even if they should happen to be present. The ‘catch-and-release’ policy means that even uneducated Somali pirates can figure out the risk-reward equation.”
“Second – the anti-piracy naval forces can never be reactive enough when in such close proximity to land. The pirates use high-speed and very manoeuvrable small craft for these dash-and-grab raids. In such circumstances, the naval vessel must be in the immediate vicinity of the target ship in order to be sufficiently reactive.”
To this I would add another point: “Third – there will never be enough naval forces present to patrol the entire area. Ever-expanding operations by the pirates have had the same effect that long-range U-boat attacks had in the Second World War: they found new hunting grounds where patrols did not exist; they forced the adoption of defensive measures that reduced the capacity of the entire cargo system; and they weakened the escort forces everywhere through a process of dilution.”
Protection of trade against marauders is always a slow war of attrition. Small technical innovations will have operational effect over time, but they alone will not be decisive. The procedural changes needed will only come after sound study and analysis, and only once traditional approaches have been demonstrated as failures. Although the numbers of ships and crew held prisoner is mounting, the incidence of violence is escalating, and the costs of ransoms are increasing, it is doubtful that the tipping point is yet in sight.
Killing Pirates: The Dilemma of Counter-Piracy
Ken Hansen, CFPS Resident Research Fellow
This article by Sam Bateman was released on 26 January as Report No. 6/2011 by the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Singapore. Mr. Bateman is a Senior Fellow in the Maritime Security Programme at RSIS, Nanyang Technological University. He is a former Australian naval commodore with research interests in piracy and maritime terrorism. The article is reprinted here with the permission of RSIS. The RSIS website can be found at this URL: www.rsis.edu.sg. My thanks to CFPS Research Fellow Dr. Stan Weeks for bringing this article to my attention.
“Synopsis. The recent storming of a hijacked ship off Somalia by South Korean navy commandos, resulting in the killing of eight pirates, has met with considerable acclaim. The success, however, has not resolved the debate over international counter-measures against piracy.
Commentary. South Korean Navy commandos successfully stormed and secured the release of the chemical tanker Samho Jewelry early on Friday 21 January 2011 after it was hijacked several days earlier by Somali pirates in the Arabian Sea. Eight pirates were killed in the action, five were captured, and the master of the ship was shot in the stomach. In another equally dramatic raid, shortly before this incident, the Malaysian Navy successfully freed a hijacked Malaysian-flagged chemical tanker Bunga Laurel soon after it was seized by Somali pirates. There was no loss of life although three pirates were wounded.
Same Goal, Different Approaches. These two actions had marked differences. The raid to release Bunga Laurel was launched within hours of the initial hijacking and only after the military was assured the crew was locked in a safe ‘citadel’ and would not suffer harm. The action was similar to earlier successful operations to secure the release of hijacked ships. For example, in April 2010, Dutch marines released the German-owned container ship Taipan from pirate control. In a similar engagement in September 2010, US marines released another German ship, Magellan Star. Both actions occurred without casualties. In another incident, the mere arrival of a warship drove pirates off a hijacked ship after the crew had immobilised the vessel before hiding away.
The risks of casualties are much higher if an assault is delayed for several days. The pirates will be better prepared to defend the ship and may be holding the crew hostage after finding their hiding place or “citadel”. This appears to have been the case with Samho Jewelry with reports that crewmembers were told to lie on the deck before the commando assault commenced.
The release of Samho Jewelry provided a morale boost for the South Korean military after last year’s sinking of the corvette Cheonan and the North Korean shelling of a border island. The South Korean foreign minister announced the successful operation at a diplomatic reception in Seoul, receiving cheers from those present. The action has been enthusiastically reported by the international media.
Risks of Escalation. Despite acclaim for the Korean action, it could have undesirable consequences. It opens up questions whether violent assaults should be made on hijacked ships in circumstances when there are high risks of loss of life to the assaulting forces, the ship’s crew and the pirates themselves. Such actions could lead to an escalation of violence off Somalia. Already there are reports of the Somali pirates threatening revenge against South Korean ships and crews.
The international shipping community remains generally opposed to employing armed security guards onboard vessels passing through high-risk piracy areas. Reasons for this include fears about the risks of escalating violence and of injury to the crew and damage to the ship, as well as the uncertain legal implications. Similar considerations apply to military assaults on the pirates holding hijacked ships. Following the Samho Jewelry Incident, the European Union Naval Force operating off Somalia said it would not follow suit in storming ships to secure their release for fear of endangering hostages.
It is a moot point now whether Somali pirates should be attacked and killed just because they have hijacked a ship. Ideally, Somali pirates caught in the act should be subject to proper trial despite the difficulties of bringing them to justice. The rule of law should prevail.
Collateral Damage. The storming of Samho Jewelry was successful but it could easily have gone wrong with the death and injury of innocent crewmembers. Seafarers are potentially the innocent victims of piracy if violence is allowed to escalate in the fight against Somali piracy. From a seafarer’s perspective, it would be better to be held hostage onboard a ship anchored off Somalia for several months than dead!
There have been other incidents when crew have been killed as a result of the military assaulting a hijacked ship. In November 2008, the Indian Navy sank a Thai fishing vessel believed to be acting as a pirate vessel with the death of the pirates and all but one of the vessel’s crew. In April 2009, a French military operation to free the yacht Tanit resulted in the death of the yacht’s skipper and two pirates.
Policy Implications. Dealing with piracy off Somalia is a vexed issue with widely diverging views on how best to deal with the pirates. However, it is important that the international community reaches some common ground on the preferred response to a hijacking incident. Both the UN and the International Maritime Organisation have been working towards that end but with mixed results so far. The escalation of violence should be avoided as far as possible.
There are now warships from many countries conducting counter-piracy operations off Somalia. Some are coordinated as part of the European Union’s efforts or through one of the international task forces organised by the US Navy. Others operate independently. All have their own national rules of engagement (ROE) prescribing how and when force might be used. These differing ROE allow a variety of responses and this can lead to problems.
The Koreans might argue that the release of Samho Jewelry was their own business. The ship was Korean-owned, on the high seas, and Korean nationals were onboard. However, “spill-over” consequences of the action should not be ignored, particularly with regard to the possibility of escalating violence and of collateral damage to ships and their crews. International agreement on preferred actions to secure the release of ships hijacked off Somalia is essential.”
The Danish Shipowners’ ‘call to arms’ against piracy
Ken Hansen, CFPS Resident Research Fellow
with contributions from Tim Dunne, CFPS Research Fellow
The Ports and Ships website is reporting that the Danish Shipowners’ Association has officially requested the Danish government to “lower the threshold” for placing armed security guards onboard Danish vessels. Currently, they are only allowed to do so in what is termed “extreme circumstances.” The increasing risks associated with piracy has prompted the association’s call to “activate the full toolbox” of security measures.
Danish Shipowners’ Association spokesman, Mr. Jan Fritz Hansen, is quoted on the Ports and Ships Maritime News service in an article entitled “Danish call to arms” as saying: “This is a geopolitical problem. If piracy continues to expand the way it is just now, this will be a black spot on the world map.” The Danish Shipowners’ Association also called on international navies to take stronger action against pirates: “Intercept them, destroy them, sink them.” Hansen said that while such actions should be left to the professionals, it is a crucial measure to limit the success of the pirates.
Mr. Hansen’s position is in clear contradiction with the views expressed by Mr. Sam Bateman released on 26 January as Report No. 6/2011 from the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) in Singapore:
“The international shipping community remains generally opposed to employing armed security guards onboard vessels passing through high-risk piracy areas. Reasons for this include fears about the risks of escalating violence and of injury to the crew and damage to the ship, as well as the uncertain legal implications.”
The concern over the escalatory effects of placing armed security guards is the subject of an article by Dr. Chris Spearin in the Autumn 2010 issue (Vol. 63, No. 4) of Naval War College Review. Spearin’s article entitled “A Private Security Solution to Somali Piracy?” thoroughly examines the problems of perception between most naval authorities, who view piracy as a non-naval ‘law-enforcement’ problem, and ship owners, who, in the words of Mr. Peter Hinchliffe, marine director of the International Chamber of Shipping, find “[I]t is totally unsatisfactory for naval authorities to try to devolve that responsibility to innocent merchant ships.”
Spearin examines the rise of private security contractors and makes it clear that, in the absence of an alternative, they will expand into the same security and legal void that the pirates are exploiting. He shows that most pirate attacks end in less than fifteen minutes, some of which have even happened within the Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor. Naval forces are spreading out, trying by all means possible to extend their area of coverage, but with obviously ineffective results. In this case, are there any other effective options but using private security contractors?
The Danish Shipowners’ Association has every right to make demands upon the Danish government for improved security measures. That the government has placed severe restrictions on the employment of armed security parties onboard a Danish ship is probably a reasonable measure, at least until the capabilities of these contractors are known with certainty. However, the Danish request is not the same as demands made by the International Chamber of Shipping upon navies generally to assume all responsibility for anti-piracy measures.
The move by ship owners to flags-of-convenience registries was a means to circumvent national standards for ship certification, operation and insurance. The business motive did not consider the potential for a game-changing development like the rise of piracy. The new situation leaves ship owners with the right to make demands for security only to the state whose registration they bear and whose flag they display.
Many states that have large merchant fleets registered are completely incapable of attending to the maritime security needs of their corporate clients. Moreover, it may not even be in their vital interests to do so. Under these circumstances, the ship owners will have little recourse but to employ private security contractors, or change their flag of registry. Their risk-benefit calculus about where to register has a new factor to consider.
While it is recognized that the global shipping industry is important to the maintenance of our modern economic system, only detailed analysis of the components of national trade will produce a clear assessment of what is a vital and what is peripheral to a particular country’s interests. For states with ships carrying their flag or cargoes of vital interest, the means by which protection is provided must be appropriate to the circumstances, the threat and the nature of the cargoes carried.
History has many examples of naval protection for shipping being provided by routing control, close escort and the use of naval parties for defensive measures. With attacks developing in as little as fifteen minutes off Somalia, close escort is essential for effective protection. The problem with this approach is that insufficient assets are available to provide close protection as a general measure. There are only two other options if private security contractors are not acceptable. The first is to determine which cargoes are critically important, either because of their nature or their value, and provide extremely close protection for them and leave all others with minimal coverage. The second is to provide armed naval security parties onboard merchant ships.
A four-person detachment can provide a 24-hour defence watch with proper supervision and a surge response in the event of an attack. Equipped with portable long-range communications, they would be able to summon assistance and provide last-ditch defence in the event a fallback to an onboard citadel is necessary. The deterrent effect of a nationally controlled security detachment of naval professionals is worth consideration. Flag states that do not possess a Special Forces capability for retaking captured ships and hostages can be virtually assured that those circumstance will not develop. Small security teams can be easily be taken off by existing naval boats and helicopters without resorting to special measures. Even travel by commercial means will not entail major expense. These security teams need not be implemented beyond the areas affected and the whole effort can be suspended in less time that it takes for a warship to travel home from the Indian Ocean.
The broad assumption that merchant mariners have a right to safety everywhere upon international waters is not the same as their right to self-defence against a specific pirate attack. Everyone has recourse to use reasonable levels of force to ensure their safety and the safety of those under their protection, but only to the point that the attack ceases. Even though the Convention on the Law of the Sea provides all states with the legal option of intervening in cases of piracy and to undertake legal prosecution, only the flag state has a responsibility to provide physical protection if mariners are unwilling or unable to go beyond passive measures. In that case, they are completely justified in providing defensive measures up to and including the use of deadly force to deter attacks, but not to use force for retaliation or punitive purposes.
It is mandatory in the naval profession that the controlled use of force goes through standard steps to warn off aggressors. In combination with passive defensive measures and non-lethal techniques, warnings and the presence of naval guards will likely achieve deterrence. In the event that disabling or potentially deadly fire is employed, the nearest naval unit can be summoned to deal with the consequences. The merchant ship need only delay in the event that life is in jeopardy as a result of the exchange, but need not hazard itself unduly because of the already demonstrated hostile intent of the attackers.
The basic problem is that years of multi-national corporate restructuring and tax-evading business practices have separated the once-clear relationship between the protection of the flag state and ships owned by business interests whose activities are beneficial to that state. Likewise, states have been very complacent to place trust for their vital maritime transportation interests in the hands of what are effectively non-state corporations. To make matters worse, navies have restructured to counter threats that are completely unlike the low-tech problems of piracy, and have lost sight of their historic duties in that regard. They are unwilling to restructure and are not motivated to provide innovative solutions.
With cargo values for large merchant ships reaching the range of $1B-$2B, the provision of small security detachments for vessels travelling under the national flag has the potential to be an efficient and effective anti-pirate defensive measure. Some states have already made this offer to their shipowners, but few have accepted. It seems the Danish Shipowners’ Association is ready to do so now.
EU NAVFOR Versus Somali Piracy - A War Worth Winning?
Dave Mugridge, CFPS Doctoral Fellow
[30 March 2011] Moderator’s Note: This article was posted on Defence Iq on 30 March. The first paragraph is reproduced here, along with a link the remainder of the article, with the permission of the editor.
Policy is the player
The EU’s response (Operation ATALANTA) to Somali Piracy under the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), once hailed as progressive, is now facing increasing criticism from western press and policymakers. Having been extended beyond its original tenure, it is now caste by many as a limited operation designed to provide a conventional response to an unconventional threat. Several iterations of the same policy have been launched to prop this mission: United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1814 (2008), 1816 (2008), 1838 (2008) and 1846 (2008). Since that time it has been extended by UN Resolution 1950 (2010) and is scheduled to run until at least the end of 2012. Indeed, the UNSC’s decision to promulgate yet another extension of Atalanta’s mission seems only to confirm that its success or failure will not be measured by the results it actually produces (or indeed, fails to produce). On paper, it aims to:
- Protect vessels of the WFP delivering food aid to displaced persons in Somalia;
- Protect vulnerable vessels cruising off the Somali coast, and to deter, prevent and repress acts of piracy and armed robbery off the Somali coast;
- Monitor fishing activities off the coast of Somalia.
Read the entire article on Defence Iq here.
Somali Pirates escalate their operations to a dangerous new level
Ken Hansen, CFPS Resident Research Fellow
[17 June 2011] Following the warning published in MarineLink.com on Thursday 24 March that the trend in the use of violence by pirates would escalate into a small war, a major development occurred that has added new credibility to this alarm. The Economic Times carried an article on 18 April, entitled “Somali pirates pose new challenge to India,” that reported seven Indian crewmembers from the captured ship MV Asphalt Venture had been withheld even after a ransom of $3.5M USD was paid for the release of the ship and her crew.
This is a first-ever development in the history of Somali piracy and represents a new escalation in their operational activities and a significant change in their methodology. Hassan Farah, a spokesperson for the Somali pirates, is reported in the article to have said: “We will keep these Indians until the Indian (authorities) release our colleagues.” Farah was referring to a group of over 100 Somali pirates that are in custody in India. He further indicated that a council of warlords in Haradhere took this decision collectively.
Previously, ransom negotiations would eventually produce an agreement that resulted in confident expectations of the terms being honoured. Recent reports of torture to hostages were a worrisome development that indicated this ‘business as usual approach’ was breaking down. The largely ineffective naval operations to suppress piracy ran afoul of the problem of what to do with captured pirates, but the lack of progress on that account was never related to the potential of these kinds of hostage demands; only problems of logistical capacity to hold, bring to trial and incarcerate sufficient numbers of pirates. The questionable assumption that incarceration would have a deterrent effect seems to have hit a new and more ominous stumbling block.
The pirate leaders view the Indian move to capture and hold pirates as a ‘Declaration of War’. This view is reported in an article entitled “Somali pirates say they are at War with India,” which was published on 20 April by Modern Tokyo Times. The author, Mr. B. Raman, Additional Secretary (ret.), Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India, and the current Director, Institute for Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies, views the Somali moves as having both strategic and tactical consequences. Strategically, the Indian counter-piracy strategy needs to be reviewed because of the ever-increasing range of Somali operations, which, Raman claims, now include “the targeting of Indian nationals, interests and Indian naval and other onshore establishments by the pirates.” Apparently he takes the Somali ‘Declaration of War’ quite seriously.
Tactically, Raman wonders if “the Government of India and our Navy to agree to a swap deal for the release of the Indian hostages (which numbered 53 in five different ships at the time of writing) in return for the release by India of some of the Somali pirates.” A large number of details will need to be considered before such a risky operation can be attempted, especially in light of the Somalis reneging on ransom agreements.
Operationally, however, no issues were raised in Mr. Raman’s statement. This is odd. The connection of strategy to tactics must run through the operational realm so that the activities of tactical units will work towards the achievement of strategic goals. The problem is that the strategy of using naval forces in a conventional operational approach to anti-piracy operations has failed. On 27 April, an article entitled “Piracy may force sailor boycott, Indian unions,” Indian maritime unions and shipping organisations warned “There is a strong possibility that a collective international boycott by the seafarers coming from the labour-supplying countries like the Philippines, India, Indonesia, Russia, Bangladesh, etc., is round the corner.” While the situation worsens little is being done to change the approach towards assuring the security of merchant shipping and sailors. Navies, content with their organization and force structure, place the achievement of strategic goals behind the defence of their institutional objectives. The result has been a major operational failure to implement tactical activities that will help to achieve strategic goals. The results grow progressively worse while the vitally important strategic link that enables the global economic system comes under strain from secondary effects that are not directly related to the actions of the pirates.
Eventually, either the political leadership or the maritime security forces (both, preferably) will realize that the deployment of armed teams onboard shipping of national interest is the only really effective means to prevent pirates from capturing ships and taking hostages. Whether they are uniformed and under military command or commercial and licensed by a recognized regulatory authority, close protection is the only sure way to prevent pirates from seizing local control and holding it by threat of force. The problem is that few navies are properly organized or equipped to undertake such a decentralized and dispersed type of security operation.
Control is an operational concept that is central to naval operational planning: if you can achieve it in a local area for a period of time, the aim of the operation can probably be achieved. If it is disputed, trouble will occur but all is not lost. If you do not have local control, the situation will grow steadily worse. That is exactly what is happening.
The concept that the simple presence of a warship assures local sea control has been held up to a very harsh light and found to be full of holes. The ‘general purpose’ nature of modern warships is only relevant to their combat employment and they are unable to prevent or even reduce low-intensity criminal activities that are now being viewed by some as a form of warfare. The broader spectrum of naval activity has long included efforts to suppress maritime crime and ensure the security of the global commons. The Indian government is getting a harsh lesson about naval history. It is likely the turn of the Indian Navy next. Others should also be watching and learning.
Britain’s Foreign Affairs Committee Report critical of naval anti-piracy efforts
Ken Hansen, CFPS Resident Research Fellow
[Tuesday, 14 February 2012] The Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC) of the British parliament has published its tenth report, entitled “Piracy off the coast of Somalia.” You can read the report here.
The report notes that, while the establishment of the safety transit corridor has made the Gulf of Aden reasonably safe, their concentration of effort has really has only served to ‘displace’ pirates into the Indian Ocean, where the extent and intensity of their operations grow steadily: “We conclude that naval forces have so far been unable to make the oceans safe from Somali piracy. Recognising that a substantial increase in conventional naval and air assets is unlikely, we urge the Government to think of novel ways of detecting skiffs and thus improving response times to incidents in Indian Ocean, by exploring technologies such as micro satellite surveillance and/or lighter than air persistent wide area surveillance, such as that being developed by US forces for Afghanistan.”
The urging of the committee for navies to resort to “novel ways” to detect small pirate craft is key to the problem if conventional forces are to have any role in dealing with this issue at all. When quick response assets are in short supply the only hope of having them in ‘the right place at the right time’ is to have intelligence that allows timely direction to take preventative action. The reports stated intention of “reducing response times” misses the point that, once onboard, the pirates hold the upper hand. If conventional naval forces are to be effective, they must be able to intervene before the pirates make their move, not afterward. Intelligence of this sort also allows routing of potential victims away from danger areas, so that the sea once again becomes a ‘vast and empty expanse’ for the predators.
Maritime surveillance and intelligence generation was the topic of a workshop conducted at Dalhousie in October, entitled “Closing the Gap.” You can see all of the presentation materials on the CFPS Maritime Security Policy Program webpage here. A presentation by Mr. Guy Thomas, entitled “Ocean Surveillance From Space,” showed that the needed surveillance capabilities already exist and that what is required now is a processing and analysis capability to synthesize the data into useful intelligence.
The creation of a networked and integrated surveillance and intelligence-producing system is entirely consistent with the naval way of warfare. Networked systems are central to how maritime power works. The key problem is that naval commitment to applying these methods to a constabulary role is lacking. Assembling, processing, analysing and disseminating multi-source data is a major undertaking and it will not be cheap. As the government’s budgetary response to the economic downturn looms in Canada, the entire Canadian Forces is committed to protecting ‘core capabilities’ and divesting itself of things that are viewed as peripheral. The navy is no different in this regard. ‘Novelty’, in the current context, is not ‘central’ to the continued existence of the navy.
The Royal Navy is in the process of changing its force structure and capabilities away from a frigate-based patrol force into a carrier-destroyer-submarine battle force. This will reduce the number of responsive ships and aircraft for constabulary duties, such as anti-piracy patrols, and increase the strategic power projection capabilities of their naval forces. This is the outcome of their strategic assessment process that weighed risk and shaped organizational change.
The Government of Canada has chosen a status quo approach to the combat role of the Royal Canadian Navy with a one-for-one replacement plan of the existing destroyer and frigate fleet, but has added a major new capability component to the constabulary role of the navy with the Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ship. That the AOPS will be built first is a clear signal that the government has identified domestic security issues that the navy must recognize and address. So far, there is little commentary from the navy to show they have registered this fact. Sooner or later, the cultural affinity of the navy for its combat role will come into conflict with the government’s desire for it to assume more responsibility in dealing with a broader view of maritime security. It will likely boil down to an argument over which type of ship provides the capabilities that the country needs most. The problem with this is that the most urgent need is actually for useful information and the intellectual skills to put it into context.
The ship-centric approach to maritime surveillance and law enforcement will never produce the degree of presence and responsiveness needed to adequately police Canadian territorial waters and the economic zone, much less the broad expanse of international waters. Without a reliable and useful surveillance system that enables the timely placement of units where they are needed, anti-piracy, crime prevention and stopping illegal immigration will seem like a game of ‘whack a mole’ instead of serving as a real deterrent to illegal activities and an encouragement to the lawful use of the sea.
More misguided efforts
Ken Hansen, CFPS Resident Research Fellow
[Tuesday, 24 April 2012] On 23 March, Jeremy Binnie, Jane's Defence Weekly Middle East/Africa Editor in London, reported that the EU had expanded the area of operations for the EU Naval Force (EUNAVFOR) counter-piracy mission to include Somali coastal territory and internal waters. Binnie’s opinion is that EUNAVFOR would attempt to “disrupt pirate logistics by destroying equipment such as skiffs and fuel storage facilities on shore.” He predicted that the reinforcement of the task force by two French vessels, including the Mistral-class amphibious assault ship FS Dixmude, would enable heliborne operations against pirate land bases. It didn’t take long for this misguided plan to go ‘off the rails’.
On 19 April, Kate Tringham, a reporter for Jane's Navy International, reported that both NATO and EU naval forces denied any involvement with a night air strike carried out on 16 April. Two fishermen were injured in the attack by two combat aircraft in the coastal district of Gumbah, 200 km east of the commercial port town of Bosaaso, capital of the Bari region of Puntland. The attack occurred around midnight and targeted boats on the coast. This geographic description puts the attack off the tip of the ‘Horn of Africa’ in the shallow waters between it and Socotra island, which marks the entrance to the Gulf of Aden. These are known fishing grounds, but also an area from which pirate small craft operate against shipping coming from or going to the Suez Canal.
Abdiwahid Mohamed Jo'ar, the director general of Puntland's Ministry of Marine Resources, Ports and Fisheries laid the blame for the incident squarely on counter-piracy forces. He claimed that they had targeted civilians in Gumbah district and that fishermen had now suspended their operations for fear of further attacks. There was little doubt in his mind about who was responsible.
New rules of engagement, authorised by the EU's Political and Security Committee on 2 April, permit Operation Atalanta forces to carry out limited operations against pirate boats and fuel supplies close to the shoreline. These attacks will involve small arms fire from helicopters. EU NAVFOR personnel have not been authorised to land in Somalia. Tringham’s article quoted a naval spokesperson stating, “Our focus is going to be on their boats, their fuel and their supplies - not the pirates themselves.”
The problem with such offensive forays into coastal and inshore waters is that they have failed uniformly throughout history. They are most commonly associated with an effort to exert ‘control’ over an area of water in order to contest or deny the use of that space to the opposing force. The problem is that amateur navalists fail to recognize that these terms (control, contest, deny) are mere conceptual terms that guide the formulation of operational plans and are not the actual objectives of naval activities. The tactical activities that are derived from the conceptualisation of a plan must have physical objectives that are attainable within the means of the forces deployed. A good plan will have tactical objectives that will contribute to the mission aim, and the strategic goals. Bad plans will go about accomplishing things that do little or nothing toward those ends. Really bad plans will actually hinder the accomplishment of the mission aim and higher strategic goals. Most often, this happens as the result of second- and third-order effects that are retrograde in nature (really bad) and come from problems relating to poor cooperation between operating forces, or inadequate control over tactical forces. The example here is being unable to actually to discriminate between fishing boats and pirate boats, and targeting boats, fuel and supplies without harming the people who use them, and who are quite used to using human shields to protect themselves and their property.
There is nothing new in this. The best source for insight into this problem is a quite old one. In February 1954, Lieutenant-Commander D.J. Waters, a historian on the staff of the Historical Section of the Admiralty wrote a concise but masterful treatment of the business of the protection of shipping entitled “A Study of the Philosophy and Conduct of Maritime War, 1815-1945.” It was revised in 1957 and published in Canada by Edmond Cloutier for the Queens’ Printer in Ottawa. Watters showed that the object of tactical action should be the defensive protection of ships and that efforts to ‘control’ spaces of water are prone to abject failure, especially in the face of skilful and determined opposition. Offensive operations that take forces away for the defensive protection of shipping are never worth the meagre returns that they produce.
The problem here is that the NATO and EU naval forces are not prepared to alter their concepts of operation or the composition of their forces to adapt to the threat. This is very worrisome. Naval thinkers of the past have generally (but not always) been purpose-driven and flexible enough in their practices to eventually depart from conventionality and resort to means that accomplish the task within reasonable limits. That is not happening with the piracy problem, as was described in my previous post. You have to wonder what is the problem.
Several things are at play here. First, rotating staffs responsible for planning seldom ‘take ownership’ of that tactical problem long enough to really come to grips with it. ‘Muddling through’ for six months and then ‘bugging off’ for home means the central problems remain unaddressed. Second, the coalition nature of the operation means that commanders do not have full authority to best employ forces as the situation dictates. This can be a crippling obstacle. But, beyond this, abandoning common practice and innovating is seen as admitting failure; a weakness rather than a strength. Third, there are strategic factors at play that the operational commander cannot control. The multination nature of the organization of the global shipping trade does not lend itself to the naval control of shipping that was so successful in past trade protection scenarios.
So, efforts to conduct offensive forays along the coastline are merely a repeat of earlier historical operations, all of which were failures. You can expect this one to turn out the same as all the others.
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