Men with guns

Men with guns rarely add anything useful. But there is one big exception. It is a simple fact that putting armed guards on merchant ships has stopped the Somali piracy which was menacing world trade. All the collective huff and puff and vast expense of the global navies didn’t stop the piracy. It is a few companies putting ex-marines with rifles onto ships while they transit the dangerous area which has brought the problem under control.

Instead of helping control … Continue reading

How pirates think

Journalists love surveys. Six out of ten men floss before sex is a great headline. So they are never tempted to look behind the survey outcome and ask what it was based on and if it has any significance at all. No-one likes to let facts get in the way of a good story.

So to Somali pirates. Evidently a survey of Somali pirates found that they think prison is the worst place, they attack ships because they are … Continue reading

Piracy forgotten again

When the Somali piracy was at its height the great navies of the world responded with half-hearted commitment of forces and no commitment at all of interest. World trade was threatened but the big navies, the US and the UK, were too busy posing about world war fighting and strategic interests to worry about the safety of merchant ships. When they sent ships it was reluctantly and despite the efforts of Hollywood to big up their action they have since … Continue reading

Flags of convenience

If a ship comes along and deliberately rams your fish pens, then the crew of the ramming ship deploy rubber bullets against your fishermen, then you might possibly consider that you have a legal case for damages against the attackers.

Not so, if your attackers are holier than thou campaigners who choose the right flag for their vessel. One you can hide behind. A convenient one, an open register. Such as the Red Ensign, the proud flag of UK trading … Continue reading

A small step for Somalia

Another piece of good news from Somalia, surprisingly not very much reported in the global marine press. The four longest-held hostages of the Somali piracy have now been released. The Thai fishermen were seized in 2010 and six of their colleagues died in captivity.

Whatever was paid in ransom it will have been a poor deal for the pirates who have guarded them so long. They rack up huge costs protecting their hostages. It is another nail in the … Continue reading

Paying pirates

Doing things right is hard. Standing by the rule of law is hard. Especially when some nasty piece of work profits from you doing things right.

Today we get news that the Danish government has compensated nine Somalis suspected of trying to hijack a Danish ship in 2013 because they were detained too long before being brought before a judge. Each of the pirates gets just over $3,000, which is nearly ten years’ salary in Somalia.

Last week it … Continue reading

Turkeys vote for Christmas

Turkeys don’t vote for Christmas. But armed guards on ships in the Indian Ocean have been so successful in deterring Somali piracy that they are putting themselves out of business.

The amount the firms supplying guards can charge to protect a ship during transit of the Indian Ocean piracy areas has fallen by half, from around $40,000 to $20,000 or less. That is partly down to increased competition and partly because as the supply of the guards ramped up, … Continue reading

More something for nothing

When you fill up your car this week most of you will notice that it costs a bit less. And that will cheer you up. Shipowners and charterers will notice that bunker prices have fallen, and that will cheer them up too. But low oil prices are not just something for nothing. I’m all for cheap energy, but not everyone is a winner.

In the shipping business anyone with exposure to offshore energy projects feels a cold shiver when oil … Continue reading

Do pirates have emotions?

There’s the Hollywood view of piracy, as updated by Captain Phillips, and there is the reality. Hollywood is goodies and baddies and the goodies triumph as long as they are US Marines rescuing a US Captain who then lives happily ever after. In reality there are a lot of conflicting drivers behind piracy and a lot of complicated people involved, and the outcomes are never very clear.

Two things made me think about the people in piracy this week. … Continue reading

The long and short of Somali piracy

Here’s a question. What is the difference between a journalist and an academic? On the evidence it’s all about efficiency, speed and clarity of what they deliver.

A journalist usually works alone, interviews as many sources as they can find, extracts the main points, simplifies and then writes an article quickly using the shortest and clearest words possible to explain what is going on.

Academics do things in groups. They interview the same or fewer sources than the journalists, take … Continue reading