Piracy Lunacy

The cover of the weekend Wall Street Journal had an article about the piracy that’s been occurring off the Somali coast, and specifically, the story of one particular oil tanker that was recently released after 56 days and a large ransom payment. The article states that, being aware of the piracy problem there, the company, “hired three unarmed security guards, at a cost of $25,000″!!! [emphasis mine] What did the executives think unarmed security guards (probably an oxymoron) where going to do to stop pirates armed with automatic rifles? In what world is that a useful $25K expenditure?

The article describes the attack and says the hijackers’ RPGs “dented the hull” of the ship, and they “hitched an aluminum ladder to the railing and scampered up to the deck.” If you’re thinking the so-called security guards at least ran around the deck and tried to unhook the ladder, you’ll be disappointed. “As the helicopters hovered, distracting the Somalis, the three unarmed security guards, who were British, jumped overboard, several crewmen say. They were later rescued.” It’s hard to imagine what I’d do in their shoes, because I can’t imagine agreeing to be disarmed on an oil tanker, especially in waters where piracy has been rampant recently.

When are these shipping companies going to wise-up and mount .50-cal machine guns on deck, issue every crewman a sidearm, and train all the crew to use them? I understand different countries have different rules about what weapons can be on board a ship in its ports or waters. In the short term, I don’t see any oil port enforcing those rules on tankers with the spike in piracy. It’s taking money out of the pockets, directly or indirectly, of everyone in the industry. In the long term, we need an international “Second Amendment” passed by the United Nations. As long as the guns don’t leave your ship and they’re legal in your home port, you should be fine.

Here’s another section:

“Everybody, come to the bridge and show yourselves,” [the captain] called out to his crew, the crewmen recall.

Crew member Asif Azam Khan, 28 years old, says he emerged from below deck with his arms above his head. The other crewmen also came out of hiding. The Somalis led them into the wheelhouse, where they would eat, sit and sleep for their entire captivity, the crewmen say.

A few minutes later, [emphasis mine] French and German helicopters appeared overhead. Two Somalis trained their weapons on Hanif Kapade, the ship’s chief engineer, and the ship’s captain, both of whom were in the wheelhouse. Other Somalis pulled two crewmen onto the deck and pointed guns at them, signaling they would shoot if the helicopters attacked, recalls Mr. Kapade.

The captain knew the military was nearby–since they didn’t have any means to defend themselves, why didn’t everyone just lock themselves inside bulkheads and let the marines fight it out with the pirates? My guess is “company policy.”

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