Troubled Waters

In his August edition of MARINE LOG, editor John Snyder gave us something to think about.

“According to a study released this past June,” Mr. Snyder writes, “there were 851 seafarers attacked by Somali pirates with firearms, of which 349 were taken hostage and five were killed in 2012. This is in addition to another seafarers already held in captivity from 2010 and 2011. On average, hostages taken by Somali pirates are held 11 months. The direct economic cost of Somali piracy is estimated at a staggering $ 5.7 billion to $ 6.1 billion …

“Meanwhile, West African piracy has been on the upswing, with 966 seafarers on vessels attacked by pirates, and 206 taken hostage in 2012 …

“With the cost in human suffering and economic impact, piracy is an issue that can’t be ignored.”

But it is being ignored, Mr. Snyder – and now we’ll give you something to think about.

In our Vol. XXXI, Art. 37 commentary, “Perils at Sea”, (posted on June 25, 2012), we wrote:

“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 deadly weapons 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, Kearsage, 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 these 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?”