Thursday, June 07, 2007

French abandon Danes to pirates

UPDATE and BUMP: Hold the presses and belay my last! Don't blame France (sorry buds), but this is a all USA show. Despite the multiple source reporting earlier - word now is that it was a US warship, USS Carter Hall (LSD-50) (not the CARTER HILL as reported here and there.
U.S. military officials said Wednesday that a Navy ship recently fired on pirates who overtook a Danish vessel off Somalia's coast.

The USS Carter Hill, part of a U.S. task force that helps maintain security off Somalia and nearby countries, engaged the pirates after they hijacked a Danish cargo ship, the Danica White, in international waters, said Lt. Denise Garcia, a public affairs officer at U.S. Naval Forces Central Command in Bahrain.

The U.S. ship fired several warning shots across the Danica White's bow and also destroyed three small boats the pirates had used in their assault and were towing behind the Danish vessel, according to Garcia, who said the incident occurred Saturday.

The U.S. ship called off its pursuit after the pirates navigated the Danica White into Somalia's territorial waters, where the U.S. does not have jurisdiction, Garcia said.

OK, let's look at the latest. First of all, since when did (moment of respectful silence) a Gator Freighter Amphib become a prime anti-piracy interceptor (actually not bad if you don't need to get anywhere all that fast)? Look her over here and here. Oh, that's right - almost all our Frigates are gone and I guess the "1,000 Ship Navy" was off doing something else.

Anyway, that speaks for itself. The core argument is the same - and for those with access to SIPR you can get a more rounded overview on what is going on. This "all American" development does point out something critical just from open sources.

We are enabling pirates. The nation that fought the Barbary Wars has a 10 SEP 01 attitude towards pirates. Because the do not "regularly kill" their hostages (often you will hear "do not kill" - which is true of Western Hostages) we will allow them to have a fair run at any ship they can reach? What? Is that really it? Is that were the US Navy and the International Community stands? The Somalia gov'munt cannot police their waters - I will say that again - cannot. We will not. Therefore you have de-facto pirate territory that they are using as a safe base to hold hostages for ransom. What happens when you do that? ECON101 tells you the value of all ships to pirates is greater - and the risk premium is minimal.

We are appeasing the pirates. Yes, I know the "we can do non-compliant boardings - someone might be killed" argument. OK then, never deploy a SWAT team against kidnappers until they kill someone. Next time someone takes a hostage, give them a helicopter and let them escape to Mexico. Just make sure they get their money as well.

Whatever we do, never ever use the military against anyone unless they kill someone first. No, never. Actually, that isn't a bad idea in most cases - but piracy is in a category all its own.

No safe havens and no tolerance. None. By appeasing pirates you only beget more pirates and lawlessness at sea. Call it the "Broken Portholes" theory of the high seas.

One few more bags of rotten fish at my service - if in the likely event the CO of the CARTER HALL did not have the crews, equipment or training to do non-compliant boardings - then someone (not the CO) needs to be fired and reassigned. If you cannot do non-compliant boardings, then you cannot do anti-piracy patrols. They are pirates after all. You are setting your ship up for failure. If you have them and don't use them in a situation like this, then you are bluffing. And yes, with the MK-38 25MM cannon (largest gun on the CARTER HALL) you could disable a ship the size of the DANICA WHITE - if you try hard enough; but then you have to do something about it.

In the end, if no one had thought this scenario out prior to this - someone else needs to be fired in the CTF-150 Chain of Command. And while I am at it - someone is the PIO shop at C5F gets the "Bucket of FOD" award for letting the French take the blame for this for almost a day before they put the word out that it was the CARTER HALL. I do a fine job of making an a55 of myself on my own, I don't need your help.
The Danish merchant "DANICA WHITE" was seized by pirates off of Somalia.
A small Danish-owned and, we understand, Danish-crewed general cargo vessel, has been captured by pirates in the latest series of ships and fishing vessels being boarded and taken over, with their crews held to ransom, off the Somalia coast.

The vessel, (erroneously called DONICA WHITE in many reports, she is in fact DANICA WHITE) owned and operated by H. Folmer & Co. Copenhagen, Denmark, was on a voyage from Dubai to Mombassa in Kenya with a cargo of building materials.

About 240 miles off the Somali coast she was intercepted and captured by what are presumed to be Somali pirates. ... It is understood she is now anchored in Hobyo, 700 km from Mogadishu.
Those crewmembers now hostage are Danes. Unlike many western flag merchants, it was not manned by South or Southeast Asians - but no kidding Danes. That makes them very valuable to the pirate. Pirates who use their hostage money to buy weapons. What caught my eye was the following.
A French warship reportedly looked on as the event unfolded, and refused to enter Somali waters as the mv DANICA WHITE was taken into the region.
Eagle1 adds the correct angle on the law WRT to what the French did - but here is where I have a problem.

1. Somalia is a lawless state. Actually, it has broken effectively into three states, Somalia, Puntland, and Somaliland. It has no way to control or police its territorial waters.

2. Denmark is a NATO ally, has observer status at the Western European Union, and a member of the European Union - the French are members of all. Danish nationals and an Danish asset was under attack by non-state actors.

3. Pirates often kill hostages and therefore lives were in danger.

Given the reality of the waters off Somalia and 2 & 3 above:
- CTF-150, NATO and or Nations need to make some sort of a declaration that until Somalia can police its own territorial waters, Nations reserve the right to intervene to protect life and property.

- I would start with NATO - where we declare an act of piracy against on nation's assets will be considered and act of piracy against all - and be treated as such.

- If the above fail, then we push with a Coalition of the Willing to state much of the above.
International law is failing in this situation. We have non-state actors operating in a lawless area of the seas off a failed State.

No safe havens for pirates.

The French Navy should hang its head in shame. Saving a ship of Allied Seamen from the hands of pirates is worth a personal Command Pin or a national tut-tut from, well, from whom?
Honestly, would anyone in the world have complained if the French went 2NM inside so-called Somali territorial waters and took out the pirates? Anyone? Would they have done nothing if the ship was French?

If, as Eagle1 says the law is an ass, well then sometimes you must break the law if it is unjust. It is unjust to let fellow Sailors be abused because you are such a slave to bureaucratic diktat by men who are safe in their leather chairs that you treat the ungoverned waters off Somalia like you are off the coast of New Jersey.
Now, however, the pirates know where their safe haven is. Seamen are being being held hostage and Lord knows what is being done to them. We have gone to war over less.

What will Denmark do? What can we help them do?
Enough is enough. The first clause of Ecclesiastes 3:3 applies. This is the 21st Century. This should not be taking place.
Although piracy is rampant off Somalia's lawless coast, killing crew members is relatively rare, Mwangura said. He said pirates have killed four crew members in the past 10 years.

"Normally they don't kill crew members if they cooperate," he said.

Since February, pirates have hijacked 10 ships — five have been released and five are still being held, according to the Seafarers Assistance Program.
"Normally, rapists don't kill those they rape." Is not comforting. If the International Community wants to let the seas become the 18th Century - then let's have the merchant ships and other private ships do the same. Arm them. Arm them all. The smart ones make sure they are.

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