Category Archives: Sailing

US Navy Ignores Pirates

Well, I stand corrected. I mentioned earlier that I thought the US would show concern for the problem with pirates near the Horn of Africa. Not so, points out the Danger Room from

“The coalition does not have the resources to provide 24-hour protection for the vast number of merchant vessels in the region,” Combined Maritime Forces commander, U.S. vice admiral Bill Gortney tells Reuters. “The shipping companies must take measures to defend their vessels and their crews.”

Taking a historical view, it pains me to read this. One of the primary reasons he United States of America dumped the Articles of Confederation and wrote the Constitution of the United States was to gain the power of taxation. And the primary reason the founding fathers needed taxation was so the country could build a Navy for the specific purpose of fighting pirates.

I also find it very frustrating that last Thursday, the Admirals stood in front of the American people in Durham and discussed in detail the role of naval power to protect the global system to insure the free flow of trade. Yet here we have a clear example of trade disruption on the seas, and the U.S. Navy basically tells ship owners they can’t solve the problem.

Nicely said. My opinion was biased by speaking with former crew of US warships that patrolled the Indian Ocean. They said special forces teams would often helicopter in (probably from Djibouti), brag about taking out pirates on secret missions, and then disappear again. Perhaps it is only certain merchant ships that get this treatment. France, who actively maintains a large military base in Djibouti and operates an African rapid deployment force (RDF) from there, certainly seems ready and willing to make an impression on the pirates. Perhaps I am also biased there too as I once met a former Foreign Legionnaire stationed in Djibouti who spoke of fighting Somalis.

Somali Pirates Steal Russian Tanks

It is interesting to think about the lack of defenses used to guard a ship full of weapons, including tanks. The BBC reports:

The Ukrainian foreign ministry said the captain of the Faina cargo ship had reported being surrounded by three boats of armed men on Thursday afternoon

Defence Minister Yury Yekhanurov confirmed that 33 Russian T-72 tanks and “a substantial quantity of ammunition” were aboard.

The Faina sailed under a Belize flag and seems to have had no armed support or defenses. The US and Ethiopia can not be happy about this. It is no small problem, however, especially with the Somalis now managing a substantial budget for attacks while the US is all tied up with Iraq, Georgia and facing serious economic shortfalls:

Pirates have seized dozens of ships from the major shipping routes near Somalia’s coast in recent months.

Senior UN officials estimate the ransoms they earn from hijacking ships exceed $100m (£54m) a year.

This is all too familiar. I seem to remember the peak of the British empire came as Pirates increasingly challenged them on the high seas.


from “Salt-Water Ballads” by John Masefield

I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face and a grey dawn breaking.

I must down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must down to the seas again to the vagrant gypsy life.
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.