Somali pirates less a scourge of the seas as private security firms proliferate
The Daily Exclusive Benjamin Carlson July 30, 2012
Somali pirate attacks are plunging — thanks, in part, to a group of heavily armed ex-Navy SEALs putting their skills to use in the private sector.
In the first six months of 2012, pirate attacks plummeted 33 percent, according to the International Maritime Bureau. Through June, Somali pirates made 69 attacks, resulting in 212 captured hostages. That was down from 163 attacks in the same six-month period in 2011.
Piracy hit its highest point last year, with attacks on 544 ships from the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean.
One of the biggest factors spurring the drop is the use of maritime security companies that specialize in anti-piracy.
“The fact of the matter is, if you didn’t have private armed guards, it would definitely be much more dangerous — the drop would not have been so significant,” said Michael Frodl, chairman of C-Level Maritime Risks, a consulting company.
For $50,000 per voyage, shipping companies can hire a team of four ex-Navy SEALs to accompany their vessel on a 10-day voyage through the most dangerous waters in the world — the Gulf of Aden, Straits of Malacca and northern Indian Ocean — to thwart hijackings and hostage-taking.
How good are they? Thus far, not a single ship that has had armed guards aboard has been taken, said Doug Brooks, president of the International Stability Operations Association. “It’s a 100 percent solution.”
BBC Africa May 29, 2012
But unlike other private security firms which put guards on board other people’s ships, it will offer vessels of its own.
The chief executive of Typhon, Anthony Sharpe, says the plan is to rendezvous with cargo ships which sign up for their protection and form them into a convoy.
The company says it will establish what it is describing as an exclusion zone of one kilometre around the ships.
The company is buying three boats, which are currently being fitted out in Singapore.
Each of its craft will have up to 40 security officers, drawn from former British Royal Marines, as well as a crew of 20.
The ships will be fitted with machine guns and the staff will have rifles.
But Mr Sharpe told the BBC it is not a question of out-gunning the pirates.
“It’s not about lethal force matching lethal force,” he said.
“It’s more like applying a burglar alarm to the problem and the thief will be deterred – so will be looking elsewhere.”
Associated Press at MSN News Center May 24, 2012
COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) – Danish shipper A.P. Moller-Maersk says armed guards have thwarted a pirate attack on one of its U.S.-flagged cargo ships in the Gulf of Oman.
The Copenhagen-headquartered company says “multiple pirate skiffs” headed toward the 488-feet (148-meter) long Maersk Texas on Wednesday, despite receiving “clear warning signals” from guards onboard.
The pirates opened fire on the ship, and guards returned fire, eventually forcing the pirates to abandon their attack.
No one was injured in the incident and the ship continued on its voyage to the U.S. No other details were immediately available Thursday.
Somali pirates have been increasing their range, but attacks around the vital oil lanes near the Strait of Hormuz remain relatively rare.
Daily Beast March 21, 2012
On Tuesday afternoon, in the small inland Somali town of Adado, law enforcement officials gazed skyward as a single-engine aircraft circled close overhead. The plane—a U.K.-owned KingAir 200 operated by the British company Phoenix Aviation and reportedly chartered by the British private security firm Salama Fikira—dropped a sack containing an estimated $800,000 to $1 million in cash. The stash was ransom for 56-year-old Judith Tebbutt, a British citizen held hostage for nearly seven months by Somali pirates.
Adado has been a hotbed of hostage rescues this year: Navy SEALs staged a dramatic operation to recover American Jessica Buchanan from the town in January. Tebbutt had been in the pirates’ possession since September 11 of last year, when a Somali gang kidnapped her from an upscale resort in a remote region of Kenya near Somalia’s lawless border. During the abduction, the pirates shot and killed her husband, David; then slipped into a boat and glided north into the country that even locals call “the Land of Death”.
Tebbutt’s initial captors, a dozen or so fishermen and former hotel employees in the area, are thought to be originally from the Bajuni islands in Kenya, and are purported to have connections with the radical Somali terror group Al-Shabab. They sold Tebbutt to a second band of pirates based in Haradhere, on the northern Somali coast. The group that received the ransom this week was from the Ceyr and Saleeban—two parts of the large Hawiye clan—and the gangleader is known to be a man called Bashir.
UPI SecurityIndustry March 19, 2012
WASHINGTON, March 19 (UPI) — Pirate attacks on merchant vessels in Africa pose a threat with ripple effects for U.S. homeland security and must be tackled as such, security industry experts say.
The industry’s experts want specialist teams from commercial security firms deployed on every ship that sails in the danger zone in east Africa, where most recent piracy incidents have taken place.
“Success at sea by the early Somali pirates has attracted major organized-crime syndicates, Muslim extremists and a more robust and sophisticated confederacy of operatives,” Jim Jorrie, chief executive officer of ESPADA marine services argued in the March 2012 issue of Homeland Security Today magazine.
“While this is all happening half a world away, it has put more operating cash in the hands of extremists, including al-Qaida — and that should be of no small concern for us in the United States,” Jorrie said
Sky News March 17, 2012
The loss of veterans of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, particularly corporals and sergeants, “rips the skeleton” from the bodies of units like the Royal Marines and Parachute Regiment, the commander of 3 Commando during the Falklands War, Julian Thompson, has warned.
According to Ministry of Defence figures, 570 Royal Marines and 170 members of 2nd and 3rd Battalions of the Parachute Regiment left the forces between 2009 and 2011.
Even though the figure for the Marines includes those who were medically discharged, the rate at which elite soldiers from both units have been leaving is around double the average.
Among the Marines, the MoD admitted, the bulk of those leaving voluntarily were senior privates, corporals and sergeants. These non-commissioned officers lead sections of around eight men, or platoons of around 30. They are responsible for life-and-death tactical decisions during fighting.
No definite data is available on what soldiers do when they leave the services but senior officers have been deeply concerned about the losses of experienced troops to the private security companies for more than a year.
“Anecdotally, between 1st June 2011 and 30th November 2011, 54 soldiers from 3 Para have applied for Premature Voluntary Release. Of these, 24 have claimed they were seeking work in the private security industry,” an MoD source said.
The Estonian private security company ESC Global Security fended off pirates attempting to hijack a Greek freighter off the Somali coast on Tuesday.
The incident occurred around 15:00 local time by the Port of Salalah. Eight pirates, armed with AK-47 assault rifles and one RPG, were aboard an approaching vessel, according to the company.
“[The security company] opened fire after all other deterrence measures had been tried and failed to discourage the pirates,” said Jaanus Rahumägi, company director and former MP.
Meanwhile, the company contacted the forces of the EU naval operation in Somalia, which prepared to dispatch a chopper for backup. But at 16:00 the pirates retreated and reinforcements were not needed
The Daily Mail January 21, 2012
Gunmen kidnapped an American man in the northern Somali town of Galkayo on Saturday, officials said.
The gunmen surrounded the man’s car shortly after the man left the airport, said policeman Abdi Hassan Nur, who witnessed the incident. He said they then forced the American into another vehicle.
Galkayo is on the border between the semi-autonomous northern region of Puntland and a region known as Galmudug. It is ruled by forces friendly to the U.N.-backed Somali government.
A minister from the Galmudug administration said the kidnapped man is an American engineer who came to Somalia to carry out an evaluation for building a deep water port in the town of Hobyo.
The gunmen severely beat the foreigner’s Somali companion when he begged them not to take the man, said the minister.
The minister spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.
A staff member at the Embassy Hotel, where the man was staying, said the American had gone to the airport to drop off an Indian colleague. The hotel said that the man had both American and German citizenship.
The staff member asked not to be identified because he was not supposed to give out information about guests.
U.S. Navy Seals free American and Dane hostages from pirates in Somalia after being kidnapped in October.
Malta Today January 25, 2012
The two hostages were working for the Danish Demining Group (DDG), a refugee council, and were kidnapped in October in the semi-autonomous Galmudug region.
American Jessica Buchanan and Dane Poul Hagen Thisted were rescued in a rare raid into the Horn of African nation by the helicopters in an attempt to free foreign captives.
Nine pirates were killed and five captured during the rescue operation according to Galmadug’s president, Mohamed Ahmed Alim who added that he was negotiating to secure the release of an American journalist kidnapped on Saturday.
Alim said attacks on pirate bases were very rare and thanked the U.S. for their intervention because pirates were considered the mafia in the region.
Two teams of U.S. Navy Seals landed by helicopter after a gun fight with the kidnappers and took the freed hostages to an undisclosed location
Channel 4 News January 5, 2012
As British private security companies queue up to offer armed guards to counter pirate attacks off Somalia, a government report calls for tighter regulation of a flourishing industry
The report by the foreign affairs committee acknowledged that the government was right to allow the use of armed guards on boats subject to certain conditions but it expressed concerns about what the accompanying guidelines omitted, saying the rules need to be tightened.
It pointed out that there are more than sixty firms offering armed maritime protection for the region and said the government “should not offload responsibility onto ship owners to deal with the most difficult aspects of handling private armed guards”.
There is a danger that unless unequivocal guidance is produced, then we may once again give pirates the upper hand. Peter Cook
It said “the guidance on the use of force, particularly lethal force, is very limited” and that the government must not leave guidance on the use of potentially lethal force “to private companies to agree upon”.
Initial tests suggested he died falling into a ravine
- Credit card, cash and mobile were all found with him
- Authorities now believe he was stabbed repeatedly
Mail Online Leon Watson November 18, 2011
Initial post-mortem results suggested Carl Davies, 33, died after he accidentally tripped and fell 30ft down a ravine on Reunion Island, in the Indian Ocean.
But a second investigation revealed the former teacher, from Kent, was stabbed ‘numerous’ times and beaten about the head with a bat.
Carl’s credit card, money and mobile phone were found on his body when he was discovered.
He had served in Iraq and Northern Ireland but was working as a private contractor in the Indian Ocean protecting merchant ships from Somali pirates when he died.
Police have confirmed Carl was unarmed when he was found, and they believe he did not carry weapons on the island.
The ship Carl was protecting, the Atlantic Trader, which had been docked in the port close to the island’s capital Saint Denis, left before his body was discovered.
A relative, who asked not to be named, said: ‘A new post mortem was held on Thursday and he died from multiple stab wounds and head injuries as a result of a bat.
The Copenhagen Post Friday November 4, 2011
Two workers from the Danish Demining Group taken hostage in Somalia last week will only be released for a 50 million kroner ransom, Ekstra Bladet newspaper reports.
The two workers, 60-year-old Dane Poul Hagen and 32-year-old American Jessica Buchanan were abducted a week last Tuesday in the Somalian town of Galkayo and have since been moved to the al-Shabaab controlled region of Galmudug.
The region’s deputy police chief, Abdi Hasan Gorey, visited the pirates to begin negotiations on Sunday.
“They are demanding between $9 million and $12 million,” Gorey told Ekstra Bladet.
Gorey added that the hostages were being treated well and were being fed camel meat and milk, the same food as the pirates were eating
Should Shipping Companies Lower Surcharges to Reflect Lower Threat?
We can give full credit to the maritime industry and security firms since the navy now estimates that 90% of pirate attacks are deterred by private security on board ships. Many other attacks never occurred because of the speed of the ship, weather, the implementation of best management practices, or unknown factors that encouraged pirates to look elsewhere for victims. The effect of international naval patrols, identifying pirate activity before they leave land, general attrition by more aggressive navies, legal acts, and protests by local communities have all led to the erosion of piracy off Somalia.
Erik Rabjerg Nielsen, director and head of operations and deployment for Maersk Line, announced in May 2011 that increased surcharges to cover increased security costs. Maersk Line expects its piracy-related costs to double in 2011 to $200 million to cover insurance premiums, hardship allowances and the rerouting of vessels away from high-risk zones in the region, according to Morten Engelstoft, its chief operating officer. “In 2010, one hijacking attempt was registered every six days, and in 2011 there’s been a large increase in the activity,” Nieslon said. “The problem has never been larger than right now.”
According to estimates by the London-based International Chamber of Shipping, piracy cost shipping companies as much as $12 billion in 2010.
Globes August 24, 2011
Eritrea has released two Israeli pilots, Vered Aharonson and Yehuda Maoz, whom it held for ten days. Hebrew daily “Yediot Ahronot” reports that they had transported weapons and munitions to Eritrea for a German ship owned by Ofer Holdings Group’sOfer Shipping Group to defend it against Somali pirates.
The pilots flew to Eritrea on July 29, after notifying Israeli air traffic control at Ben Gurion Airport that they were going to pick up an injured person in Eritrea. In fact, the plane’s cargo bay carried arms, including Kalashnikov rifles.
The manifest did not list the arms, but other items. The pilots were arrested after an unannounced inspection by Eritrean security forces. Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs was worried that the pilots had no authorization, and could have been jailed for years. Minister of Foreign Affairs Avigdor Lieberman ordered a strong diplomatic effort to obtain their release. Following the pilots release, they returned to Israel yesterday.
The Israeli authorities are investigating whether the pilots acted legally and if legal action should be taken against them.
An Ofer Shipping Group spokesman told “Yediot Ahronot” in response, “We do not comment on the security of our ships against pirates