One more pirate story. This is one I will try to follow closely.

The force, which would have set-up costs of around £10m, would be funded by insurers and shipping companies in return for a reduction on the anti-piracy insurance premiums, which average around £50,000 per voyage and can reach £300,000 for a super-tanker. The maritime insurance industry, much of it based in London, has borne the brunt of the financial cost of the piracy problem, paying out $300m (£191m) in ransoms and associated costs in the last two years alone.

Major obstacles remain before the private navy can set sail, such as the legal status of a private force and it relationship with the Nato-controlled naval fleet. But major shipping companies and key insurers are keen to proceed with the plan. Although private contractors already offer armed teams on board vessels, the idea of a sizeable industry-funded naval force is a major departure and evidence of the strength of feeling there that more needs to be done to counter piracy.

assorted updates: pirates, nukes, BRICs and the straits of kerch

Updating some recent stories. Let’s start with pirates!

A pirate spokesman, who wished to remain anonymous, contacted Somalilandpress today said at least ten of his men were executed by the Russian navy after the troopers stormed MV Moscow University.

“The Russians never released the young men instead they shot them point-blank range then loaded their lifeless bodies back on the boat,” he added.

“We condemn the action of the Russians, it’s driven by racism and hate for black people and Africa, it’s the face of the new Russia. In future, if we capture Russians they will meet the same fate as those they executed,” he added.

I posted a bunch of links about nukes the other day, mostly about Brazil stepping up to the nuclear table. Brazil’s in the middle of this one here:

This is a big deal for Iran, of course, but also Brazil. It’s a prominent international action that steps into a gap where the US and Europe failed. It brings Brazil into the inner circles of nuclear diplomacy, easing the way for their potential development. It also hedges their bets by helping Iran, who might assist them with nuclear technology in the future if the global institutions won’t.

Read about the BRICs, in case you didn’t know:

And finally, here’s Russia and Ukraine sparring over borders:

I think this is the key point:

The agreement on the issue is crucial for the potential introduction of visa-free travel for Ukainian visitors to the European Union.

Ships pass the straits just fine, so this isn’t holding up shipping. But it holds up Ukrainian integration into western institutions. Ukraine just tilted heavily towards Russia in their last elections, and while they’re keeping up the official policies of looking west, this is a good way to slow things down a bit.

hang em up from the highest yardarm

Remember the article I posted the other day about what happened to the pirates supposedly released by the Russians? Check this out:

Officials initially said they would be taken to Russia for trial, but the Defense Ministry said Friday they’d been released because of “imperfections” in international law. The statement was met with skepticism, especially in light of a comment made by the Russian president.

“We’ll have to do what our forefathers did when they met the pirates” until the international community comes up with a legal way of prosecuting them, Dmitry Medvedev said on the day the ship was stormed.

I guess back in the day, the practice was just to hang them by the nearest yardarm. We frown upon such things these days, but there’s no real law on the high seas. If no one figures out a way to put on genuine trials (or, you know, help Somalia), we’ll probably see a lot more of this.

In related news, I know you’re wondering what happened to the Russian journalist who was apparently forced to flee the country after casting doubts on another piracy story. Sorry, but I can’t help you with that. I’ve got an eye out, but there’s nothing new to report. Not in English, at least. Maybe some of my Russian spammers could lend a hand.

friday night link dump!

Apparently he’s got his own blog, but it’s all greek to me.

This is a ship that disappeared from the Baltic Sea last year. The Russians said it was piracy, which would have been the first act of piracy in the Baltic in as long as anyone could remember, but no one really believed that story. Intercepted arms shipments was the buzz. There are still no answers.

  • The Road to Area 51
    After decades of denying the facility’s existence, five former insiders speak out

“We couldn’t have told you any of this a year ago,” Slater says. “Now we can’t tell it to you fast enough.” That is because in 2007, the CIA began declassifying the 50-year-old OXCART program. Today, there’s a scramble for eyewitnesses to fill in the information gaps. Only a few of the original players are left.

According to the wikipedia, the OXCART program produced a plane that was the precursor to the SR-71.

that was quick

Russian navy don’t fuck around.

“Unfortunately, at present there exist no legal rules for prosecuting in court the pirates operating in the region of Somali,” the source said. “This means they do not fall under the jurisdiction of any state or international law.”

pirates in my oil tanker? it’s more likely than you think!

The Russian Navy has been accused of attacking Yemeni fishermen and destroying seven fishing boats in an incident last month, Arab News learned on Wednesday following a sit-in demonstration in the coastal city of Mukalla by Yemeni fishermen. They claim harassment by naval armadas is getting more aggressive.

“They used to mistreat us at sea but would set us free with our possessions,” said Awadh Abdullah Bamagad, a 30-year-old Yemeni fisherman. “Now they don’t just confiscate fishermen’s proprieties, they destroy the boats.”

The Russian Navy has been accused of attacking Yemeni fishermen and destroying seven fishing boats in an incident last month, Arab News learned on Wednesday following a sit-in demonstration in the coastal city of Mukalla by Yemeni fishermen. They claim harassment by naval armadas is getting more aggressive.

“They used to mistreat us at sea but would set us free with our possessions,” said Awadh Abdullah Bamagad, a 30-year-old Yemeni fisherman. “Now they don’t just confiscate fishermen’s proprieties, they destroy the boats.”

pirates and hizbul islam


The rival militants al-Shabab, Somalia’s most dangerous rebel group, sent scouts into Harardhere last month. Abdiwali Gadid, a self-proclaimed pirate, said: “Two days ago Hizbul Islam sent agents to the coastal towns saying they wished to move into the area before al-Shabab and demanded a slice of the business, but the pirate leaders ignored the request. That is why they moved in today.”

The Islamic Courts Union was the only group to ever shut down the pirates in Somalia, but this faction isn’t them. Hizbul Islam needs cash and a stronger base of power. They don’t have much use for the western hostages they could probably lay hands on, but a piracy tax might be just the thing to prop them up.

I count 18 ships.

Speaking of Somalia:

“The US promised to pay the salaries of 1,800 soldiers, while other donor countries pledged to pay for some 3,300 soldiers. This is part of plans to fund the upkeep of 10,000 soldiers that would help the government retain the security,” he said.

He added that the soldiers did not receive their wages for nearly one year.

According to Somali officials, the troops were supposed to earn $100 a month, but about half of those trained in neighbouring Djibouti deserted after realizing that they are not going to get their payments.

“Some gave up the army and returned to their ordinary life and others joined the rebels,” Somali army Col. Ahmed Aden Dhayow told AP.

pirates and confusion


This next story is a little more interesting than most. It illustrates the fog of war surrounding most of these piracy stories, and the politics going on in the background. Let’s start with the story as it’s generally reported:

A Spanish trawler captain released by Somali pirates said he is haunted by his failure to save a 12-year-old Ukrainian girl held captive for more than six months, a newspaper reported Sunday.

Ricardo Blach, skipper of the Alakrana, which was freed Tuesday after being held by pirates for some six weeks, told how he saw the young girl aboard another hijacked ship, in logbook extracts published in El Mundo.

A little strange that the BBC story never mentions the kidnapped girl, but not too unusual for someone to miss part of the story, especially if they have to read another language to source it. If you don’t want to read both of those, here’s what the wikipedia has to say about it:

Somali pirates captured the Ariana on May 2 with its 24 Ukrainian crew in the Indian Ocean on route from Brazil to the Middle East.[204] In November, with the release of Spanish ship Alakrana, that was in contact during captivity with the Ariana to give fuel, was known that within this vessel are kidnapped two women and a girl of 12 years old. One of the abducted women, Larisa Salinska, 39 years old ship’s cook, was raped by pirates. Then she had a miscarriage (it is unknown if she became pregnant as a result of the rape or not) with a large hemorrhage, heavy infection, and serious health problems. The Alakrana’s skipper tried to convey to the Ariana medicines to help Salinska, but Adan Jama, one of the pirates who had hijacked the Spanish ship, threw overboard those medicines. Also, according to the testimony from the driver’s Alakrana, on board were two women, one of whom had given birth during the hijacking of the ship, having the baby about four months; also said the girl wich twelve years old was raped by a pirate very young. The ship was released on 10 December 2009 after a ransom of almost $3,000,000 was paid.

This already has a few elements that are unique to this particular story. Now along comes this article in an online paper from Salem, OR:

tl;dr version: the miscarriage resulted when the woman was beaten by a fellow crew member, the captain refused to let her be evacuated although the pirates agreed,  the crew of the Alakrana “invented” the story of visiting the Ariana, the 12-year old girl is implied to have been invented as well, and the Ariana‘s owner has cut the ship loose and doesn’t want the cargo inspected.

This article’s conclusion:

All this is believed now to be part of spin-doctoring between Ukrainian, Spanish and Greek politicians of ministerial level to distract from their own failures and to aid a stronger European military approach for which the misled public outcry over these atrocities was seen as necessary to be approved by the European ministerial conference.

And to obscure matters even more, the author of this article relies on an interview in the Kyiv Post, a couple of quotes from Ecoterra International, and a number of unattributed statements such as the one above:  “all this is now believed to be….”

The author herself has a name that sounds a lot like a pseudonym to me, and the google has never heard of her outside of reporting on this ship. The Salem News looks like an interesting paper to check out, but it all seems to be filtered pretty strongly through the publisher’s personality and opinions.

Now, I don’t trust the official press to get a story right, but that doesn’t mean I have to trust any alternate version of the story either. I’m drawing no conclusions and taking no sides, just demonstrating an excellent case of how we really don’t know anything that’s going on out there. I don’t know if we’ll ever get answers about this one, or how many other stories really turn out to be more or less than they seem.

piracy this week, b/w a sea shepherd update


Meanwhile, a funny thing happened on the way to Antarctica…. tl;dr the Steve Irwin visited some nice Frenchies for a couple of days while they tried to shake the Japanese whalers off their tail, and the Ady Gil is underway after its third try.


And since we’re on naval matters:

piracy today

Piracy this week, maybe.


Here’s some pirates a long way from Somalia:

Pirate attacks on local fishermen are common in the Bay of Bengal. Fishermen and boat owners say authorities don’t do enough to police the waters.

Salamat Ullah, the owner of the missing boat, said he filed a complaint with police.

”We are continuing our regular patrol,” Cox’s Bazar coast guard official Lt. A.K. Chakrabarty said.

Maybe this is a diplomatic broadside, but “piracy” is political hyperbole here:

Meanwhile, the big action is still off Somalia:


But one key topic raised at discussions, hosted by the International Criminal Law Network, a Hague-based think tank, was whether the International Criminal Court (ICC), also based in The Hague, could expand its jurisdiction to include piracy.

While experts said they expect the ICC — which was set up in 2002 as the world’s first permanent war crimes court — to take up the issue of piracy at its Review Conference in Uganda in May of 2010, they don’t expect an expansion of jurisdiction.

Moreover, countries in the Horn of Africa most affected by piracy — Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia and Eritrea — are not signatories to the Rome Statute establishing the ICC.

Enforcement, however, would be the biggest problem.