UK Response to Piracy

Discussion in 'Current Affairs' started by P2000, Oct 13, 2008.

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  1. From today's Times: The Times on Piracy

    Dusk is falling in the Gulf of Aden; the sea is oily flat, and the day's heat still beats upward from the deck. The big freighter's small crew, perhaps Indian and Filipino with a few European officers, are nervous. Jumpy. They have every reason to be.

    Suddenly the roaring of outboard engines is all around them. They run for the fire-hoses to repel boarders, but freeze as they are covered by AK47 rifles. Within minutes the ship is a hostage, steering for a lawless harbour. All they can do is hope that their owner pays up; for once again, Western commerce and international seafaring have been humiliated by a ragtag navy of Somali pirates. It happens weekly. The last one was a Greek chemical tanker on Friday: the predators threaten to blow it up unless they get their money.

    Who is to stop them? Somalia, the world's most neglected tragedy, has been ungoverned for years. The UN Security Council is “drafting a resolution†and the EU is cautiouslly setting up a “Mission†against piracy that will - we heard only yesterday - have its headquarters aboard the British frigate HMS Northumberland, which, after years of pathetic indecision, the Ministry of Defence has finally agreed to deploy.

    International action against this growing pest and danger has been remarkably feeble. The French, rightly losing patience, at least carried out two commando rescue raids. Most nations just pay up. As for us, the Royal Navy that once cleared the seas of pirates (and before that, of slave ships) has until this meagre deployment been made powerless.

    Not long ago officers were explicitly advised not to capture Somali pirates in case they claim asylum, nor to send them home in case their crazy fatherland violated their human rights. Brows were furrowed in leisurely debate over whether gangsterism is technically piracy when it takes place in Somali territorial waters. But all this grows academic, since the Royal Navy has been cut savagely in recent years anyway, and is currently crippled by supplying half the manpower and airpower for landlocked Afghanistan.

    The situation could become as urgent as any banking crisis. For all the ignorant sea-blindness of this island nation, the cold fact is that without sea trade we would have little food, fuel, or goods. The Gulf of Aden is a vital pinch-point in sea routes from the East, and a scan of the world's maritime media from India to Argentina confirms that pirate attacks have doubled in a year: 67 so far. The marauders are ever better equipped - radios, speedboats, rocket-propelled grenades. Vast ransoms are paid, and the pirates are sophisticated enough to know insurance values. Of the 26 ships successfully hijacked this year 11 (and 200 crew ) are currently held. One is the Faina, a Ukrainian freighter loaded with Russian heavy weaponry. The marauders' managers are said to have links to fundamentalist movements. As the Americans say, go figure: once al-Qaeda notices that you can cripple the West by disrupting the sea routes, a lot could happen fast. About 22,000 shipping movements pass Somalia every year, including tankers bearing 4 per cent of the world's oil needs. Even a fractional disruption would hit prices, supplies and global stability.

    Until two days ago the UK was uniformly feeble in its response. A Foreign Office spokesman has bleated: “There are issues about human rights... the main thing is to ensure any incident is resolved peacefully.†Tell that to a gangster with an AK-47 and a headful of khat. The senior British RN commander in the Gulf, Keith Winstanley, suggests rather desperately that merchant ships should carry armed mercenaries and mounted machineguns to defend themselves.

    Insurance companies respond in the only way they know, which is to ramp up premiums. What has finally spooked our Government into its small gesture now is that some shipowners, ever pragmatic, have simply opted to go the long way round via Cape Town. An extra 6,853 miles each way by my reckoning: work out what that'll do to prices and the environment.

    Well, things are stirring. Russia has said it will co-operate. Some US warships are being diverted. We have, after majestic delays, sent one ship. But it is not a robust response yet, not one to convince sea jackals that the game is not worth it. The feebleness has been breathtaking: three years ago the Ministry of Defence said the UK “vigorously opposes acts of piracy†but would not divulge its intentions “due to security concernsâ€. When the International Maritime Bureau made a direct request for RN intervention, a promise was uttered that “if†there were warships in the area they would “help to deal with the problemâ€. Two full years later, when HMS Campbeltown was in the Gulf, the Ministry said evasively: “We are aware of piracy issues... but we have to take a long-term view on our resources†adding that it had “strategic decisions†to make.

    Indeed it does. Our force of destroyers and frigates has - in ten years - shrunk from 35 to 22 despite promises that it would not slip below 25. The number of smaller vessels, minehunters, decreases annually (they could be handy in this work). We mothball ships or flog them to Estonia; the navy budget faces cuts of 20 per cent over ten years. Its air cover is crippled, with one lot of planes gone and the next not ready.

    I do not denigrate the Royal Navy: far from it. Senior officers are itching to deal with the dangerously underrated problem of Somali waters. Deterrence, they say, would not be too difficult with trained crews, fast ships and a clear mandate. But what the wet-lettuce attitude of government demonstrates is that naval power - one of the most useful, flexible, historically successful and often peaceable arms of the State - continues to be run down with cavalier disregard for our total dependence on sea trade.

    Even if the UN and Europe cobble up a solution to this crisis, that problem of British naval erosion will not quickly go away.

    One of the worries that keep Admirals awake is that the smaller the Navy grows, the more humiliated and sidelined, the more training and tradition suffer. Government may secretly nurse some half-baked idea that mothballed ships are like Green Goddess fire engines, easy to haul out in an emergency. But if the Royal Navy goes on shrinking and being raided for manpower in Afghanistan, there won't be anyone fit to man them. Something precious will be lost, and our islands lie more open to blackmail and danger than at any time since Henry VIII.


    I never usually read Libby Purves' stuff, but she occasionally writes a few wise words about the RN. Doubt anyone will heed them, though.
  2. Top whack article. Sums it all up really. No money. End of.
  3. A very neat summing up. How hollow and embarrassingly false it all makes those familiar words of the Naval Prayer:

  4. Christ!! A news paper article that actually makes sense.

    So what now then? FFS no one hold their breath!!

  5. I would love to get the bastards and I bet most the navy would. But the ministers only see in money and never honor or duty.
  6. Well they were hardly likely to leave a note saying just off for two weeks piracy
    So no one would know where they were or what they were doing
    So just slot them

    Or pass them to the crew of the ship they had terrorised and let the crew play at keel hauling, the more barnacles the better, When done release for shark food

    No problem

    Jack McH
  7. witsend

    witsend War Hero Book Reviewer

    Glad to see you made it :thumright:
  8. Screw their human rights. Everyone should have rights up until the point where they break the law. After that, no rights.
    I hate to say it, but I think those damn Frenchies have got the right idea. They don't give a flying fcuk for international opinion either.
  9. Proud_2_B_RN. Ah! Honor. Now you're talking.

  10. Also the only way your average telly gazing Sun and Hello reader is going to give it a second thought. It will all be to of no avail, though, if the limitations placed on the Navy aren't made known as well.
  11. One would think with the money involved one would come up with some kind of protection for the poor unfortunates involved.

    I remember the Q ships [reading of course]a decoy for the U boat menace perhaps similar could be used by a special mercenary team that does not recognise the Geneva Convention or human shites thing.

    Failing that I can always send tiddles along to help out!!

  12. Loosewallahs trying to nick ropes in Calcutta circa 1965,big buck Sikh watchman swings lathi, loud splash from Hoogli ,end of incident.Local plod did not give a shit and were pissed off at being called out by some twat with a conscience. Maybe if a few Gurkhas went collecting ears the fad for piracy would fade away .
  13. I'll be honest, the Royal Navy is doing more than one ship against piracy at this moment in time. NATO Standing Maritime Group 2 has been retasked to deal with this problem and that includes a Royal Navy Type 22.

    And the problem with that article is just how useful is a slow MCMV against speed boats?

    However, the announcement of the Royal Navy doing anything came too quietly and too late for any useful PR ability. The Government needs to decide much more quickly how seriously it takes the international Piracy problem. And begin to fund a Navy with enough escorts to secure the sealanes against piracy or potential aggressors.
  14. As I understand it, unless PJHQ and MoD (Centre) classify this as a "current operation", not much will happen.

    This is a year old now, but nothing has changed, other than getting worse;

    Note that the abysmal wording is that in the document and not mine!

    It was about this time last year when 1SL wrote to us all to say that "current operations" were the 1st priority, even if it left gaps elsewhere.

    That said, remember?
  15. Hansard Written Questions for 23 Oct 08 (link):

    Note the final sentence. Only time will tell.
  16. SNMG2 includes one RN Unit, not plural Units as the Rt Hon gentleman implies. Unfortunately this is the second incident this year, when the foreign policy of this country would require a capable RN escort but one has not been free for tasking. When will they learn the lessons of the past?

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