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The Serious Problem of Modern High Seas Piracy -
Presentation At Port of Chicago - November 2000
November 2005 Update

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20 November 2000 Presentation

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The Presentation OF MICHAEL S. McDaniel, ESQ.

Before The


At The

Port of Chicago

NOVEMBER 20, 2000

November 2005 Update





The Ancient Fall

The Modern Rise

Incredible Increase For Year 2000







9. THERE'S MORE PIRACY THAN YOU THINK - the problem of under-reporting



12. THE INT"L MARITIME BUREAU - on the front line



15. Daily Int'l Vessel Casualties & Pirate Atttack Daily Reports

16. 2005 Modern High Seas Piracy Update

Pirate Study Guides >>

Study Guide >> Anti-Shipping Activity Warning Messages:

Sea piracy jumped 57% worldwide in year 2000 with Indonesian waters recording the highest number of attacks. (Source:IMB)

In 1999

In 1998

In 1997

In 1996

In 1995

In 1994

In 1993

In 1992

In 1991

In 1990

In 1989

In 1988

In 1987

In 1986

In 1985

Study Guide >> Piracy Reports For 1999 ....Piracy Reports For 2000 ......Piracy Reports For 2001

Study Guide >> International Maritime Bureau

IMB Piracy Reporting Center - THE official source

Weekly Piracy Reports of IMB

Organizational Chart For Anti-Piracy Reporting

Study Guide >> 24 Hour Int'l Vessel Casualties & Pirates Database -- The Daily Casualty Reports

Modern Pirates Resources

Worldwide Piracy Reports

Tale of A Modern Pirate Gang

Piracy Research

Pirates & Privateers


November 20 2000 at Port of Chicago -- Good afternoon. I appreciate this opportunity to be here at the Port of Chicago to discuss a very important topic for our industry -

- the little known facts - of a very big international problem &emdash; Modern High Seas Piracy.

The author Joseph Conrad referred to them as "those colorful Vagabonds of the sea." Generations of children have hidden under their covers with a flashlight to read about adventures on "Treasure Island" &endash; and who could forget those lustily singing and jolly characters at Disney's "Pirates of the Carribean?"

You have been trained to believe in PIRATES as part of the wild wind of adventure --

Here is the deadly modern reality --

15 merchants vessels highjacked by pirates;

138 merchant vessels boarded by pirates;

11 merchant vessels fired upon by pirates

35 merchant crew members badly injured;

Over 400 merchant crew members taken hostage by pirates; and

Over 75 merchant crew members murdered in cold blood.

But those figures are for 1998. Murder, rape, mutilation, robbery and a host of other crimes by depraved, blood thirsty pirates without pity only got worse in 1999 and 2000. This year alone the increase may be as much as 60%.

April 15 2001 Special Note: Sea piracy jumped 57% worldwide in Year 2000 with Indonesian waters recording the highest number of attacks. (Source:IMB)

(Slide 1 - to be added )

Gone from the pirate's shoulder is that comical parrot &endash; to make room for a rocket propelled grenade launcher, an A.K.A.-47, an M-16 rifle or an Uzi machine gun.

Leaving Mr. Joseph Conrad in his past, a definition of the modern pirate should properly be:

"Hostis Humani Generis" - - "Enemy of the human race."

To Top of Pirate Presentation

The Fall & Rise of Piracy

But I thought pirates were gone 200 years ago, you say! -- Indeed, for a time this was true.

Robert Louis Stevenson's type of piracy in the 16th & 17th centuries fell into decline for four primary reasons:

The Ancient Fall

1. Technology: The increased size & speed of merchant vessels in the 18th & 19th centuries severely disadvantaged pursuing pirates;

2. Increased Naval Presence: The 19th & 20th centuries saw an ever increasing level of international Naval patrols along most ocean highways & particularly in support of colonial networks;

3. Increased Government Administration: The 19th & 20th Centuries were marked by the regular administration of most islands and land areas by colonies or nations which took a direct interest in protecting their merchant fleets.

4. Uniform Regulation: There was a general recognition of piracy as a serious international offense which would not be tolerated by countries determined to protect their national fleets and able to do so.

The Modern Rise

Following World War II however, these four self enforcing barriers to high seas piracy began to erode. The four factors have now actually begun to encourage the activity.

Let's see how these same four factors have reversed themselves in recent years:

1. Technology: The protection once afforded to merchant vessels by their modern size and speed is now offset by further technical advances which have reduced crew size, as well as a vessel's ability to defend itself. On the other side of the coin, there has been a bumper crop of technological advances which improve the pirate chief's weapons of speed, shock, surprise, fire power and rapid escape.

2. Reduced Naval Presence: The trend is for smaller world Navies. Dramatically decreased international ocean patrols have left merchant vessels virtually unprotected on the sea frontier.

3. Disrupted Governmental Administration: Decisions by former colonies not to maintain ties with their home countries, and the financial inability of some governments to afford effective Naval assets &endash; are factors which have simply encouraged pirate attacks.

4. Lack of Regulation: In some quarters there has been erosion of the view that piracy is a serious international crime, or even a crime of which anyone should take notice. With most of the world's 64 million gross tonnage fleet under flags of convenience such as Panama, Honduras and Liberia, there is no political will to smash high seas piracy.

Flags of convenience nations have neither the interest nor the ability to mount an effective deterent. Indeed neither Honduras nor Panama are feared as major naval powers!

Officials of the International Maritime Bureau in London call the present involvement by world governments against piracy to be "in shambles."

To put it in another way, piracy is on the rise because there's lots of valuable stuff out there to steal &endash; but no one to stop them. This may not be politically correct, but where pirates are concerned, there are certain advantages to a world under arms which does not look to the United States to be its lone policeman -- as out world is today.

In fact, it is probably most accurate to think of the recent rise in High Seas Piracy as a true "Peace Dividend" which was conferred on our industry by the ending of the Cold War. The once proud and global Russian Navy is now practically non existent at a time when the Naval presence of the U.S. and Great Britain has been reduced by about 50%.

Indeed, the number of international pirate attacks has risen in direct inverse proportion to decreases in the international Naval presence.

This situation becomes even more confused and dangerous when you consider the number of countries which have extended their territorial waters out to 200 nautical miles, but failed to plan for a corresponding maritime patrol ability.

Increddible Increase In Year 2000

I have already told you about the 202 pirates incidents from 1998. These were followed in 1999 by about 309 incidents. This year through September alone, there were 337 attacks by some estimates. But even these numbers don't include another 3,000 incidents involving yachts and small boats. The problem is serious, but one that for some reason you will never hear about on the evening news.

(Slide 2 - to be added )

Piracy and marine fraud is a US$16 billion industry on the rise. If piracy were a stock, it would have traded well above Mircosoft on world exchanges for the Year 2000. Who could have imagined that a 17th Century concept could out pace "techno-growth."

To Top of Pirate Presentation


So piracy is back and it's bad -- but exactly what is it? According to the International Maritime Bureau the definition is:

"Piracy is the act of boarding any vessel with an intent to commit theft or any other crime, and with an intent or capacity to use force in furtherance of that act."

In order to distinguish it from simple highjacking, a piracy crime requires that two vessels are involved in the incident. The second requirement is that the crime has been undertaken for private, not political purposes. These can be important considerations when determining coverage under a policy of marine cargo insurance.

For example, in one famous British case from years ago, the marine policy was "warranted free of capture, seizure and detention...piracy excepted." All was well for payment of the claim, until it was discovered that the so-called "Pirates" who took the assured vessel had actually been attempting to overthrow the Bolivian government! Seizure of the vessel had been a political act.

Political act >> no pirate. No pirate >> no insurance coverage.*
[*Modern policies avoid this problem through use of the war risk clause.]

To Top of Pirate Presentation


So where are the international danger areas?

Piracy is often referred to as a "movable crime" because new hot spots tend to pop up all the time while other locations return to relative peace.

One thing for sure, for some time now the 2 most dangerous areas without peer are on either side of the Strait of Malacca, between Malaysia on one side and the Indonesian Island of Sumatra on the other. This is the main ocean highway from Asia to Europe, used by 50,000 ships per year.

The Number 3 area of concern is Bangladesh. There is even a "General Warning" now in effect for pirates in the area of Port Chittagong.

India ranks 4th in the world &endash; where current government regulations restrict sailing to daylight operations only due to pirate activity.

Having been in 1st place at times during the 1990s, Brazil remains a particular hotbed of pirate activity.

1998 Pirate Attacks By Region

1999 - 2000 Not Much Change By Region To Present

Other areas of concern include:

The Philippines;

The Arabian Peninsula;

The West African Coast;

The Coasts of Venezuela & Columbia;

The area know as "Mosquito Bay" between Nicaragua & Jamaica &emdash; and of course that gambling boat at East Moline, Illinois!*

[*East Moline is a town west of Chicago on the Mississippi River]
Pirate Attacks - 1998 - Southeast Asia

To Top of Pirate Presentation


There are generally three categories of pirates.

The first type of pirate is your standard issue low-life criminal. These are scum who find it more expedient to just steal your finger, instead of taking the time to remove your ring.

The second pirate type is a more sophisticated organized crime group such as the five gangs thought to control a significant percentage of piracy in Southeast Asia or one of the several triads believed to control this crime in China.

The third and perhaps the most troubling type is the "Semi-Official Military Pirate," examples of which have been seen in China, Indonesia & Somalia and elsewhere.

When you're all alone at sea, it is particularly scary not to know whether that approaching Chinese Coastguard Patrol Boat is:

(a) The Chinese Coastguard on official government business, or

(b) A real Chinese Coastguard Patrol Boat, but freelancing as a pirate ship to earn some extra cash for the holidays, or

(c) Actual pirates who have merely painted their vessel to look like one of the real Chinese Coastguards. Either way, not much can be done except to hold your breath knowing that an hour later you will either be dead or alive.

Even if the patrol boat is on official business, that's no guarantee of safety.

While the practice seems in decline now that China continues its march toward ascension to the World Trade Organization, recent years have seen Chinese patrol boats foray deep into international waters in search of "customers." When a suitable vessel is located, it is ordered to heave to and follow the patrol boat back into Chinese territorial waters. Once inside a local Chinese port, the vessel would be impounded for "suspicion of smuggling," with both cargo & crew held for ransom.

The Chinese are "Shocked! Shocked*," to see smuggling going on here!* (*"Casablanca" Warner Bros. - 1941)

This has been a tidy way to raise some extra cash on a slow day down at the Chinese coastguard station.

As only one of many real life examples -- a couple of years ago the Panamanian flagged freighter M/V Hye Mieko was fired upon and stopped in international waters before reaching its Cambodian destination by what appeared to be a Chinese Customs Cutter. The merchant vessel was in honest commerce and well documented as was its cargo, bound for an ordinary delivery at Cambodia's Kas Kong port.

The owner, William Tay later spotted his 1,606 ton ship from a small plane as the vessel and its US$2 million cargo of cigarettes was forced to sail more than 993 miles through international waters to Shanwei in South China. The Chinese authorities denied any knowledge of the customs cutter and so it was assumed to have been manned by pirates.

But although the M/V Hye Mieko's plight was broadcast worldwide, not a single vessel came to its aid during the entire 1,600 kilometer voyage! The Hong Kong navy patrol was forbidden to act.

On arrival in China, the ship was impounded, the cargo sold -- and the owner Mr. Tay charged with intending to smuggle cigarettes in China!

Had that vessel really been a Chinese Customs Cutter, 900 miles from its home? It doesn't make much difference, because whoever their employers -- the pirates got away with this outrageous crime.

In an increddible irony -- a year later, sister ship M/V Hye Prosperity lost another US$2 million of cargo under identical circumstances!

Have you had quite enough? Sadly, there will be no happy or just endings to these and so many other stories of innocent vessels caught in the web of International piracy.

To Top of Pirate Presentation


How do pirates do it?

There are essentially three types of pirate attacks.

The most common type of attack is where pirates board the merchant vessel, rob the crew and escape. These raids on merchant crews are understood to yield an average US$20,000 haul. Considerable cash is commonly held in a merchant ship's safe for payment port charges and payroll fees.

To quote the master of the freighter M/V Bonsella whose vessel was attacked by 26 Somali pirates off the northeastern tip of Somalia last year:

"I told them that we didn't have any money, but the General of the Somali coastguard cocked his pistol and pointed it by my head saying:
'Captain, no ship travels without money. Do you really want to lose your life just as I am about to set your ship free?"

(Slide 5 - to be added )

That pirate highjacking lasted five days while the M/V Bonsella was used in several unsuccessful attempts to board other vessels in the area. The problem was the Bonsella was just too slow, for pirate work so its cargo of first aid medicine was simply stripped from vessel, along with everything else that could be carried off. At least the crew was spared.

The second type of pirate attack is a more ambitious one where pirates not only rob the crew but steal the cargo. While simple robbery crimes normally employ pirate crews of 6 to 7 men, gangs of 70 or more may fall upon a merchant vessel when it's cargo that they are after.

Unless the pirate gang is very sophisticated, untraceable cargos are preferred such as timber, wire, metal & minerals.

The time of attack is almost always between 1:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. During those hours, most of the crew is either asleep, on the bridge or below decks in noisy engine spaces. Little attention is paid to the sound of grappling hooks thrown over the stern. Even a vessel making over 17 knots is not safe from expert pirates who come along side at high speed and board in seconds.

Because vessels focus their attention and look-outs forward for navigation ahead &emdash; pirates almost always approach and board from the stern.

These can be pretty sophisticated thugs, using radar and global positioning systems to track their prey. Modern pirates have even been known to carry computer generated cargo manifests which have been obtained in advance for later use during machine gun enforced "shopping sprees."

But with profits from stolen cargo ranging well into the millions of dollars per vessel, pirates can well afford the luxuries of both new technology and proper planning. One favorite scheme is for pirates to literally interview their intended victims at port and then radio ahead to the pirate ship at sea when the time for attack approaches.

A reverse of this scheme is the "Pre-Planned Stowaway Trick." It was showcased by the motor tanker M/T Pulau Mas which acted as a mother ship for at least recent 21 recent pirate highjackings in Indonesian Seas. These pirates perfected the technique of planting a phoney crew member aboard the victim vessel who would then telephone to relay his ship's position and route. The rendezvous would be deadly.

Another trick is a new twist on what I call the "Little Mermaid" concept. Pirates using prostitutes for luring crews into what I would call "submission" so that their vessel might be more easily attacked and taken.

The facts of each attack may be different, and increasingly more innovative, but escape is always easy -- because help for the merchant vessel is not "just around the corner." Frequently the pirates even monitor communications so that further punishment can be meted out to victims who might make a "May Day" or distress call.

The terror experienced by lone victims at sea is not an emotion we can readily understand.

Pirate gangs are generally thought to average about 5 attacks a year, always retreating to the safety of a small local port where they are often protected by the locals. Indeed, piracy can be thought of as a cottage industry in areas of Indonesia and the Philippines where agrarian pursuits alone may be insufficient to support the local village economy. Indeed, it should be recalled that the United States Marine Corps. was originally formed to battle the local pirates of Tripoli. History does repeat.

To Top of Pirate Presentation


The third type of pirate attack is used to create a "Phantom Ship." This is the most sophisticated version of the crime, where pirates take literally everything including the merchant vessel itself.

The pirate's first step is to locate a suitable ship for use as the "Phantom."

As we have already discussed, pirates can target and capture a ship, but another choice is to simply buy one from another pirate.

Up until a few years ago, one could visit a hotel overlooking Manila Bay and ask to see a pirate known as "Capt. Changco." For a mere US$350,000.00 he would have a ship seized for you and its crew thrown overboard on the high seas.

Fortunately, the good captain was caught and executed.

Anyway, regardless of how your "Phantom Ship" is acquired, the next steps are to repaint her, rename her and reflag her &endash; it being very convenient to obtain temporary registration through a registration office at either your local Panamanian or Honduran Consulate. This month alone the Marshall Islands has taken space in U.S, newspapers to announce "free registration" for any ship until Jan. 1 2001. These "Blue Light Specials" merely encourage crooks to become true pirates.

The next step is to find a shipper who is short on time to move his cargo. An excellent victim candidate is anyone with a letter of credit about to expire.

Next, the pirate gang or its bogus shipping agent simply offers up the renamed "Phantom Ship" as carrier, loads the cargo, issues an authentic looking bill of lading to the proper destination port -- and sails off into the sunset.

Obviously, the Pirate diverts the "Phantom Ship" to a different port, selling the cargo either to an existing partner or an innocent buyer. Once its cargo is discharged -- the time has come to again repaint, rename and reflag. What a business!!

Although the most current figures available are a couple years old, this "Phantom Ship" practice is estimated to cost shippers at least US$200 million dollars a year.

Last year was particularly brutal where these practices are concerned. On September 25th armed Pirates boarded a Malaysian tanker in Indonesian waters, horribly slashing one officer and beating others before tying up the rest of the crew. They repainted the ship's funnel and life boats &emdash; changed its name and then rendezvoused with a second tanker for transferring the ship's cargo. The attack cost a wholesale loss of US$740,000.

In October the Japanese cargo ship M/V Alondra Rainbow was captured and had its 17 crew members set adrift on a raft.

In February the tanker M/T Global Mars was captured by Pirates and its crew set adrift for 13 days before being spotted off the coast of Thailand.

Also in February the cargo ship M/V HUALIEN was taken off Taiwan, but its 21 crew haven't been seen since.

You never know for sure where the crews go. When Chinese workers boarded the highjacked Australian freighter M/V Erria Inge a couple of years ago to cut it up for scrap, they smelled something foul. Searching for the source, they found ten members of the crew in a long unused refrigerator. The bodies had been splashed with gasoline and burned alive by the pirates who captured the vessel.

Speaking of gasoline & petroleum, these substances have an even darker connection with the world of modern piracy.

To Top of Pirate Presentation

Awaiting Enviromental Disaster

Some years ago, the world went wild over consequences of M/T Exxon Valdez having gone aground at slow speed in Prince William sound in Alaskan waters. Our TV screen were filled with scenes of marine pollution and environmental damage.

On the other hand you probably don't even know, that on 16 January 1999 the Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC) &endash; M/T Chaumont was attacked by pirates while underway in Philip Channel which is the narrowest part of the Strait of Malacca. Incredibly, the vessel with her millions of gallons of oil steamed at full speed for over 70 minutes with no one on the bridge to in command. An environmental disaster of epic proportions was avoided, but no one is quite sure how. Likewise, no one is quite sure when this risk will next become a terrible reality. But the "reality" can become "unimaginable" given the right fuse to light. If M/T Chaumont had been a liquified natural gas carrier, an unimaginable event could become plausible -- the equal of a hundred thousand tons of TNT exploding upon the right collision conditions. Worse, imagine if a foreign power were to manipulate pirates to undertake such a mission by design, such as when the vessel is entering a port.

Given the increase in pirate activity -- true environmental disaster is only a question of time. The clock is ticking.

To Top of Pirate Presentation



Having now hopefully now convinced you that modern piracy is not only real, but a very real problem &endash; please understand that there are far more international incidents each year than anyone actually knows. The official reports mention only a fraction of the problem. The problem is under-reporting.

Ship owners are reluctant to either report or directly address piracy for several reasons. The result is that only 10% are reported.

Ship owners are well aware that authorities are unlikely to solve a particular crime. Indeed, there is often fear that the authorities themselves are involved.

There is so very much money to be made that pirate gangs have penetrated shipping companies, port authorities and even customs services.

Under-reporting by the vessel interests can also be explained in terms of wanting to avoid unfavorable media or increased insurance premiums.

This said, ship owners mainly discourage their Masters from filing piracy reports because it is a pocketbook issue.

With daily vessel operating costs ranging from US$10,000 to US$50,000 or more &endash; spending a week in Port while untrained local police bumble through an investigation will usually cost a lot more in lost time than the pirate attack itself. So unless there is a murder or a vessel seizure the act of piracy may go unreported.

No one really knows just how big a problem piracy really is &endash; only that it is huge and growing. With some 90% going unreported, we are talking about thousands of unreported attacks.

To Top of Pirate Presentation


So what's being done to stem this bloody tide? Well, as I've hopefully made clear &emdash; not nearly enough.

Following the 1988 United Nations "Rome Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Marine Navigation," the 41 nations adopting that treaty have only seen piracy increase.

The 1994 United Nations Law of the Sea Convention advanced the concept of "Hot Pursuit" whereby Naval units could chase pirates into the territorial waters of other nations, capture the pirates and then put them on trial at home all under one legal jurisdiction. This is a good legal idea, but it is the Naval units that are absent from the mix.

New laws just won't stop pirates &endash; this can only be done with political will and naval power.

Fortunately, small steps have started to be taken. The Philippine Coast Guard has recently announced the adding of 30 new vessels for patrol of its thousands of archipelagoes.

For the first time in over 50 years, the Japanese Maritime Safety Force, has recently been authorized to operate out of Singapore and is exercising this week with Singapore forces on a specific Aniti-Piracy mission.

The Brazilian Congress has recently established an anti-piracy force for Rio de Janero and hopes to follow this shortly with a second unit at Port Santos.

To Top of Pirate Presentation


But it's the private efforts which are both the most interesting -- and likely to be the most effective in the short term.

For example, Somalia has recently established a new "Maritime Security Force," which will be run by 70 British "operatives" supplied by the Hart Group of Bermuda. ("Operative" is the politically correct term for "mercenary.")

India has recently retained the services of a Florida company known as "Special Ops Associates" for use as an anti-piracy force.

Meanwhile, 24 ship owners have retained the unique services of a British company known as "Gurkha International Manpower Services." That company will supply you with teams of ex-British Gurkhas for cruise line security and anti-piracy patrol services.

[Aside: By "Gurkha", we are not refering to those bottles of little green sweet pickles! These are the quite fierce Ex-British Army troops that have been the stuff of many movies. In making your personal list of "THINGS NEVER TO DO", tangling with a Gurkha would likely rank near #1.]

You may well expect this trend of hiring "Private Navies" for combating piracy to continue.

To Top of Pirate Presentation

The International Maritime Bureau

But the private navies, public navies and Gurkhas aside, there is one organization which has led the bitter, bloody fight against piracy across the world's oceans &endash; for the past 20 years --

Was it the U.S. Navy Seals?

How about the famous British Special Boat Service?

No, when the going gets tough &endash; the truly tough need to get going.

So when the chips are down -- who do you call?

Well, the Chamber of Commerce of course!

To be more specific, in 1981 the International Chamber of Commerce established the London based "International Maritime Bureau." The IMB is headed by Eric Ellen who with a dedicated staff has led an almost single handed war against piracy over the last 20 years. As a former Chief Constable of the Port of London Police, Mr. Ellen's staff is the central coordinating agency for reporting International Piracy.

In 1992, the IMB established a special "Piracy Reporting Center" under the direction of Captain Pottengal Mukundan at Kuala Lumpur. Rapid reporting by these agencies has been credited with many foiled piracy attempts and multiple victim vessels recovered.

The IMB has moved forward to create a variety of public and private programs designed to combat piracy. One program about to be launched is the "Rapid Response Investigative Service." Teams of trained anti-pirate investigators will move within hours to complete criminal investigations often requiring many days on the part of poorly trained port officials. The program is not only designed to bring more of the criminals to justice, but also will hopefully address the problem of under-reporting.

To Top of Pirate Presentation


So why can't we just forget about all the reporting centers, Gurkhas and new laws &endash; and just arm the merchant ships &endash; and blow these pirates away before they board!!

The fact is &endash; most nations including "Her Majesty" have placed an outright ban on arming merchant vessels in order to avoid creating the "Wild Wild West At Sea."

The fear is that use of guns by crew members could easily escalate both the violence of these attacks and the harshness of pirate reprisals. Worse, shooting the "wrong pirate" could cause political, military or legal problems that are simply impossible to solve. More, you can't even use a cell phone or walkie-talkie on a tanker for fear for making a spark which might explode the vessel, so imagine the problem of firearms!

No, guns seem to be out of the question even though they are used to victimize hundreds of innocent merchant crew every year.

This said, an effective brace of merchant weapons are the fire hose, flare gun and ship's horn. Used together, an alert crew can startle, blind and hose a pirate group off the deck before an attack takes hold. The key here is robbing pirates of their chief weapon &endash; the element of surprise.

(Slide 6 - to be added)

Diligence and better practices are starting to make a difference:

Substitutes are being found for carrying cash in the ship's safe;

24 hour radio watches;

Pre-charged fire hoses at the ready;

Anti-pirate watches have accounted for dozens of repelled attacks this year alone; and

Bridge & engine room doors that will not open from the outside create safe havens for crew members against less determined pirate attacks.

On the technology side, all sorts of gadgets have been proposed including a recent display in London of a bullet proof life jacket!

One particularly effective system is known as "Shiploc" which uses a hidden personal computer aboard ship to monitor position by satellite 24 hours a day. Should anyone breach a fiber optic network stretched around the vessels perimeter, an automatic signal is provided both to the ship's crew and authorities ashore.

The ShipLoc System

Visit the ShipLoc website

All 450 ships of "K" Line have recently been equipped with a similar system known as the "Seajack" alarm.

Another competitor known as "Tigers Gate" immediately sounds an alarm for alerting the crew to boarders.

To Top of Pirate Presentation


All this said -

Whatever the gun, gimmick, or Gurkha, it seems clear that increased public awareness of modern high sea piracy is going to be required before this deadly trend is truly reversed.

I want to leave you with a recent statement on this subject by Eric Ellen of the IMB:

"Even where the shoot 'em up TV News is concerned, any highjacked plane whatsoever is considered big news, but when a ship is taken forever, and its crew murdered &endash; no one seems to care."

Now mates, you too have been told the pirate tale.

Thank you for your attention to my remarks.

2005 Modern High Seas Piracy Update

The world has taken surprisingly little notice of "Modern High Seas Piracy" since this presentation was originally made before "The Propeller Club of the United States at the Port of Chicago" in November 2000.

The International situation has grown far worse each year according to the International Maritime Bureau, which reported pirate attacks increased another by 20% in 2003 alone, rising to a total of 445 incidents compared to 370 in 2002. Over 21 seafarers are known to have been killed in the 2003 incidents, more than double the previous year. To this, add 71 crew & passengers declared missing. While matters only worsened in 2004 , these figures do not take into account the much larger number of incidents which did not occur in international waters -- nor which were not reported due to policies of certain shipping companies --or which are due to terrorism. Other than becoming a larger threat -- Modern High Seas Piracy extends it's tentacles -- into new, unexploited areas of maritime commerce.

British-based International Maritime Bureau said the number of pirate attacks worldwide in the first nine months of the year fell to 205 - their lowest level in 6 years. This was an 18% drop from the 251 cases in the same period last year -- largely due to increased anti-piracy efforts of Maylaysia & Indonesia. But the measured drop in pirate acivity neither took into account the growing pirate danger off Somalia -- nor the ferocity of attacks in that area.

Even when The Cargo Letter reported dramatically increased pirate acivity -- and the seizure of UN Food Program Aid vessels -- off the Somali Coast from March through Oct. 2005 -- no notice was taken by the world of a worsening maritime situation off Somalia. A very few examples include:

The Cargo Letter>> PIRATE ATTACK>> Maltese-registered M/V Pagania, South Africa for Europe with iron ore -- 90 NM (167km) off Somali coast, near Puntland region -- seized by Somalia pirates -- demanded US$700,000 ransom for her release. At least 23 hijackings & attempted seizures recorded in the area since mid-March 2005, according to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB). Time to do something. (Thurs. Oct. 20 2005)

The Cargo Letter>> ALERT - Pirates Take 2nd UN Aid Vessell>> St Vincent & Grenadines-registered M/V Miltzow, with 10 crew -- offloaded 400 tons of the total 850-ton cargo of food aid in the port of Merka, 100km S. of Mogadishu, when 6 armed pirates stormed ship & forced her to leave port, the World Food Program said. 2nd UN-chartered vessel carrying aid for hunger-stricken Somalis was hijacked on Oct. 12 at a small port south of Somalia's coast, becoming 4th ship to be seized in region since June. Moments after seizure, Yusuf Indha Adde, the governor of the Lower Shabelle region, immediately sent 2 boats to pursue the vessel but there no reports of the outcome. Somalia has been without a government since 1991. The Int'l Maritime Bureau said at least 22 attacks recorded off Somali coast since 15 March & urged ships in the area to stay as far as possible from shore & keep to the minimum the use of radio communication. (Wed. Oct. 12 2005) UPDATE>> Somali pirates abandoned a UN-chartered food aid vessel they hijacked earlier this week -- pirates left M/V Miltzow just hours after Somalia's transitional prime minister made urgent plea for foreign warships to patrol coast & bring end to a surge in violent attacks on commercial shipping in Somali waters. (Thurs. Oct. 13 2005) UPDATE>> Hijackers Oct. 14, released a U.N.-chartered M/V Miltzow carrying food aid & crew of 10 following successful negotiations with a Somali businessman. Not aware any ransom was paid. (Fri. Oct. 14 2005)

The Cargo Letter>> Pirate Release UPDATE>> UN World Food Program<< Webfeature, cargo M/V Semlow -- hijacked by Somali pirates in June has now been freed -- all 8 Kenyan crew, Tanzanian engineer & Sri Lankan Master reported all safe & well by owner Motaku Shipping Agency. Hijackers have disembarked & security people from El Maan port have embarked. Ransom paid? Follow The Story. (Mon. Oct. 3 2005)

Despite the dramatic loss of life and property involved, the international press seems to have only discovered the problem of Modern High Seas Piracy for the first time on Saturday, 5 November 2005 when a cruise ship joined the thousands of victim vessels & crews. The Cargo Letter issued the following report:

PIRATE CRUISE SHIP ATTACK>> 10,000gt luxury 440ft cruise U.S. owned M/V Seabourn Spirit<< Webfeature, on a 16-day cruise out of Alexandria in Egypt with 300 mostly American & all terrified passengers for Kenyan port city of Mombasa, narrowly escaped seizure by gunmen 160km off pirate-infested Somali coast --at least 2 boats closed in on the vessel & opened fire with machine-guns &rocket-propelled grenades. M/V Seabourn Spirit<< Webfeature, sped off to high seas at flank speed amid a trail of gunfire -- Capt. made distress call & later switched off radio communication to avoid being traced by hijackers -- gunmen sailing in 3 boats later abandoned chase as they could not venture into high seas -- no one injured in botched hijack. So stupid to sail these waters with paying passengers. (Sat. Nov. 5, 2005) UPDATE>> 1 crewmember of M/V Seabourn Spirit injured by shrapnel during pirate attack. (Sat. Nov. 5, 2005pm) UPDATE>> Reports now put passenge manifest at 151 & 161 crew -- at least 3 rocket-propelled grenades hit ship, 1 in a passenger state room. Vessel expected to reach the Seychellest<< Webfeature, on Oct. 8, & then continue on previous schedule to Singapore (Sun. Nov. 6, 2005) UPDATE>> unexploded rocket ... is embedded in some of passenger accommodation of the ship. (Mon. Nov. 7, 2005) UPDATE>> M/V Seabourn Spirit utilized a new sonic device which SMASHED the attack, known as a Long Range Acoustic Device, or LRAD<< Webfeature, is a so-called "non-lethal weapon" developed for the military after the 2000 attack on the USS Cole<< Webfeature, in Yemen as a way to keep operators of small boats from approaching U.S. warships. Makers of the device compare its shrill tone to that of smoke detectors, only much louder -- but directed with pinpoint accuracy. One female passenger reported that she escaped injury because she was taking a bath, and not in the ship's stateroom where an explosive landed. (Mon. Nov. 7, 2005pm) Update>> Your editor has given numerous interviews to the world press over this M/V Seabourn Spirit incident in the past 2 days . It is quite sad that the VOICE of The Cargo Letter should be heard only after a luxury cruise ship near miss -- there being so many merchant sailors who have been killed in cold blood with no public notice in recent years. McD (Tues. Nov. 8, 2005pm)
Int'l Maritme Bureau>> CONTINUING ALERT -- Somalia - NE & Eastern Coast -- "Twenty five incidents have been reported since 15 March 2005. Heavily armed pirates now attacking ships further away from Somalia coast. Recent incident took place 120 nm off the eastern coast. Ships advised to keep as far away as possible from the Somali coast." >>> Despite these warnings, operators of M/V Seabourn Spirit<< Webfeature, Miami-based Seabourn Cruise Line<< Webfeature, a subsidiary of Carnival Corp -- deliberately took her passengers into harms way. Not Our idea of a pleaure cruise. (Sat. Nov. 5, 2005pm)

Armed pirate attack upon a cruise ship in international waters was inevitable, and it is a sad commentary that the world's attention has come only after so many merchant seamen have been murdered in cold blood by past acts which few news agencies cared to report. Inevitable, but avoidable -- as a wider berth to the Somali Coast would have provided safety for the passengers & crew. Still, we say Bravo Zulu to Seabourn Cruise Line for it's forward thinking defense plans including fire hose deployment & use of the Long Range Acoustic Device, or LRAD<< Webfeature, for anit-piracy use. The LRAD vibrates your scull!

In a post-November 5, 2005 world &endash; where attack on an American based cruise ship has captured both public imagination and a spot on the evening news &endash; the urgent question is whether these are true pirates or whether terrorists are now more in the mix. According to the classic definition, if the motive is financial gain, then it is piracy, but if it is political gain, then it is terrorism. The distinction may now be blurred, but the risk increases as emboldened pirates, Muslim separatists and operatives of failed states are lured by Al Qaeda or other terrorist organizations.

We must recall that the November 2005 attack on M/V Seabourn Spirit is by no means the first or worst cruise ship attack -- have we forgotten the deadly 1985 Palestine Liberation Front (PLF) terrorist attack on Italian cruise M/V Achille Lauro where terrorist/pirate mayhem included taking a crippled American Leon Klinghoffer -- in a wheelchair -- and rolling him off the side of the ship to drown -- because he happened to be Jewish?

It may not be by coincidence alone that the pirates who fell upon M/V Seabourn Spirit on 5 November 2005 did not appear equipped with grappling hooks for boarding the high decked cruise vessel &endash;- only with machine guns & rocket-propelled grenades for maximizing damage. It is definitely the work of skilled prior planning that inflatable-ridged launches could be conveniently loitering at a point of opportunity -- 100 miles off the Somali Coast. Modern High Seas Piracy continues to evolve and becomes more deadly. Many of the pirates are terrorists, bent on Western destruction. As we speculated back in the original Year 2000 version of this presentation -- we spoke of vessels -- such as a Liquified Natural Gas Carrier which could be used by pirates who were infliuenced by hostile nations to create an unimaginable event -- suddenly made pausible by combining acient intent with modern technology. In Year 2000, we only thought of other nations being a threat -- but today many of those same pirates are Al Qaeda -- the world threat. We think this may be the next 911.

Taken at random -- our weekly piracy reports for the week of the M/V Seabourn Spirit incident speaks volumes as to the greater international problem of Al Qaeda . Below is posted our normal Friday night pirate activity report. Nothing out of the ordinary here -- just chaos & gunfire on the high seas.

06 Nov. 2005 at 0648 UTC in position 02:29.3N - 048:28.2E, east coast of Somalia. Pirates armed with rocket launchers & machineguns fired upon RO/RO ship underway. Master took evasive maneuvers & increased speed to maximum. Pirates' boats fell behind & ceased firing. Bridge windows damaged due to gunfire. (Thurs. Nov. 10, 2005)

05 Nov. 2005 at 1200 UTC in position 04:26.3N - 054:14.6E, off east coast Somalia. Bulk carrier underway spotted craft drifting 16nm away. When ship came close, craft suddenly increased speed & chased bulk carrier. Master took evasive maneuvers, increased speed & moved away from coast. Pirate craft continued chase until 1400 UTC before moving away. Craft had one derrick -- master suspects may be a mother ship to launch speedboats who attack ships. (Thurs. Nov. 10, 2005)

05 Nov. 2005, around 0225 UTC, in position 02:59N - 048:01E, 70 nm from east coast of Somalia. Six heavily armed pirates in 2 boats chased cruise ship, M/V Seabourn Spirit underway -- fired with rocket launchers & machine guns causing damage to ship's side. Master took evasive maneuvers & sailed away from coast. Pirates aborted attempt & fled. One crew sustained injuries to his hand. (Thurs. Nov. 10, 2005)

31 Oct. 2005 at 1900 LT at Basrah oil terminal Alfa anchorage, Iraq -- pirates armed with machine guns & knives boarded tanker -- tied up 2 crew at forecastle & entered accommodation. Then they took 3 crew as hostage & went to master's cabin & fired shots at stairs. Robbers ransacked master's cabin & escaped with ship's safe. (Thurs. Nov. 10, 2005)

30 Oct. 2005 at 0130 LT at Bahia del sol, El Salvador -- armed pirates boarded yacht at anchor -- broke in to skipper's cabin. Alarm raised & robbers jumped into water leaving behind 2 machetes. Accomplice waiting in fishing boat picked them up. Robbers then fired gun shots at yacht before leaving scene. No injuries to crew. Incident reported to authorities who began patroling anchorage during night. (Thurs. Nov. 10, 2005)

I ask you to follow these stories each day -- as they happen at -- Daily Int'l Vessel Casualties & Pirate Atttack Daily Reports

Michael S. McDaniel
Sadly, To Be Continued ........


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