Perils at Sea

The latest version of the joint study by Oceans Beyond Piracy (OBP) and the International Maritime Bureau was launched at the International Maritime Organization’s headquarters in London on June 22, 2012 and details the plight of seafarers at the hands of Somali pirates. The report is a combination of information provided by the signatory states to the Declaration Condemning Acts of Violence Against Seafarers, the Maritime Humanitarian Response Programme (MPHRP), and data compiled by OBP. The desperate situation in Somalia continues to breed piracy, an official said.

– 3,863 seafarers were fired upon by Somali pirates with assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades
– 968 seafarers came into close contact with pirates, who managed to board their vessels
– 413 seafarers were rescued from citadels
– 1,206 hostages were held captive by Somali pirates
– 555 seafarers were taken hostage in 2011; 645 hostages were captured in 2010 and remained captive during 2011; 6 tourists and aid workers were kidnapped on land
– 35 hostages died as a result of pirate captivity in 2011
– Average length of captivity was 8 months.

Wouldn’t you think that piracy – right now, in the 21st Century – would be a problem that could be solved overnight – if not sooner? We’re not dealing here with the likes of Captain Kidd, Black Bart or Blackbeard. These are a bunch of stumble-bum trouble-makers in leaky skiffs.

In an earlier commentary we wondered why the great navies in the world couldn’t – or wouldn’t – dispatch a couple of helicopter carriers to the region and put an instant stop to this thuggery. There are more than a dozen such warships at sea at the moment, and except for the terrific cost to taxpayers, we’ve heard nothing more about them.

Be assured that helicopter gunships are such a deadly weapon that their mere presence would keep those skiffs off the water permanently. Just the threat of patrolling helicopters would deter those pirates. They’d never again be seen near the water. They’d find other ways to earn a living.

Sailing without fanfare are vessels with names like Illustrious, Ocean, Mittral, Tonnerre, Dixmude, Tarawa, Wasp, Essex, Kearsarge, Boxer, Bataan, Bon Homme Richard, Iwo Jima and Makin Island. You guessed it. These are the “more than a dozen” helicopter carriers now in the service of the U.S., U.K. and French navies.

Want some numbers? The above-mentioned vessels carry at least 725 attack helicopters. If just a few of those vessels were to put in an appearance, the pilots wouldn’t even have to go on patrol. Those skiffs would be history. The game would be over. That’s not what we have in mind, though.

Like we said, we need the provocation provided by those pirates. Otherwise, how else could we sell a “boots-on-the-ground humanitarian operation” to gullible Americans? Can you spell o-i-l?