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back to article Retro piracy - Should the Royal Navy kick arse?

As everyone knows, runaway piracy is a terrible threat. Unchecked, pirates might destroy the very business models which underpin much of our economy, bringing legitimate commerce to a halt - with devastating consequences both for those who make things and for those who use them. That may or may not be true on the internet: but …

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Paris Hilton

Good points all around, so just small nitpicking

Quote: "Presumably someone else will provide the actual ships".

I guess they did. The pirates were apprehended JOINTLY by HMS Cumberland and Neustrashimuy. As you correctly noted both were carrying tons of weaponry useless against anything short of an enemy battle group (or submarine fleet). However the Neustrashimuy was carrying aslo guess what? A KA-27 helicopter...

You are quite correct however that one helicopter carrier along with a couple of troop transports for the marines with some support from a couple of spotter planes flying from Djibuty can deal with the piracy off the Horn of Africa once and for all. Sending frigates there is a waste of taxpayer money.

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Can't they protect themselves?

Is there any practical reason why merchant ships can't plonk a couple of heavy machine guns somewhere with a good field of fire? (plus someone keeping watch, obviously)

For the bigger ones, it can't be more than a fraction of the cost of the ship - or even having it delayed a week while pirates are negotiated off.

Problem is, I think I remember hearing that it's against the law (on the ocean...?) - maybe time for a change.

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Joke

Law

Are pirates still liable to summary execution if captured during battle? That would resolve any sticky legal problems of bringing them before a court.

Maybe the Americans could be involved?

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Joke

let me be the first to say...

Yarr!

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Anonymous Coward

"or even a member of the RAF"

Harsh.

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Arrrr!

But 'tis the shortage o' men t' crew these stout ships that be the problem!

'Tis the return o the Press I be predictin', wi' roamin' gangs o' jolly Jack Tars patrolling the waterfront o' Skegness, Blackpool and many another seaside haven, ready t' tap the noggin' o' any cove rum enough t' be splicin' the mainbrace wi'out bein' mob-handed.

Ye'll all be learnin' t' run from the merry sound o' a hornpipe or shanty played on the concertina, I be thinkin'.

Arrr!

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Actually, they do...

I just remembered seeing a (spent?) nuclear fuel transport ship, pretty sure it wasn't Navy, with guns of some sort mounted on it, so this is already done. Somehow.

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At Last

Some one who understands what is going on down and around Gulf Of Aden. Although 1 in 1000 is low would you want to be the 1? I dont and I know plenty who dont, I transit the area regularly and have heard attacks carried out on the radio, it is eeirie and disturbing. The Navy have enough to do without watching us, but hey we'll take all the help we can get.

The Americans want to arm Merchant Vessels, however that upsets thier plans for controlling Merchant Vessels visiting their ports.

Follow the French example they dont care if it's one of thiers they will go and get it/ them back, in fact just let the French do it.

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Anonymous Coward

No ships at all.

22,000 Ships, 365 days is 60 ships a day.

A ten man armed squad from a nation with a vested interest (Egypt perhaps) on each ship would be about 600 men, more like a 1200 man commitment allowing for spares.

I'm guessing that 1200 Egyptian soldiers and a largish boat, which doesn't even have to be a warship, for them to hang out on. Would cost an unimaginably small fraction of the cost of flying even one helicopter around for a year, and would stop the pirates completely.

Ten is probably too many, and a squad on every other ship would probably be sufficient.

Once the pirates give up the whole op could be scaled back to less than a quarter of the strength.

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Go

Be nice to pirates

Couldn't they deliver extra munitions to the pirates? Even if a pirate was in a hurry to get away, I'm sure Bofors et al. produce suitable delivery systems. Just don't tell anyone we're being so generous...

Ooh... an icon that refers to flank speed...

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12 mile limit

"International warships generally have no rights to act against pirates inside someone else's 12-mile limit."

Does 'hot pursuit' not apply?

Oh, and the navy did have the right kit for hunting pirates but Pertwee flogged it all off.

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Anonymous Coward

Wow

My word Lewis, you'd better have a lie down after that piece.

Five pages to say that senior members of the military engage in personal empire-building and that military ops are often undertaken for purely political ends !

I'm sure your commentary is accurate but still, wow !

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Coat

The solution...

Scupper every pirate vessel (there's a dhow (Davy) Jones sinking joke in there somewhere).

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Stop

say what?

"Presumably someone else will provide the actual ships. (Good luck with that - other European countries mostly make our navy look massive. The only exception is the French, and they have plenty of admirals of their own.)"

What are you referring to specifically here? the UK has the third largest navy in both number of ships and overall tonnage, so we do have a massive navy, maybe not in the same league as Russia or the US but it's hardly an illusion :P

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Joke

They've obviously...

...never seen Under Siege...

"A typical modern day sailor - say a radar operator or a cook - may be little handier in a face-to-face fight than a civilian"

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Excellent article as always

Is it me, or is the Navy all but redundant these days?

Their only purpose seems to be to provide portable landing strips or missile launch platforms and to defend those assets.

Everything else seems better suited to the Army or Airforce.

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Where's the tech content here?

Lewis Page on another rant - yawn.

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@AC 14:28 - Harsh

Not at all, just traditional crab-bashing.

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Convoys

Perhaps what's needed is a convoy system through the area - I guess it depends on how much it delays the merchant traffic. Just have a couple of warships waiting around, assemble a dozen merchant vessels (or more), then escort them through.

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Joke

"with gunmen in speedboats seizing entire ships as often as once a week"

How / how often do they seize 2/3 rds of a ship! :-)

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Pirate

Fight Global Warming...

More Pirates Please!

FSM etc etc...

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Go

Harhar

Make the bastards walk the plank, response to seaborne piracy should be swift and lethal.

Efros

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Black Helicopters

Excellent summary...

... as usual, Lewis. I do have to take issue with one point on the first page, though. I understood, from reading the local press, that the problem in this part of the world isn't so much the Singapore Strait, but the Malacca Straits, between Peninsula Malaysia and Sumatra. That would also better match your requirements for a nearby lawless or poor area sheltering them: Johor Baru and Singapore are reasonably provided for, or at least the part of JB that's at the very bottom of Malaysia. It's also an incredibly crowded shipping lane where people have to look out for each other, since the consequences of doing otherwise would be disastrous.

The Malacca Straits, on the other hand, are much bigger, although also very busy. That said, Sumatra is a *very* large island, with lots of places for bad guys to slip away. Also, the Indonesian government seems to take the problem less seriously than the Malaysian government. They have far fewer resources in the area than Malaysia, despite Sumatra being larger than Peninsula Malaysia.

As for a Naval solution, would it not be possible for someone at Thorneycroft or the like to design a new version of an MTB? They seemed to have some success against E-boats a number of years ago, I recall - fast, nippy and with some serious teeth. Perhaps acting as a minor battle group with a helicopter carrier?

Finally, while piracy on the High Seas is still an offence liable to summary capital punishment on the statute books, I believe it ranks alongside arson in Her Majesty's dockyards as an anachronism. Furthermore, I think there just might be some pushback against from other nations, who might decide that RN ships were indulging in piracy every time they were enforcing arms embargoes or the like.

Helicopters - would the need to be of the black kind? Not going for the obvious because, in this part of the world, it ain't no joke.

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RIAA

They should watch they don't raid shipments of CDs/DVDs then sell copies worldwide, The RIAA and the FBI would be invading Somalia by the end of the week.

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llsRT

You're quite correct, the nuclear fuel transport ships are armed. They carry armed guards on board as well. However I believe they are a special case, for understandable reasons... http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/389545.stm

I think some of our engineers have got better pictures as we've done some work on them.

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Nuclear transport ships

Those are probably PNTL, who I think carry CNC guys on board. They're the specialist "police who aren't police" who protect nuclear sites and materials that are being moved.

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Pirate

pirates vs...

cant we just send in the ninjas?

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Flame

"or even a member of the RAF"

I'll get you with my moustaches, you bounder!

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Anonymous Coward

It's obvious how to catch them.

Step 1. They don't just steal this stuff and then stay at sea, they have to come to shore to sell it, so we put a tracker on something expensive, and demand a ship follow a gps course. If it deviates, we know it's been hijacked immediately.

Step 2. After locating them, we sentence them to death by steam iron.

Hey presto. Problem solved.

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H&S

Surely the best way to stop piracy is to introduce them to health and safety.

I for one would be interested in reading their risk assessment and I'm pretty sure that the news footage showed no sign of high-visibility clothing.

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Black Helicopters

I'm pretty sure that

the Somali leader gave permission for the Russians, GB and any other interested nation to enter Somali waters and use "whatever means deemed necessary, including military force"

Seems the Somalis have realised that the pirates are a thorn they don't need in their side and the idea of someone else killing them off quite appeals.

I do agree that sending frigates etc is a total waste of time and money, and that smaller helicopter carriers would be a better idea.

But then when did the MOD / UK.gov ever use commonsense in anything??

Example being the Eurofighter, all the wars we are embroiled in currently and lately would have been better fought with a fleet of A-10 close support aircraft than high altitude Multi role fighters....allegedly army and marines find the american A-10 pilots more help the the RAF boys and that afghani militants tend to retreat rapidly when an A-10 shows up.....don't blame them....wouldn't want to be on the receiving end of the "avenger cannon"

Helicopter as thats whats needed

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Happy

Cumberland?

Does anyone else see the connection between HMS Cumberland's involvement and the fact that its national sausage week?

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Stop

Helicopter problem.

Choppers are notoriously vulnerable to ground fire (you touched on this). Now, while having a standoff FY2 system is all well and good, the situation here was the pirates were challenged, opened fire and got hosed by return for their trouble. Changing this to "That looks like a pirate ship", press button, BOOM, takes the process to a new level. Let's face it, going in for a closer look, to see if they've got shoulder launched rocketry or a nice 20mm cannon squirrelled away somewhere, before going for the "...and the horse you rode in on" option has the drawback of holding quite a high risk of finding out that they have the hard way. You're veering into the Pyrrhan book of tactics here if you're thinking that way

Not that I'm objecting to the concept of subjecting pirates to serious fuckage from range, it makes all the problems go away including repatriation, but I'll bet that it wouldn't go down well with the Guardian readers. I think we're stuck with fast boats and marines to keep the hand-wringing types happy.

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Happy

Is it wrong?

Is it wrong that I saw the news item's photo depicting the "pirates" in a boat with their hands behind their heads..... and I thought they were doing the french taunt at the cameraman?

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12 mile limit

"What idiot let that torpedo stray into territorial waters and sink that -p-i-r-a-t-e- innocent vessel seeking sanctuary from unjust pursuit? Slapsies all round number one and reload the starboard tubes!"

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Anonymous Coward

Anti-climax of sorts

Was I alone in expecting the solution to be sharks with frikkin' lasers on their heads? Mechanical ones with cavitation drives. Plus satellite surveillance (mil resolutions natch). Oh right, the UK is not allowed to print dollars.

My other problem is why there were never pirates in the straits of Dover, only in Penzance?

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Black Helicopters

Sea cruise for Marines

Several other countries have very competent equivalents of the Royal Marines. I have always thought that half a squad per cargo ship from the China Sea area through the Suez Canal would be a very good deterrent. No fast pursuit required, the pirates would present themselves for deterring/killing.

Put a warship or five in the relevant areas for helicopter and larger weapon support.

In a year or two the problem would be much reduced.

And the Marines would have had a nice sea cruise.

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Jax

Who cares about the tech angle?

I thoroughly enjoyed reading that. :)

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Anonymous Coward

Pirates

Unleash the RIAA on them!!

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Pirate

re: They've obviously...

The mere mention of a fighting cook or other ordinary forces person will always end up with Mr Seagull making an appearance. Just one quick flurry of slaps accompanied by the stony face that is hard yet somehow caring will soon put a stop to any threat to the world.

Though I'm not sure that this is big enough for Steve - it may be of the scale required for another Rambo outing, he usually does these small local bookings.

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Anonymous Coward

I am in shock

A report by Lewis where he doesn't say lets buy the American one.

I am vastly suprised that he didn't suggest buying American ships as they are better and more cost effictive than the UK one we currently use.

Other than that a good article.

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Pirate

Trial?

"So let's assume, worst case, that pirates captured on the high seas would need to be brought to the UK for trial. "

Bollocks to that - Cap'n to pass sentence, then keelhaul/cat o' nine or give 'em the Plank. Don't even need to make port.

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Pirate

More RN helicopter carriers?

Unlikely as the Navy would see those as a threat to their new fast-jet carriers. Do we have any anti-tank Lynx choppers left? Surely we could operate a dozen or so off a converted merchantman, seeing as the Army seems keener on the Apache now. Or we could rent a USN Amphibious Assault Ship or whatever they're calling their landing support chopper carriers.

On the note of frigates and destroyers being too big, they do have the loiter capability to hang around off the pirate areas for weeks at a time. A fleet of small attack craft such as Boghammers would need a floating base ship or secure harbour to operate from. There is also the fact that a large warship tends to scare pirates away, which is often the preferred result for the PC brigade, whereas smaller craft may induce sillier pirates to have a go, much as the rigid-raiders used by the RMCs from HMS Cumberland drew fire from the pirates on Tuesday. Such gunfights risk people getting killed - not popular with the PC brigade if they're "disadvantaged third-worlders, or with our voter-sensitive politicians if their our boys and girls.

The only long-term solution would be a Somali Navy, equipped with Boghammer-like craft to allow coastal pursuits, probably co-ordinated by NATO destroyers/frigates and their choppers, but that is unlikely given that the Somali government seems to be concentrating on its own survival on land just now.

Maybe we could just ask a passing USN carrier to make a srike on Ely and sink all the pirate boats, it would garner some relief whilst the pirates tried to buy new boats, and Prez-elect Obama cold dress it up as being tough on crime, the causes of crime, etc, etc. Of course, I'm sure a good community organiser like Obama could just go to Ely and sort out all their problems in no time, without having to resort to that nasty fighting stuff....

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Pirate

@ lIsRT

The ships you mean are PNTL Vessels, and where built with gun mounts, they only carry guns and perosnnel to use them when carrying the re-processed fuel.

We (the Merchant Navy) arent alowed to be armed, much apart from anything, it ups the ante with the pirates and on a British Flagged vessel (there are still some of us) the 'Elf and Safety / Risk Assesment would be a mare.

Remeber some of those "big ships" you all see container and tanker can carry as few as 13 (average 20) people and are leagally usually limited to 30 or so souls depending in Life Saving Appliances carried.

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Anonymous Coward

Wikipedia.

Now I know this is a crap source but.....

These pirate vessels are apparently good for catching merchantmen going 20 knots, so must be good for 25+.

Looking at the RN fleet on wikipedia, I see that only Frigates, Destroyers and Aircraft carriers actually have the pace to catch them.

Can it really be true that the River class patrol boats (best suited to this kind of malarky) can only do 20 knots?

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I see your answer

"trying to find some way of putting them ashore locally after capture"

Yes, that would do it. I'm sure they would wash ashore somewhere, someday. If you want to stop piracy on the high seas just tell the RIAA / IFPI it's their stuff getting ripped off.

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Dead Vulture

I honestly hope...

... you've finished creaming yourselves over the Military.

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Pirate

Re: Can't they protect themselves?

It is not. If the ship is formally chartered by the Navy of the operating country. It can after that put a squad of marines onboard and have the pirates done and dusted. This of course does not work very well for all those penny-pinching scumbags operating under Liberian or North Korean flags.

It will in fact be a very good money earning protection racket for any navy with personnel in Djibuti (hehe... let's see if someone French is reading it).

However, you still need some fairly long range helicopters and a few supporting ships to pick up the marine crews once they are done with their jobs. So end of the day it may not be cheaper compared to rotating a helicopter carrier from a different navy every few week for "extended live target practice".

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For Once...

...that all sounds eminently sensible. So it DEFINITELY won't happen.

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