Modern Piracy

Pirates who hijacked a Japanese tanker off Somalia earlier this week are demanding a U.S. warship shadowing the vessel back off, the wife of the tanker’s foreman said Friday.

The Navy did issue a response to the pirates:

I jest, they did not blow up a freighter full of benzene.

I’ve been following these piracy stories off the coast of Somalia with some interest, actually.  The concept of modern piracy is fascinating; despite not being in the age of sail any longer, piracy itself is alive and well.  In lesser developed areas, such as the Somali/Nigerian coasts, we’ve seen a significant spike in pirate attacks, hence the increased presence of the US Navy.

The Somali pirates are my “favorite” modern pirates – rarely are they a rag-tag band of screw-ups, but rather they are usually experienced fighters with decent equipment.  Plus, since there really isn’t an effective central government in Somalia, they can basically operate with impunity.  The US Navy can’t watch ever freighter that goes in and out of the area, and the Somali pirates are pretty skilled at evading detection.

In my opinion, an effective way to deal with the pirates in the area would be a revival of the Q-Ship concept.  While not particularly successful against German subs during WWII, a merchant ship that was heavily armed with a well trained/experienced crew hold its own against a small pirate force, as the local pirates do not have access to submarines.

13 thoughts on “Modern Piracy”

  1. I’ll volunteer to man the .50 cal machine guns… 🙂

    I’ve often thought you could make a small fortune outfitting old cruise ships with machine guns, rocket launchers, etc. and trolling for pirates.

    Think about it.

    Charge an outrageous fee, like $10K/person. Have a two-day training session. Then spend a week trying to get attacked by pirates.

    How much more of an adrenaline rush can you imagine?

  2. I don’t why we put up with stuff in international waters. I believe the Marines cleared up a similar problem a little over 200 years ago, oh wait there’s a song about it isn’t there? I doubt there’d be much outcry if they just got blown out of the water everytime they showed their ugly mugs.

  3. I hear that the pirates that go after large ships (tankers, cargo, etc.) are well organized and probably considered organized crime.

    The pirates that go after sail boats (or similar) tend to be the sea borne equivalent of muggers. They are fishermen or something that are looking for extra cash.

  4. I would totally give up my career in exchange for a Letter of Marque from Congress and a chance to battle pirates. I would make up a Q-ship that looked like a small cruise liner, only heavily armed and with a massive set of engines.

    A few cruise ships have been trailed by pirates, but my understanding is that cruise ships can actually move quite fast if they put the pedal to the metal (or whatever the nautical equivalent of that is). I was surprised to hear of the case of a cruise ship that just outran the pirate skiffs.

  5. The Germans had a Q ship that was quite successful as a raider of supply ships, until cornered and killed. Can you get cornered in the Ocean?

  6. Pirates? I hate pirates. Our Navy ought to sink ’em on sight, and then shell the ports they set out from. Stinking pirates.

  7. Ya know, if there was money to be made like there was in the old days by the privateers, I’d be all over it! Unfortunately, these pirates have no vessels of value. Perhaps if after rescuing a ship & crew, you could claim a portion of it’s value as salvage. Mmmm, prize money.

  8. The Germans used Q ships as commerce raiders during both WWI and WWII. The label has a German root the way U boat does.

    During WWII, one German commerce raider, I’ve seen it reported as either a light cruiser or a cruiser-weight Q boat, ran up against a US Liberty Ship, the Sam Hopkins, which took Marko’s attitude. They had nothing but a single 6 pounder on the fantail, but their first round took out the German ship’s steering and the second took out fire control for some of its big guns. They kept firing till the breech was in the water, and arrived in Valhalla with their attacker in a headlock.

  9. By way of slight correct, it was actually the Stephen Hopkins, not Sam Hopkins. If any of my readers are interested in searching out information on the naval battle.

    Instruction on the Hopkins Engagement is was used the Coast Guard Academy to demonstrate the use of excellent gunnery techniques and the weather to your advantage.

  10. These pirates don’t have ships, they have boats. They’re land-based where local law enforcement is weak, popping out to board ships sailing by. Probably most of the pirates in the heyday of piracy in the Caribbean operated similarly, but they could utilize wooden sailing ships effectively when needed. The modern pirates can’t. Powered ships have to regularly sail into port for fuel, disguises and faked paperwork will only carry them through a few visits to civilized ports before the authorities catch on, and one of those ships parked off a primitive village will attract attention.

    The problem with a Q-ship is that it wouldn’t take long for the pirates to learn to recognize and avoid it. OTOH, how much firepower does it take to send a few speedboats away with losses? Many merchantment could carry enough weaponry, at a cost far lower than their insurance premiums – but governments in many areas get all hot and bothered about armed civilians. (Most notably, Indonesia, which can’t seem to get control of the pirates operating from their shores in the straits of Sumatra but does aggressively search passing ships for armament.)

  11. These pirates don’t have ships, they have boats. They’re land-based where local law enforcement is weak, popping out to board ships sailing by. Probably most of the pirates in the heyday of piracy in the Caribbean operated similarly, but they could utilize wooden sailing ships effectively when needed. The modern pirates can’t. Powered ships have to regularly sail into port for fuel, disguises and faked paperwork will only carry them through a few visits to civilized ports before the authorities catch on, and one of those ships parked off a primitive village will attract attention.

    The problem with a Q-ship is that it wouldn’t take long for the pirates to learn to recognize and avoid it. OTOH, how much firepower does it take to send a few speedboats away with losses? Many merchantment could carry enough weaponry, at a cost far lower than their insurance premiums – but governments in many areas get all hot and bothered about armed civilians. (Most notably, Indonesia, which can’t seem to get control of the pirates operating from their shores in the straits of Sumatra but does aggressively search passing ships for armament.)

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