April 24, 2009

Stand By To Repel Boarders!

For some time now, I've been joking that as I believe Blackwater had lost its security contract in Bagdad, why not hire its guys out to the merchies fighting off Somali pirates?

Well bow down before the armchair acumen of Robbo the Llama, because none other than that modern day Grant, Gen. David Petraeus is now saying the same damned thing:

WASHINGTON The global shipping industry should consider placing armed guards on its boats to ward off pirates who have become increasingly violent, the U.S. military commander who oversees the African coastline said Friday. Gen. David Petraeus who came to the Capitol to talk about a wide variety of issues told a House committee Friday that just trying to outrun or block pirates from boarding cargo ships isn't enough to deter sea bandits off the Somali coast who are becoming more aggressive. The Pentagon is starting to study how to better protect merchant shipping, but hasn't yet come up with a formal plan.

The shipping industry has resisted arming their boats, which would deny them port in some nations.

In response to questions from a House Appropriations subcommittee, Petraeus said defensive preparations short of armed guards "can work. You can have water hoses and others that can make it more difficult."

But in a wry tone, he added: "It's tough to be on the end of a water hose if the other guy is on the end of an RPG. So you've got to think your way through that calculation as well."

What has puzzled me all along is why anti-pirate measures should be all that difficult. I mean, it's not as if these guys are bearing down on their prey in heavy cruisers with overwhelming firepower. The attacking force is typically a couple small boatloads of thugs armed with RPG's and maybe a few machine guns. It strikes me that even a moderately-armed merchie would be able to blow these clowns out of the water at 500 yards.

I understand that the hesitancy on the part of the merchant marine to fight back centers around not logistics or firepower but complications involving international law, port access and the like. It seems to me that at some point - especially when fighting lawless savages - one must jettison these niceties. (Of course, this is a variation on the old adage that the Constitution is not a suicide pact.) Where that point is, exactly, I don't know. But it strikes me that Gen. Petreus is suggesting we're pretty darn near it.

Posted by Robert at April 24, 2009 09:44 PM | TrackBack

At the very least they should be outfitted with LRAD. That projects sound loud enough to melt your brains.

Posted by: Mike at April 24, 2009 11:05 PM


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Posted by: enticievy at April 25, 2009 12:27 AM

I would think it should be feasible for a shipping company to arrange for a vessel to have a heavily armed escort through certain waters or to bring a team of heavily armed guards on board for certain parts of the journey.

There would be costs involved but they would have to be less than the cost of losing a ship to pirates or paying ransom.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at April 25, 2009 07:07 AM

Arm the merchant marine. Otherwise you're easy pickings.

As far as concerns about escalating violence, well we're already there. The question is what are the merchant mariners going to do about that.

Posted by: kmr at April 25, 2009 08:52 AM

From what I've been told, the big obstacle is insurance -- insuring an armed vessel is prohibitively more expensive than an unarmed on. Of course, that's just what I've heard, my source could be mistaken.

Posted by: Boy Named Sous at April 25, 2009 03:18 PM