Year 2012 is running out, together with Somali piracy. As of October 1 pirates hijacked this year 6 ocean-going freighters, two of them were freed by Iranian Navy hours after hijack, with casualities among crews, and one, ro-ro Leila, was not so much a classic hijack as an act of desperation on behalf of pirates, frustrated by the lack of easy prey. Ro-ro Leila was plying Somali waters for years without guards or Navies protection, vessel was protected by Somalian traders and elders interests, so predictably vessel was released pretty soon for alleged 150,000 USD ransom, but most probably, she was released for free. That leaves the pirates with only three vessels they managed to hijack and keep until now in captivity, among them the hefty prize of Suezmax tanker Smyrni in full load.
Still, media and “experts” can’t figure out the exact number of the hijacks and contradict each other. The winner is figure 5, major media and public believe that 5 vessels were hijacked during this year. IMB and some “experts” believe 13 vessels were hijacked. How and why did they fail to put two and two together? IMB and hired by interested parties “experts” are exaggerating the number of hijacks because their purpose is to make Somali piracy look more dangerous than it presently is, fouling statistics by mixing the hijacks of local dhows with the hijacks of ocean-going international freighters, the scam I’ve been writing about many times before.
As for public and major media mistake, I simply don’t know where the mistake came from. I guess somebody in one of majors made a mistake counting the hijacks while suffering hangover or flu, the figure was published and then went on as a proven fact not to be checked for errors. Like a mistake some years back, when a journalist from Reuters calculated the cost of the oil on the hijacked VLCC, confusing price of barrel with the price of ton. Journalist simply multiplied the price of barrel by the number of tons and thought the result to be the cost of the whole load.
As for prize money pirates got during this year, i.e. ransoms, the total comes up to some $20 million, though of course, it’s rather bold estimation, based on pirates words only. For more than two years we know about the sums of ransoms only from the pirates, without confirmation from other sources. For maritime and UN officials and for politicians pirates mathematics seems to be just fine, as it suits the officials perfectly, but for the quest of the truth pirates allegations are a striking exaggeration. Actually ransoms they got are at best, half of claimed, so I estimate the sum of ransoms as some $8-10 million, not more.
The U.N. Office on Drugs and Crimes on World Maritime Day said the pirates were paid some $25-30 million ransoms this year. Where did they, namely Yury Fedotov, U.N. Office on Drugs and Crimes executive director, find those millions, is anyone’s guess. There is no way pirates could make those millions UN is talking about, unless UN shared with pirates some of their own piracy loot – tens of millions of dollars UN collected from the member States for UN’s Fighting the Piracy program.
There is a sharp fall in number of pirates attacks, said International Maritime Bureau, but their statistics are not reliable any more. Before the massive use of private armed guards, IMB statistics of pirate attacks were more or less correct, but starting from the second half of year 2011, with private guards entering the game, situation dramatically changed, and now many attacks stay unreported for obvious reason. Private armed guards weren’t and aren’t welcomed by officialdom and Navies, in many cases owners hire guards against the rules and laws of their flag States, incidents involving the guards while repelling the attacks may lead to some legal negative implications, so it’s better to keep low and don’t report an attack to the authorities, first of all to IMB. According to IMB, 69 attacks were recorded in the first half of this year, against 163 during the same period last year.
There one more aspect in growing unwillingness of the industry to report the piracy incidents to IMB – there is no sense in reporting, industry just don’t see how IMB statistics help the industry to defend itself from pirates. I’m accentuating the difference between those two definitions once more – there is Fighting the Piracy strategy, and there is Defending from Piracy strategy, and there is a hell of a difference between those two. Shipping, I repeat (I wrote about it many times long before the Somali piracy went into decline), doesn’t need Fighting, shipping needs Defending. Officialdom and Navies failed to defend shipping from pirates because they were (and still are) interested in fighting the piracy, as the process proved itself to be very profitable. So shipping defended itself with what it found to be the best solution, with private armed guards, and so successfully, that officialdom and Navies found themselves out of job, much to their anger.
But UN and Navies are doing their best to keep the piracy afloat, or at least, save their face, that’s why in a salvo of recent publications concerning the Somali piracy decline, reader will find a list of measures which curbed piracy named in a strict order with armed guards lagging somewhere behind, and Navies being the first and most efficient. Take a look at my statistics http://www.odin.tc/piracystat.htm, and compare the hijacks in year 2010 and present year. What caused such a dramatic decline, Navies or armed guards? In year 2010 there were as many Navies in Indian ocean as there are now, vessels were guarding themselves with barbed wire and water cannons, transits were registered with Navies Command Centers, everything was exactly like it is now, and there was hardly a week without a hijack. Now it’s already six months since the last hijack. Navies and officials may boast their growing efficiency as much as they want to, the industry knows whom to thank for the long-awaited safety – industry’s own willingness to pay for the safety, and a booming market of security services. Navies and officials, plus media, have absolutely nothing to do with the Somali piracy decline, on the contrary, they did their best to keep shipping defenceless.
There was another enemy except armed guards who inflicted a strong blow on Somali pirates in years 2011-2012, the name of the enemy was Puntland Marine Police Force PMPF – the group of around one hundred mostly African and South African expats and about 800 Somali Marines. During several raids into pirates infected coastal areas they severely damaged pirates land bases. What has become of the PMPF? It was eliminated by cutting off the financing of the whole program, in June this year. The program, carried out by an outside party, namely Sterling Corporate Services (SCS), was financed by UAE. Suddenly and seemingly out of nothing, UN went against the whole program.
In its Report of the Somalia-Eritrea Monitor Group (SEMG), the United Nations said that the provision of security assistance, in the absence of UN authorisation, "constitutes a violation of the general and complete arms embargo on Somalia." It added that the Monitoring Group was concerned that member states "routinely fail to fulfil their obligations" which require them to prevent "the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer of weapons and military equipment and the direct or indirect supply of technical assistance or training, financial or other assistance" to Somalia.
Shortly after, the United Nations SEMG published a Study or Review devoted to armed guards issue, in which the spreading use of armed guards was slated as a basically wrong and potentially risky approach to the problem. There was a number of similar “Studies” published by some Navies and “independent experts”.
In other words, UN, maritime officials, Navies and politicians did all they could to support the pirates and make shipping defenceless and wholly dependant on official Fighting the Piracy Strategy. Well, they failed. Together with pirates. Pirates were very flexible and daring when challenging for example, Navies different tactics. But pirates didn’t yet find any solution to the armed guards “problem”. They can’t attack vessels with armed guards on board – such attacks require much more sophisticated and heavy weaponry. It’s not the question of weapons anyway, because the hijack is supposed to be just that, the hijack, not a full-scale sea battle with unpredictable results and smoldering ruins of the vessel in the end. Pirates need to capture undamaged vessel with unharmed crew and then trade them for a hefty ransom, if there is no guarantee of such an outcome, there is no sense in the whole business.
There is only one way pirates can keep on hijacking the vessels, the name of the success is information. They must know the details and routes of the vessels which dare to transit dangerous waters without guards on board, in order to launch a successful attack. Obviously, pirates weren’t able to get an access to such information, or else they could go on with hijacking. At least one third of all the vessels transiting dangerous waters are reckless enough to sail without armed protection, there is more than enough prey to feed Somali piracy and keep it afloat, providing pirates know whom to attack and whom to avoid.
With wholehearted support of UN, politicians, Navies and maritime authorities (with insurers and security interests being a second line), pirates nevertheless, can’t hold the fort and are losing the “Defence from the Piracy” battle unleashed by the ever entrepreneurial private sector, impersonated by shipowners and security agencies. The fate of the Somalia piracy is to be determined by the next 1-2 years developments in the country, as there are some rays of hope that some kind of an order will be finally, restored.
I’ve been explaining many times the character of interests of different parties involved in Somalia piracy, so I won’t burden this article with those issues again, anyone interested may find the details in my previous publications. I can’t but muse though, over the paradox of it all, the paradox of a global problem turned into the source of profits by individuals and institutions who claim themselves to be the defenders of the public welfare. How can it happen? Why the society has to pay for solving the problem much more than it’s really worth, both with money and with human lives, why can’t the society control the immoral politicians and always ready to lie “experts” and journalists?
All major and industry media without exception didn’t ever express any doubt in the correctness of the whole “Fight the Piracy” idea, though the idea and the groundings of it were and are so obviously corrupt and wrong. There is a news agency Somalia Report, founded by well-known journalist and author Robert Young Pelton. The whole idea of Somalia Report was distasteful to me from the very beginning, and I feel myself still strongly opposed to it. But by and by I found Robert Young Pelton and his Agency to be the only one media capable of digging deeper than usual media scratching, and asking the authorities hard questions. He didn’t say B regretfully, after saying A and publishing the stories and studies revealing the ugly faces of UN, maritime authorities and Navies, and their true role in the Somalia Piracy phenomena, but I think it’s the question of time. The man is sincere and professional enough not to miss the rotten basics of the “Fighting the Piracy” scam, created and maintained by numerous people connected to piracy by their personal or corporate interests.
The striking part of the Somalia Piracy paradox is the number of individuals interested in a continuation of it, such individuals long ago far outnumbered the pirates themselves – and those people and their activities already cost the society much more than all the world piracy taken together. I can’t help myself not to mention some of those interested in piracy. There are UN of course, IMO, BIMCO, Intertanko, Intermanager, ITF, politicians and Navies, but most disgusting is the cover story of all the Somalia Piracy fraud – the Oceans beyond Piracy “think-tank”, which is run it seems, mostly by women. Their first “Study” was such an impudent falsification, that the boys who hired the girls had to react (after, I’d selfishly credit myself for it, I published my Study revealing the stunning lies of the Oceans beyond Piracy Study and their general unprofessionalism and ignorance) and ordered the “think-tank” to concoct something more plausible. The girls did their best but failed again, their next Studies were as bluntly falsified as the first one. This time I wasn’t alone in criticizing them, I was joined by Somalia Report and even (!) some industry media, though of course they didn’t mention me as I’m an enfant terrible of the industry, to be referred to but not to be mentioned.
I don’t think the boys are happy with their choice, but as long as major media keep being dumb, they don’t express their disappointment openly, and have to stick to the girls and their wild fantasies. Somebody may think me to be too crude and not politically correct. I may be all of it and more, but I for one, won’t fabricate studies on for example, problems of menstruation, simply because I am not a professional in that field. The Oceans beyond Piracy girls meanwhile, seem to be experts in about anything, you just name it and pay for it. It is no joke – thanks to crooks in UN, in maritime organizations and other institutions, dozens of innocent people already lost their lives, hundreds went through piracy capture hell, billions of dollars are already wasted with more to come. All of it became possible with the help of the whoring “think-tanks” ready to “research” any problem with ordered result which suits the client.
There is an excellent illustration to what I wrote about Somalia Piracy scam, to the official policy and the reality. Yury Fedotov, U.N. Office on Drugs and Crimes executive director, in his recent speech on a Somalia Piracy problem said: “The logic is simple: no pirates, no piracy”. I’ve been repeatedly saying that as soon as the vessels will be protected from pirate attacks, there will be no pirates. My logic is as simple as logic of Mr. Yury Fedotov (my shamefully, fellow countryman), but I look at it the other way around – if there is no piracy acts, there are no pirates. Unlike Mr. Fedotov and his associates, my conception proved to be much more realistic – with the private armed protection of the vessels, the number of the pirates went on sharp decline, both number of pirates going to high seas and captured. Here lies the abyss between shipping and the officialdom – shipping needs safety and protection, officialdom needs campaigns, fighting and all the money and power such policies bring to them.
October 4 2012