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Old 02-12-2009, 03:07   #1
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Solution to Somali Pirates?

Tell me if I'm missing something, but this seems like an overly obvious solution to the Somali pirate attacks.

From various sources I've heard, there are somewhere on the order of 50-100 military ships patrolling international waters off Somalia for pirates.

Rather than trying to patrol a bazillion square miles of open water for randomly roaming pirates attacking randomly roaming yachts and cargo ships, why not take the approach the problem in a similar way to the World War 2 defense against u-boat attacks, which was to arrange large heavily protected convoys.

If just half of those 50-100 boats were to work together to build even a weekly convoy north-south along the coast, up through the straights, I can only imagine that they would get dozens of ships waiting at port for a week for the military convoy. The advantages are so obvious to me - the military staff have a predictable outlay of resources, they reduce the area needed to patrol by a factor of about a billion, it forms natural convoys of private and commercial ships and it is standard practice that military convoys can defend themselves from vessels so much as approaching, let alone having to worry about engaging the pirates after they've already taken hostages.


Imagine the deterrent effect if a weekly convoy was run up the coast with a dozen yachts, a dozen commercial ships and two or three military destroyers with orders to fire on any ship that approaches the convoy without identifying itself (perhaps a few warning shots first?).

If I were traveling the area, I would wait a month for a military convoy (if they only ran monthly). Given the cost to commercial shipping, they might even be willing to help fund it at this point (rather than lose a few more supertankers full of cargo).


Other than the obvious issue of varying speed (sail boats being the slow link in the chain), are there issues with this idea? Why do you think it hasn't been discussed?

I have seen such an operation on land. My uncle visited Ethiopia a number of years ago during local conflicts and the military was running road convoys once a day to outlying villages along roads that were subject to frequent attacks from small gangs of insurgents trying to hijack vehicles. It's amazing the deterrent effect a tank and a few 20mm machine guns mounted on trucks can have on simple tribal mugging gangs.
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Old 02-12-2009, 05:30   #2
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It may not be a “magic bullet” solution, but it's a start.

Various Nations have operated escorted convoys:
Piracy Report | Indian Escort Convoy | Gulf of Aden
Naval Technology - Russian Fleet Escorts International Convoy in Gulf of Aden
EU to launch naval escorts in Gulf of Aden - Lloydslist.com

The Maritime Security Patrol Area (MSPA) was established in August 2008, creating a narrow corridor in the northern sector of the Gulf of Aden, in which merchant vessels are recommended to transit the region. Combined Task Force Naval vessels patrol the corridor.

Maritime Security Patrol Area International Recommended Transit Corridor:
Gulf of Aden Pirate Corridor Waypoints - New coordinates came into effect
Noonsite: Gulf of Aden - Revised Maritime Security Patrol Area
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Old 02-12-2009, 05:50   #3
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The concept of defended convoys will crash and burn as soon as you realise the quantity of vessels sailing through the Gulf of Aden on any one day. There are just far too many!

When you also consider that the attacks are happening as far as the Seychelles and then do the maths for calculating the area to patrol out to 500nm from the coast + the Gulf of Aden, you end up with 700,000 square nautical miles.

thus even if assuming all the warships are at sea and working their own specific area, it makes one warship responsible for 14000 square miles. That is a lot of sea!
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Old 02-12-2009, 06:06   #4
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Originally Posted by HobieFan View Post
From various sources I've heard, there are somewhere on the order of 50-100 military ships patrolling international waters off Somalia for pirates.
I think your sources are over-estimating.
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Old 02-12-2009, 06:12   #5
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How about some Trojan Horses? Pick some fat, easy looking targets and put a well equipped SEAL team on board for the ride. How many pirate groups being blown to pieces would it take before they realized they would never know which boats had the SEALs on board, and which ones didn't?
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Old 02-12-2009, 07:08   #6
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Canibul I am right with you on this. I am not a military stratigist but just like we have air marshals on board airlines, fat decoys loaded with heavily armed soldiers would solve this problem. How stupid chasing them around a large ocean when they will come to you. All it would take is one or two encounters depending on how smart they are. You could even anty up the pot by "leaking" to the pirates that a
particularly
rich morsel is coming there way.
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Old 02-12-2009, 07:17   #7
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Maybe we should go in and rebuild their country so they would no longer have the need to be pirates. We could even get the UN to pitch in and help!
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Old 02-12-2009, 07:28   #8
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Catching Pirates is not the problem, what to do with them after is.
Yes I know what most want to do but........
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Old 02-12-2009, 08:44   #9
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Preemptively going after pirates is not a solution. You are not a pirate until you have committed an act of piracy. Being out there is not an illegal act...even if you are a Somalian in a dhow loaded with guns and RPG's.

Convoys would need to be done a few times per day because of the volume of vessel traffic. Idling a ship a few days to join a convoy would be very expensive. Yachts and ships would need to travel separately because of their large speed differences. It would be very expensive to slow a large fleet of ships down to 6 knots because it has to travel with a handful of small boats. There are far more ships than yachts transiting this area. I could though see convoys of ships traveling at 12 to 15 knots or so. Most of a ships expenses are fixed (wages, depreciation, insurance), the big exception is fuel which of course is a variable expense.

I think it may come down to shipping companies pooling their money to provide their own protection. Its not right for the taxpayers to pay for military protection. The users should pay the cost. I do not know how this would work for small boats who can only travel at slower speeds. Perhaps their insurance companies could raise their premiums and pool that money to pay for protection?

The other side of the argument is that the odds of being hijacked are very slim and it is not worth the additional money to pay for protection. Just go for it and take your chances. This is what most shipping companies are doing. The rates shipping companies are paying for transiting the area have increased significantly.

Sometimes there is no perfect solution that makes economic sense.
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Old 02-12-2009, 08:47   #10
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Quote:
Rather than trying to patrol a bazillion square miles of open water for randomly roaming pirates attacking randomly roaming yachts and cargo ships, why not take the approach the problem in a similar way to the World War 2 defense against u-boat attacks, which was to arrange large heavily protected convoys.
The amount of goods actually carried by the convoys of WW II is nothing compared to the tonnage that transits the area today. They really did a minimal job of getting emergency relief to Europe using a small fleet of left over commercial ships. It was a stretch to do even that much. It was the first time anything like that was ever attempted, but te tools of the day were quite limited.

50 plus years later in a global economy with multiple world wide shipping companies there are not enough warships on the planet to chase small boats with limited weapons over an area of 700,000 square miles.

Wanting a simple solution is no assurance that the solution will be simple. Ignoring some of the most basic logistics is not a process of simplification.
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Old 02-12-2009, 09:03   #11
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It's amazing the deterrent effect a tank and a few 20mm machine guns mounted on trucks can have on simple tribal mugging gangs.
Still not cost effective.

My Idea is still better me thinks and puts all the expense where it belongs and that is with the shipping co.

REQUIRE...Every ship to have that class of weaponry on board and the trained staff to use it for self protection or THEY can not pass through the area...Make it part of modern day safety gear in that area...

Continually allowing the passage of unarmed commercial vessels through that area is criminal in its own right by allowing easy targets to bait the pirates and propagate this life style.

This of course still leaves us the little cruisers in a quandary but IF they loose their mother ships ( we can see to that eventually) they wont be operating so far from their shore any more either and this will soon be a non lucrative means of employment.
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Old 02-12-2009, 09:15   #12
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The amount of goods actually carried by the convoys of WW II is nothing compared to the tonnage that transits the area today. They really did a minimal job of getting emergency relief to Europe using a small fleet of left over commercial ships. It was a stretch to do even that much. It was the first time anything like that was ever attempted, but te tools of the day were quite limited.

50 plus years later in a global economy with multiple world wide shipping companies there are not enough warships on the planet to chase small boats with limited weapons over an area of 700,000 square miles.

Wanting a simple solution is no assurance that the solution will be simple. Ignoring some of the most basic logistics is not a process of simplification.
Seems to me convoys have happened before WWII

From: Convoy - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Naval convoys have been used for hundreds of years, and examples of merchant ships traveling under naval protection have been traced back to the 12th Century.[1]


I don't think convoys will work until piracy gets so bad that companies are willing to take the financial hit of waiting around for when the convoy leaves and then travels at the rate of the slowest paced ship.

John
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Old 02-12-2009, 09:18   #13
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my great idea

here's one for you... It'd take a few thousand dollars to impliment per ship but it'd work pretty good I think.
First>
Outfit every tanker or cargo ship with a 6-8 inch pipe run around the ship at the railing. When the pirates approach, fire up the pump and spray the hell out of them with anything you can pump... after all, a water cannon is pretty effective at preventing anything from happening except retreat. It'd be a start. If that don't work, spray some 'mace' out of those pipes. I'm sure the boat(s) would have pumps large enough to spray a significant amount of water out some nozzles or holes drilled every so often down the entire length of pipe run. Seperate runs, valves, seperate pumps etc. all much cheaper than a ransom.
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Old 02-12-2009, 09:32   #14
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That would be more than a few thousand dollars, even if done with PVC. Clever idea Denny.
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Old 02-12-2009, 10:13   #15
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the drawback to that is that it doesn't take the pirates off the board. If you build a better mousetrap, they'll just evolve into being better mice. Unless they suddenly stop evolving.
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