March 14, 2005

Bloody Pirates

Piracy is alive & well in the 21rst century.

"Three crewmen were kidnapped after pirates attacked a Japanese tugboat in the Malacca Strait, three days after a gas tanker came under a similar attack in the area, a piracy watchdog said."

I've done a little reading on piracy. I admit most of it was in my youth & it focused on the pirates of the 16th & 17th century. Hey, when you grow up in North Carolina you have to read a bit about William Teach. But a few years ago I did some more reading & was surprised to find that piracy is more active now than it was in what most consider its heyday. & the coasts of Asia & South America seem to be the most fertile hunting ground for those who sail the black flag.

Here's an interesting site concerning recent pirate activity. & from that site I found this link to the 2004 numbers on piracy worldwide. Now I'll admit that the number is pretty small considering the amount of shipping & boating that goes on in the world, but like any crime statistic it changes very rapidly when you're one of them.

But getting back to the story that inspired this post:

"The tugboat's crew have put out a distress call. The attack is going on now,' Noel Choong, regional manager of the Piracy Reporting Centre of the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), told AFP at 7:20 pm (1120 GMT).
'The pirates are on board the boat. We are communicating the details of the attack to the Malaysian marine police so that they can dispatch a patrol craft to rescue the crew,' he said."

So they had time to make a distress call. What were the results?

"Choong said marine police successfully intercepted the tugboat and barge and were escorting them back to northen Penang state. The attackers fled with their three victims in a separate craft, he said.
'The pirates have kidnapped the captain and chief engineer -- both Japanese and a Filipino crew,' he said.
Choong said the remaining 11 crew from the tugboat and 154 seafarers on the barge were safe."

They recovered the vessels & most of the crew, but three hostages were taken. It definitely could have been worse but it could have been much better.

Another incident occured a few days before:

"Choong reported earlier Monday that a gang of 35 pirates armed with machine guns and rocket launchers seized a fully-laden gas tanker in the strait at the weekend, rekindling fears of a terrorist attack in the vital waterway.
The tanker was released but the captain and chief engineer were kidnapped and the pirates were demanding a ransom, Choong told AFP."

So it would seem if they can't get away with the ship they'll settle for trying to get ransom for some of the crew. For the majority of the crew it turned out okay but I'd hate to be one of the kidnap victims.

Sadly most ships are unarmed & vunerable to pirates. Most maritime organizations urge ships to travel unarmed & that advice is generally heeded. When it's not then there's usually a world of trouble from governments about it. The particular case just linked to had a happy ending (of sorts) but I'm not willing to believe that's typically the case.

The Right to Arms should be respected worldwide & not just when a person is at their home. But it's not & simply carrying the means for defense against very real threats is sometimes enough to cause a world of government sponsored trouble.

Until things change most people who travel the seas have to decide between protecting themselves against piracy or appeasing governments who don't like people being able to defend themselves.

I've said before that ships, especially seafaring vessels should have suitable armaments to repel an attack (scroll down to hit the relevant part). I think incidents like the two discussed in this post make another strong case for machine guns & other crew served weapons being legitimate tools of civilians. Unfortunately most governments & government related organizations don't agree. They'd much rather see a boat hijacked & the crew taken hostage than admit firearms (coupled with a competent & well trained crew) could have prevented much of the piracy that occurs today.

Posted by Publicola at March 14, 2005 04:01 PM

I recall that back in the '70s, when small craft piracy in the waters south of the US was becoming a problem, the manufacturers of the Apache, a .45 carbine styled after the Thompson, advertised it as useful for those "sailing in rough waters". Larger craft would clearly need heavier firepower.

Posted by: triticale at March 20, 2005 07:05 PM
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