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When the Royal Navy fails send for the Privateers

Insurance firms plan private navy to take on Somali pirates - Africa, World - The Independent

A multi-national naval force, including an EU fleet currently commanded by a British officer, has dramatically reduced the number of assaults in the Gulf of Aden in recent months. But seizures continue with 16 ships and 354 sailors currently being held hostage. The Independent has seen Nato documents which show both ransom payments and the period that pirates are holding vessels have doubled in the last 12 months to an average $4m and 117 days respectively.
The maritime insurance industry, much of it based in London, has borne the brunt of the financial cost of the piracy problem, paying out $300m (£191m) in ransoms and associated costs in the last two years alone.
Sean Woollerson, a senior partner with JLT, told The Independent: “We are looking at setting up a private navy to escort vessels through the danger zones. We would have armed personnel with fast boats escorting ships and make it very clear to any Somali vessels in the vicinity that they are entering a protected area.
“At the moment there is a disconnect between the private security sector and the international naval force. We think we can help remedy that and place this force under the control of the multi-national force. We look after about 5,000 ships and have had 10 vessels taken in total, including a seizure where one crew member was shot and killed. Piracy is a serious problem, these are criminals basically extorting funds, so why not do something more proactive?”
A FCO spokesman said it had not yet received a “formal” proposal but added: “We believe that such a concept could be considered. It would need to be endorsed and supported by the UK in close discussion with coalition partners in current counter piracy operations.”

Why consult with the tossers at the FCO? If the British Navy isn't doing its job, and why not? then what right have the useless bastards got in telling private operators in international waters how to protect ships? Just issue them with Marque of Letters and let them get on with it.

Comments

"It would need to be endorsed and supported by the UK in close discussion with coalition partners in current counter piracy operations."

It is a superficial statement yet carries a veiled threat. 'If you don't get our approval we can make life difficult for you'. What is the betting that if a privateer force went out there the EU task force would keep wanting to inspect it? Their job would not be combating piracy but safeguarding their own authority. Any challenge to that must be stamped on and they will always concentrate on the biggest challenger.

Gareth, not sure I can agree with you.

The privateer force couldn't operate without official sanction from the UK government, else they'd legally be no better than pirates themselves (sorry to be pedantic, Englishman, but it's 'letters of marque' rather than t'other way about http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Letter_of_marque), and if they had this I can't see why the Royal Navy (or indeed any other) would feel a need to impose repeated, unnecessary inspections merely to hobble their activities. After all, private 'security' people operate in Iraq etc. with no problem.

This force would only operate in one particular geographical area and I don't think would be considered a challenge to the authority of other navies, except insofar as the need for it implied criticism of the effectiveness of the official forces in suppressing Somali piracy. Further, they would operate somewhat at arm's length, less hampered by international relations / diplomatic considerations.

Really, what's needed is a 'spectacular', where a pirate attack is not only thwarted but every pirate involved is killed or captured and their boat/s sunk. Might give the rest of the New Barbary Coast pause for thought.

"[W]hat's needed is a 'spectacular', where a pirate attack is not only thwarted but every pirate involved is killed or captured and their boat/s sunk."

In a nutshell.

Phil,

"The privateer force couldn't operate without official sanction from the UK government ..."

They wouldn't have to be registered in the UK.

", else they'd legally be no better than pirates themselves"

The privateers would be escorting wessels with the permission of the captains rather than harassing ships and attempting to board them. The difference is plain enough. Private security forces do work in Iraq but there is surely a major difference between a sovereign state licencing firms to do security work in their country and ships operating in international waters.

Gareth

The privateer force would need sanction from some government or another. If they were UK registered, which was what I understood from the original post, they would need UK government sanction by Letters of Marque. They could not threaten deadly force merely as escorts of merchant vessels any more than those merchant vessels could themselves be armed.

Nobody is suggesting they harass other ships, only defend merchant ships passing through dangerous waters should they be accosted by pirates, with whom they would need (and have) the right to resist force with force. And you've misunderstood the legal status of private security contractors in Iraq.

Your basic point, that lawful privateers defending merchant ships from attacks by Somali pirates would find their activities curtailed by the 'official' naval defence forces, simply doesn't stack up, I'm afraid.

Just hire the Russian navy, they have a pragmatic solution to the problem...the Somali captives died....end of problem, no UN or EU interference.

I'd go a bit further than that: write off the captives, sail a ballistic missile submarine into the area, and fire fifteen or twenty high-yield thermonukes into Somalian population centres. Call it a 21st century variant on Jefferson's approach to the Barbary pirates. Mutatis mutandis, it applies in other areas where Mohammedans get uppity.

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