Saturday, May 3, 2008

Arrrrg ... not again!

Romanticized notions about reality can be a dangerous thing. Not only are they a barrier to accepting the harsh realities of every day life, or even more fundamental truths about the stuff of life itself, it also leads us to draw rosy conclusions where none are warranted; it prevents us from taking action where idleness brings more harm than incisive action. That is the stuff of ethics.

So don't take your romantic swooning any further than the odd candle-lit dinner or the occasional glare into the sunset. Not if you don't want to end up crying into your umpteenth glass, that is ...

As a regular contributor to the blog, often on the interfaces of organized crime, terrorism and geopolitics, we find Ioannis Michaletos, security analyst at the Greece-based Research Institute for European and American Studies.

Being a bit of an expert on the subject of the high seas, the analyst had an interview with CNN earlier this week about the plague of modern piracy (or any piracy), a subject that became newsworthy again last week after French troops routed Somali pirates before they could make off with $2 million in ransom paid for a seized French luxury yacht and its crew of thirty.

The figures are truly staggering! CNN: " The International Maritime Bureau says 49 attacks were reported in the first three months of 2008, compared with 41 for the same period last year. It recorded 263 pirate attacks last year, up from 239 the year before and the first increase in three years. Worse still, analysts estimate that the numbers are underreported by as much as 30 percent." Michaletos: "A piracy case raises insurance rates for ship owners; unless there's a death, many ship owners won't report it."

Last year in "Security in the High Seas: Piracy", a region by region analysis, Michaletos wrote: "The total number of piracy incidents that has been officially reported to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) from July 2004 to October 2006; is 3,993. From this number, in just 15% of the cases the local authorities were able to withhold the pirates, in another 10% the crew members were able to withstand in their own means and in just 12 cases the culprits were apprehended by the security forces."

By comparison "between 1984 and the end of November 1999, there had been 1,587 attacks by pirates on ships around the world. In some areas these attacks involved a disturbing increase in violence. IMO estimates that incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships are under-reported by a factor of two." (!)

On 16th January this year in "International maritime security: A rising issue" Michaletos writes that "in early 2005 New York Times publicized the annual report by the International Maritime Bureau, where the statistics indicated a quality alteration of piracy incidents. Specifically even though attacks decreased from 445 (in 2003) to 325; 400 seamen died, injured or held hostage a 100% increase in just one year. The report outlined the increase in the militarization outlook of modern day pirates, and their growing sophistication in armory and organization."

"The possibility of a terrorist group staging an attack in a port using WMD should not be taken lightly. Even though airport security and the subway one are considered as highly critical by the international and state authorities; maritime one is a level lower in consideration. Despite the fact that some 90% of world’s trade is conducted via sea routes and countries such USA, UK, Canada, Japan, etc., heavily depend on maritime trade; little has surfaced since 9/11 for the measures being implemented in this field."

"The nexus between piracy and terrorism can by highlighted by the mastermind of the USS Cole attack, the Saudi subject Al Rahman al Nashiri who was about to orchestrate attacks against vessels in the Gibraltar Straights in order to create havoc in the Mediterranean Sea. Lastly, Somalia which is a major piracy center in the Indian Ocean reveals the interrelation between the Islamist rebels and the piracy assails that finance in their turn the former."

"The existence of “failed states” in the periphery of important world sea routes is a temptation for all sorts of criminal elements to exploit the weakness of a state mechanism to avert their plans. Even Indonesia which is one of the largest countries in the world and has a fleet of over 110 Navy vessels, can barely administer it sea territory due to the existence of over 17,000 islands and the activation of numerous secession movements and terrorist organizations."

So, stick to moon-lit swooning and duck-ponds, and forget about the possible benevolence of Captain Jack Sparrow!

Related: "The Plague of Pirates and Romantics: Arrrgh!"

Update: Just in from Michaletos ... "A few days ago there was an American air strike in Somalia related to the whole story. It was aimed at Islamic militants that finance their war through piracy attacks. " - CNN: "Somali militants vow to avenge deadly U.S. airstrike"


Update: CNN: "Captain: My 'heart sank' when pirates attacked"
(contains video material)

Colin Darch was piloting his slow-moving tugboat out of the Red Sea close to Somalia when heavily armed pirates sped up next to him screaming and firing weapons. (...) "I had a good feeling that we would get rid of them, but my heart sank when I saw the second boat speeding toward us," Darch told CNN recently. (...)

Organizations like the International Maritime Bureau and the Seafarers Assistance Program work with the U.S. Navy to combat and protect mariners from piracy in the region. (...) The Navy works with France, the Netherlands, Britain and Pakistan in what is known as Combined Task Force 150, a maritime coalition that has taken on additional anti-piracy roles around Somalia. The U.S. Navy keeps at least one warship off the coast of Somalia, Navy officials said. Authorities recommend mariners (...) >>>


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