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earlier burfling | later burfling

The Pirates of Unromance

While almost all the US media are concentrating on either the Mighty Wall Street Bailout (version ?.??) or the presidential contest between Cool-Hand Obama and Gamblin' Jack McCain, problems continue, mostly unremarked, in the Real World (tm).

In this case, pirates. Not the romantic, Johnny Depp type, nor the comedic ones brought to music by Gilbert & Sullivan, nor even the baseball ones currently dwelling in the NL Central cellar. I'm talking about the real deal; thieves on the high seas, who seize merchant shipping and either hold the ships for ransom, sell off the cargoes, or both.

In particular, the seas off the coast of Somalia have been infested with pirates for years. The most recent incident involves a Ukrainian ship - with a potent military cargo:

A Ukrainian ship seized by pirates off the coast of Somalia was carrying 33 tanks and other weapons, the Ukrainian defence minister has confirmed.

Earlier, the country's foreign ministry said the ship had a crew of 21 and was sailing under a Belize flag to the Kenyan port of Mombasa.

[ ... ]

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

He said all the weapons had been sold in compliance with international agreements.


Earlier this week, an American fleet oiler was approached by pirates, but was able to drive them off:

Two unmarked and unflagged skiffs raced toward a 41,000-ton U.S. fleet oiler in the pirate-infested waters off Somalia on Wednesday, a Navy spokesman said. A security team embarked on the oiler fired on the boats, forcing them to peel away in the latest incidence of pirate activity in the region.

The two boats approached the John Lenthall, a Kaiser-class Military Sealift Command civilian-manned strike group replenishment ship that operates out of Naval Station Norfolk.

"They came up on the ship about 300 to 400 yards," said Lt. Nate Christensen, a spokesman for 5th Fleet in Bahrain. "These skiffs came out and approached after bridge-to-bridge calls and loud hailers and flares."

When the skiffs, approaching from behind, failed to back off, sailors from an embarked security detachment fired warning shots. The suspected pirates raced away.


Y'know, this sort of crap is what the Navy is supposed to prevent. And we've certainly got the capability to deal with piracy on the high seas. According to the BBC story:

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

Pirate "mother ships" travel far out to sea and launch smaller boats to attack passing vessels, sometimes using rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs).


Finding those "mother ships" should be a snap for a US carrier battle group, or even a surface action group backed up by maritime patrol aircraft flying out of someplace like Djibouti. (Diego Garcia is about 1800 miles away, which is a bit of a stretch even for P-3C Orions.) Once found, seizing the mother ship is a matter of pulling up alongside and ordering them to heave to; if they don't behave, a couple of helicopters full of SEALs can straighten them out in a hurry. Or, if we're not interested in bringing them in for trial someplace, it'd only take one Mk 48 torpedo to end their piratical career.

Of course, the current Administration is far too busy fighting "terraists" on land to pay much attention to ones on the high seas.

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