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Old 15-05-2011, 20:38   #1
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Piracy - Reality vs Perception

Piracy is a contentious issue here. And, no, my last name is not Obvious. There have been various stated approaches to this issue. Some vow never to pass by the dreaded Horn and into the Gulf, lest their cargo of spices, tobacco and rum be purloined by pernicious pirates. Naturally the Yosemite Sam types get all fired up, go off half-cocked and generally shooting off at the mouth (relax fellas, I'm just trying to be punny). Various folk have claim to be armed with everything but a ship-to-ship nuclear missile launcher, and I've seen threads where there have been recommendations to carry molotov cocktails or other improvised means to set one's own boat alight.

Questions of how to deal with pirates also illicit some fiery suggestions, including sending in the marines, navy and girl guides, blowing up ships and pirates who appear to be involved in piracy (easily identified by the jolly roger, and crew sporting parrots on their shoulder and a peg leg) and others who fall just short of suggesting the entire Gulf of Aden should be nuked from orbit, just to be sure.

But I'm wondering to what degree the reality matches the sales pitch.

So - does anyone know of the statistics regarding piracy, specifically pertaining to cruisers? Such as; how many piracy attacks on sailboats have their ocurred (in Gulf of Aden and worldwide)? How many cruisers have died as a result of piracy? How many trips are done in the gulf (by cruisers) vs the number of piracy attacks (on cruisers).

I think it would be worthwhile to compare other dangers facing cruisers as well. Are there any stats available for these - cruisers losing boat and/or life due to weather, submerged objects, tropical diseases, marine gremlins etc? Put side to side the comparisons may be edifying.
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Old 15-05-2011, 22:09   #2
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Re: Piracy - Reality vs Perception

I'm not sure I like to talk about this statistically. These are PEOPLE who are being kidnapped & held by TERRORISTS. Some British nitwit ship-owner commented that it was only 2% & put it down to "cost of doing business". Would you fly if 2% of planes were hijacked? Of course not. Clearly, this is something that should be dealt with.

However ... I've only been watching Somali piracy, but AFAIK they're the only ones taking hostages (although some cruisers have been hurt along the coast of Venezuela, but my data's old there).

Data: There are ~150 cruisers coming up from Australia to Malaysia/Thailand every year, most with the Sail-Indonesia rally. Many of those boats are now staying longer in SE Asia than before, but probably ~100 cruising boats head through the Gulf of Aden & up the Red Sea every year, usualy in Feb/March. In the years I've been watching, I think usually 2-3 cruising boats are taken each year.

As for other ships, I think there are ~300 ships transiting the Malacca Straits every day, & most of those come (have come) through the Gulf of Aden. That's ~100,000/yr, so the pirates are only attacking a small percentage, & only taking an even smaller percentage. But again, we're talking about innocent people here, being held hostage by terrorists. That hasn't happened in a long time.

The whole world holds its breath & massive forces are employed whenever terrorists try to hijack an airplane. In those cases, we don't care what condition the terrorists are in when they leave the plane. Why are boats treated differently? <sigh>

Check out the Piracy Tracking Website (zoom into the NW Indian Ocean). Clicking on the pins will tell you what type of boats are being attacked, & you can go back to previous years & check them as well.

The 4 Americans on the Quest were the first Yanks killed that I know of. The French went in & rescued 2 yachts a few years ago. In 1 case they tracked the ransom. When the pirates split up, the commandos could only follow half, but they killed all of them & recovered that half of the ransom. The other yacht had 4 adults & a baby on board, but the father/husband/owner was killed in the rescue (not sure how).

I think that at any given time, a few hundred crew are being held hostage, from a few score ships, but others would have better numbers than me.

However, we talked to a German couple in Malaysia who'd been held for 57 days - & she was the only woman for miles around. He'd talk about it, but she was pretty shattered. Clearly, this is a "risk" that should be eliminated if at all possible. (And no one knows where the ransom came from, which points a bit of a finger at the German govt for negotiating with terrorists).
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Old 15-05-2011, 22:41   #3
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Re: Piracy - Reality vs Perception

Yes it is a risk. Everything worth doing in life has risks, thousands of them, but it's reasonable for the reaction to that risk be roughly equivalent to it's magnitude. Eg If one is allergic to bees (even TERRORIST bees), one may carry an epi-pen and avoid bee-prone areas (I'm not using this eg to say peole should necessarily avoid pirate-prone areas, just sayin'). That would be a reasonable reaction. An unreasonable reaction may be to call in a napalm airstrike on the local park.

I would consider 1.3% - 2% quite a high risk though. Calculated on 100-150 cruising sailboats through the Gulf and 2-3 taken, as you say.
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Old 15-05-2011, 23:26   #4
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Re: Piracy - Reality vs Perception

Reality versus perception, that is an interesting concept. One's perception determines one's reality.
If you are determined to go where there be pirates then the odds go up that you will indeed interact with that sort of people.
I work in a pirate infested area, yet I have not been boarded or taken hostage, however the vessel I command has, I just wasn't there at the time. You have to determine what your risk comfort is and then go where you will. Even if you are going to be passing through a pirate area, your level of awareness and vigilance will determine to a greater degree, what the possibility of interacting with pirates may be. Don't forget the luck and karma factors as well as the fickle finger of fate.
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Old 15-05-2011, 23:48   #5
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Re: Piracy - Reality vs Perception

It's reasonable to assume that any pleasure boat going thru the gulf of Aden is going to the Suez or has been. While there might be a few pleasure vessels passing thru the area that aren't going to the canal, there won't be many. So if you want to know the pleasure traffic around Somalia check to see what statistics the Egyptions are willing to cough up.

And John Hacking you don't need to shout that people are being held by terrorists, almost all of us know that already. And why wouldn't you want to discuss the issue statisitcally? Doing so is a way of looking at the issue that may lead to a solution.
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Old 16-05-2011, 00:13   #6
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Re: Piracy - Reality vs Perception

Statistics are just that, statistics, and they can be manipulated to read what ever you want into them. Politicians have been doing it since Noah first looked at the sky and decided to go cruising. "They call it spin."

The truth is that there are now a lot of boats in SE Asia that have seriously had to reconsider their plans because of a real threat.

We cruised through Indonesia last year with most of the boats that intended transiting through to the Med. Those that left early were among the group that were targeted by the terrorists (Pirates) including ING and Quest.
Some were able to hold up in Sri Lanka and the Maldives to reassess for some it was too late.
Some have shipped, some have decided to wait at least another season and unfortunately for some they have had to give up on their cruising plans and return home with their boats now for sale here in Thailand and Malaysia.

The reality is that none of us out here want to put our partners or families through the anxiety and stress that the situation has caused.

Would you really like to sail a long passage knowing that somebody is out there looking for you and is willing to take you, your boat or your life.
The danger is real and the trauma and anxiety that it has caused the cruising community here is also real.

We had decided to circumnavigate via the North Pacific and North Atlantic prior to leaving,however, the events in Japan have slowed our progress down as well. This is a threat that I can deal with. The situation in the gulf of Aden is something that you can not.

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Old 16-05-2011, 00:25   #7
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Re: Piracy - Reality vs Perception

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Originally Posted by Jon Hacking View Post
The whole world holds its breath & massive forces are employed whenever terrorists try to hijack an airplane. In those cases, we don't care what condition the terrorists are in when they leave the plane. Why are boats treated differently? <sigh>
Maybe it's because an airplane has 200+ people on board, whereas a cruising boat has 2-4? Container ships have larger crews but very few of them get harmed (afaik) because large companies are willing to pay up.

This in essence fuels more piracy.

Cruisers have a harder time paying up and the ransom demanded far exceeds the assets seized, whereas with a container ship it is a fraction of the cost of the asset, so container owners are happy to pay up.

At this stage something like ransom insurance would probably help cruisers who get into problems, at least until something changes.
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Old 16-05-2011, 00:33   #8
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Re: Piracy - Reality vs Perception

Terrorist: the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion.
Piracy: robbery on the high seas.

Please stop using the word Terrorist. This is obviously a term that is being used to stir emotion, in a discussion that is supposed to be about statistics.

And just to defend statistics from the previous post putting up a scare crow about politicians and statistics. Why don't you go find the statistics for surviving a parachute jump without the parachute. If you don't trust the numbers then go ahead and take a jump.
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Old 16-05-2011, 00:41   #9
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Re: Piracy - Reality vs Perception

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Statistics are just that, statistics, and they can be manipulated to read what ever you want into them.
Yes and no. Statistics is a tool and an immensely important one. In fact, in our complex society we would be lost without them. Disregarding statitical methods in their entirety because some people choose to misrepresent them is less throwing out the baby with the bathwater and more bulldozing your house because you have a coffee stain on the carpet.

Second, I'm not asking for complex statistical analysis (which may be prone to manipulation) but simple figues which represent the real magnitude of the threat. if you had 50:50 chance of dying each time you drove your car to the shops you probably wouldn't do it, and rightly so. If the odds were 1:1,000,000 you'd probably risk it, and rightly so.


"We had decided to circumnavigate via the North Pacific and North Atlantic prior to leaving,however, the events in Japan have slowed our progress down as well. This is a threat that I can deal with. The situation in the gulf of Aden is something that you can not."

You may be able to minimise risks, but many risks at sea are just as controllable as a piracy risk (or, often, far less so). Eg If you run into a submerged tree that washed out due to the tsunami, that's a risk. Yet you're not avoiding that area, but slowing down. Reasonable response to the level of risk? Perhaps. But perhaps the risk is greater sailing around Japan ATM than traversing the Gulf of Aden. And just as something as easy to 'deal with' and in a similar manner.
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Old 16-05-2011, 01:16   #10
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Re: Piracy - Reality vs Perception

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...And Jon Hacking you don't need to shout that people are being held by terrorists, almost all of us know that already. And why wouldn't you want to discuss the issue statisitcally? Doing so is a way of looking at the issue that may lead to a solution.
Adelie, the reason I emphasized the points is that most of the world does not seem to be taking these threats seriously. Even many cruisers on this forum (but not about to cross the Indian Ocean) don't take it seriously. "Just don't go near pirate territory!" Right, & let terrorists claim ever greater chunks of the world (their area of control is continuously expanding).

Most pirates that are picked up are disarmed, fed & returned to their boats (which are repaired, if needed). Politicians don't have the balls to tell our navies to do the job they are trained to do, as it might not be ... politically correct.

Meanwhile, people are suffering. Hundreds of them. Somalia may not have a functioning government, but we are at war with the pirates, & it's time we treated the situation that way.

The reason I don't like to treat this statistically is that even one innocent death is too many, especially if it can be prevented. (I don't count pirates in there, as they chose to be terrorists)

Somalia needs help, & the long term solution probably involves a lot of aid & helping them to form a working government. But in the meantime, we also need to deal with the piracy/terrorism issues. We have the capability to make the oceans safe. We should do that.
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Old 16-05-2011, 01:30   #11
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Re: Piracy - Reality vs Perception

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lexam View Post
Terrorist: the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion.
Piracy: robbery on the high seas.

Please stop using the word Terrorist. This is obviously a term that is being used to stir emotion, in a discussion that is supposed to be about statistics...
Lexam, I must disagree. I regard kidnapping (in this context) as a form of terrorism, especially when the assailants are so heavily armed.

If all these pirates wanted was valuables (robbery) then I wouldn't call it terrorism. But the Somali pirates have gone beyond that, to include murder & even some forms of what could only be described as torture. I think that anyone who found themselves looking at an armed Somali pirate would be terrorized.
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Old 16-05-2011, 01:43   #12
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Re: Piracy - Reality vs Perception

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The reason I don't like to treat this statistically is that even one innocent death is too many, especially if it can be prevented.
Deaths are tragic, but occur all the time and in a dazzling variety of ways (you could choke on a pretzel in your kitchen) and almost all are preventable if extreme measures are taken. We could wrap the world in cotton wool (ban all pretzels) or realise that every activity, hell, life itself, is full of risks. What we need to do is recognise the relative significance of a risk and manage it accordingly. Piracy is a huge issue on this forum, and fair enough too. But I'd like to see actual figures to see if the real situation is equivalent to the amount of angst being directed at it.
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Old 16-05-2011, 01:56   #13
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Re: Piracy - Reality vs Perception

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...But I'd like to see actual figures to see if the real situation is equivalent to the amount of angst being directed at it.
I think I'm the only one who's given real figures so far (& ways for you to find more). But how do you measure the amount of terror that's inflicted on someone who's been kidnapped?

If you want to treat it statistically (to decide if our level of effort is appropriate?) not only do you need the number (or percentage) of events, but how severe those events are. This is obviously extremely subjective, which is one reason I don't like to treat piracy statistically.

IMHO, they're too severe to allow to happen. At all. To any innocent cruiser (or even a ships crewman).
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Old 16-05-2011, 02:08   #14
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Re: Piracy - Reality vs Perception

With respect, you haven't provided any real figures, just some guesstimates. I appreciate this as a genral idea of the rates of piracy, but was hoping someone would have access to some more accurate data.

As for severity, you're absolutely right, it is a factor. Car accidents can be severe, causing life-long disabilities and devastation to those directly involved and their loved ones. As for cruising, there are countless stories of lives lost in horrible, traumatic circumstances that don't involve piracy. These are risks just as real as piracy. Are they as prevalent and do they recieve as much attention as piracy?
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Old 16-05-2011, 02:45   #15
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Re: Piracy - Reality vs Perception

I wouldn't call them guestimates - I've been studying this for several years & I've done 2 Indian Ocean crossings since 2007 (not counting the Bay of Bengal, which we've just crossed twice)

Those numbers are within 10%. That should be good enough for a first cut of whatever you're planning. I'm actually cruising right now - we're on a 60nm passage as I type - so I can't research more accurate data easily. Did you check out the website? They aggregate some numbers. How accurate do you need 'em?
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