Monday, April 9, 2012



To the shores of Tripoli


Why is it that piracy still is a threat to both commercial and private ships and boats?

It is so easy to put an end to piracy, if not the pirates themselves.

Legally, according to even the UN's rules.

During World War 2, ships crossed the Atlantic and Pacific oceans in convoys, escorted by naval vessels, primarily U.S. Navy and Coast Guard ships.

The escorts didn't totally eliminate attacks on the merchant ships - submarines took their toll as did a few aircraft - but the losses to other surface ships was greatly minimized.

Today's pirates have neither submarines nor airplanes to sacrifice in kamikaze attacks.

Today's pirates primarily are armed with rocket-launched missiles, heavy (50 caliber) machine guns, and rifles.

They attack using small, relatively fast, maneuverable boats, knowing that with few exceptions, crews on ships either are not armed or if they do have weapons, they are not sufficiently trained to use them effectively.

The pirates capture people and cargo for ransom.

If the US and other countries with a naval presence in pirate-infested waters were to take a leaf out of a World War 2's history book they would once again form convoys.

Gunners on board naval vessels need to be allowed to fire and sink boats approaching them or a ship in the convoy in a threatening manner; this permission to fire is to prevent another USS Cole, the ship attacked by Muslim terrorists working out of Iran.

Use of unmanned aircraft as sentries could alert the convoy to a threat not yet positively identified by shipboard radar. These aircraft need not be sophisticated "spy" planes with radar-deflecting skins. Let the enemy - the pirates - know the aircraft are in the sky, watching for them.

The waters favored by modern pirates are well known to both commercial and military sailors.

Why can't ships be staged at a safe harbor until there are enough for a decent convoy.

Once a convoy is assembled, naval vessels can escort it safely past the pirates. Other ships can assemble and convoy from the opposite direction under their own escort, rather like commuter trains on intra-city buses.

I know a ship not underway is losing revenue for its owners, but it would seem a day or two forming a convoy to avoid being attacked, with possible loss of life and cargo, might offer a good return on investment. Consider it a form of insurance.

I am not a sailor and I don't play one on tv, but it seems to me some frigates armed with conventional weapons having a range greater than the pirates' weapons (I never favor a "fair" fight) would be a pretty convincing argument for the pirates to find another occupation.. Another point to consider - pirates - like Hamas, Hezbollah, and other terrorists - are not military personnel, they don't wear uniforms, and they do not qualify, when captured, as prisoners of war with Geneva Convention rights.

If I wrote it, you may quote it.

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