I, Don Hamrick, am on the Eccoterra International emailing list for their Counter-Piracy Updates: Status of Seized Vessels and Crews in Somalia, the Gulf of Aden, and the Indian Ocean. Their bulletins come packed with several articles and commentary on piracy providing a wealth of information. So it was with their April 14, 2011 bulletin that I found Voytenko Mikhail opinion piece that reads more like an exposé than a conspiracy theory. Much of this exposé corroborates what I have researched and found out about or deduced from my research to be true.
NOTE: Bolded Text in the paragraphs implies emphasized points made by the author that I want to stress. Highlighted text notes my commentary.
The Mob. Who is Ruling Somali Piracy?
By Voytenko Mikhail, Maritime Bulletin, April 14, 2011
Somali Piracy: Maritime Bulletin Study – Multi-billion Falsification,
A blogger located in the Turks and Caicos Islands [Country Doman = .tc]
about 113 Nautical Miles (130 Land Miles) North of the Dominican Republic and Haiti.
Looking for piracy bosses
Recently I bought a book, which is called “Pirates“, by author Ross Kemp, who is a well-known journalist and other things. Whatever and though what he is doesn’t matter, as long as the book itself is just one more junk fiction, inspired by a hot topic, which is attracting a lot of public attention.
The book is a junk, because the author tried to go to the roots of the piracy, to find and nail mysterious pirates’ bosses. He didn’t find them.
Authors of similar books, analysts, politicians and experts are looking for Somali piracy bosses for years by now, but still can’t present one to the public. They are trying to track the pirate’s money, but with no success. They know for sure there’s a piracy spy net at least in Europe, but alas, they still didn’t find any spy or agent, who’s providing pirates with intelligence.
One may ask oneself, after fruitless years of investigations, whether he’s looking into the right direction, whether things he’s searching for do exist at all, but our experts, journalists, politicians and the likes are of different character, they go on with their investigations. Meanwhile, there are no mysteries in shady Somali supporters, they’re all too well known to the public, but the problem is, all the investigators miss it. For some, like Ross Kemp, it’s impossible because there’s no scandal in it, or it is not the type of scandal they are craving for. For others truth is forever locked and sealed, because they themselves are part of those mysterious pirates’ supporters, even if they don’t realize that.
Piracy fortune – who’s the main winner?
Let’s look at some facts, appreciate some figures, and then analyse the results. Those are official figures from world and industry media:
a) War Risk:
War Risk insurance is an excess charge for a vessel transiting a war risk area‘. The Gulf of Aden was classified as a war risk area by Lloyds Market Association (LMA) Joint War Committee in May 2008. Since that date, the cost of war risk premiums have increased 300 fold, from $500 per ship and per voyage; to up to $150,000 per ship and per voyage in 2010.
b) Kidnap and Ransom (K&R):
Generally K&R insurance covers the crew against ransom demands, but not the vessel or cargo. However, some marine insurance policies have recently expanded to include both crew and property. Insurance giant Munich Re., estimates that K&R premiums increased tenfold between 2008 and 2009.
Cargo insurance covers goods transported by a vessel. The excess premium on cargo transiting piracy regions is estimated to have increased by between $25 and $100 per container in the past few years.
Hull insurance covers physical damage to the ship, including harm from heavy seas, collision, sinking, capsizing, grounding, fire or piracy. It estimated that piracy has doubled the cost of hull insurance.
What is War Risk initially?
It is a risk a vessel encounters while transiting a zone of war. It implies a risk of being either sank or seriously damaged by military means – artillery, rockets, mines and so on. Did we hear about vessels sank by pirates, or seriously damaged, during their transit? No one in sound mind and ample knowledge can compare risk of transiting through piracy-infested waters to a risk of being in a real war zone. But insurers declared the whole region a War Zone, and extra premiums became compulsory.
A typical general cargo ship has to pay extra $7-8 thousand for a one-time transit, without encountering any real war risk. Pirates can’t (yet, at least) sink or damage vessel with rusty AK-47 or RPG, it’s impossible. It’s impossible in reality, but it became possible in unsuiers’ very vivid imagination, after they calculated profits they may harvest. And here we are, insurers thrive in War Risk extra profits for already several years, reaping sums pirates can only dream of.
There is another kind of insurance, K&R. When it first appeared in connection with Somali piracy, it was a success, but by now many shipowners figured out the evident option and say – why buy K&R, when armed guards cost the same or less, with a guarantee of safe passage? Insurers figured it out too, and immediately worked out their own guards scheme, included of course in premium cost. They went even further and now hurriedly build up their own private navy flotilla – absolutely non-commercial, of course.
Ship insurance turned into the most lucrative business in all this Somali piracy story and insurers get hundreds of millions of dollars annually, while doing nothing and without any risk of losses.
Talking about K&R – those who bought this insurance and whose vessels were hijacked, had to pay for the services of negotiator, nominated by the insurer, it’s a clause in their insurance agreements. The cost of a negotiator may be up to a $1 million or more.
The vessel owner can’t reject War Risk insurance on pretext of hiring armed guards, if they’re hired outside, but he can buy insurance with a package, providing him armed guards, at a cost much higher than the market one. It means, that by their War Risk insurance practice insurers endanger crews and vessels. Since the owners have to get insurance anyway, some would consider hiring guards as too expensive, regarding the cost of the insurance itself. A remark from Ecoterra Intl after the release of the Thai freighter Thor Nexus: “…the release took over three months, because this is the standard minimum time the P&I insurers – The West of England Shipowners – required to seal the deal and the time their negotiators and other beneficiaries require to earn their share”.
Are insurers interested in piracy, or are they interested in eliminating piracy threat? Are they willing to end the piracy, or are they happy with the things as they are – nearly zero risk with tremendous profits?
The Corporation (The Mob)
Insurers and all main maritime organizations rub shoulders in London, some even in the same building. The insurers get profits they weren’t expecting, something like a lottery win or Christmas present, and these profits depend on piracy. May they, or may they not, armed with easy money, influence maritime organizations, their chiefs, i.e. some limited and not big number of people? I’m enough cynical or wise to know, that at least 90 out of 100 people won’t be able to resist temptation to get extra money by infringing their duties, if they’re sure of their immunity. I know, that the new income, by the simple fact of its emergence, immediately begins living of its own, and influences, or more often, rules its owner. The more is the income, the more power it has over its owner. It’s one of the laws (rules) of life, not a preposition. Spare me the stories of people of highest moral standards, insurers and the chiefs of maritime organizations, save them for the industry media.
So what is it in the end? Hundreds of millions of non-planned and not deserved income, and nearby, several persons, on whose job and decisions the income depends, because those persons’ decisions form the ways to deal with Somali piracy.
Will the insurers do everything possible to eliminate the piracy threat? Ask yourself – if you suddenly got unexpected and quite lofty income, will you hurry to get rid of it, on some shaky morals grounds? The answer is – no, they won’t. Intentionally or not, they will do quite the opposite, they’ll try to secure the income. The best way to do it is to ensure the long life of Somali piracy, providing the process is controllable and of reasonable, acceptable scales. And that’s exactly what we have. Instead of eliminating the piracy threat by providing every vessel with military or private armed guards, we have a process, called by its authors and rulers “Fighting Somali piracy”. Who are the authors? Maritime organizations, backed and inspired by the UN.
A case to compare
There’s one interesting example of another farce of global scale, called “Mr. Victor Bout – Russian Lord of War”, spotlighting the mechanism of lies and falsifications. All the world knows Victor Bout to be a grand-scale arms trader, but the truth is, he isn’t and wasn’t. I happened to know people who are trying to defend Victor and hopefully, free him, including his wife. I saw documents and files, and they convince me in Bout’s innocence. I wondered, why the US and the UN are so eager in pursuing Mr.Bout? I’ve got an answer to the question why, and basically, it correlates with the Somali piracy premises. I don’t know where and how the idea was born, who decided to make a scapegoat out of Mr.Bout, who was by the way, a transporter, but not a trader of arms (and who, incidentally, sold his air transport business long time ago, in 2001). Whatever the reasons for the choice, the mechanism was switched on – find necessary documents to prove Mr.Bout’s guilt and nail him. Some people and organizations in the US were burdened with the task, and provided with funds. Later the UN “specialists” were also included in the scheme and “investigations”, but their report, for which they were very handsomely paid (hundreds of thousands USD), was later proved to be a pack of lies and falsifications. The UN “specialists” are very convenient for murky and dubious “investigations”, because it’s a brand (for me though, it’s a brand of highest degree of non-professionalism and corruption), and because the UN “specialists” are absolutely immune to any claims, they’re above the laws.
Nearly a decade passed, Mr.Bout is finally, on American soil, investigations go on with the distinct possibility of court hearings to start somewhere in autumn. If a US Court will accept documents proving Mr.Bout’s innocence, and find them genuine and wholly reliable, and if Mr.Bout will be freed, then quite a number of people and organizations will find themselves in a very awkward situation, to say the least. Tens of millions of dollars and years of hard labour of many people spent on making Mr.Bout a world-scale arms trader. If it’s not the case and he’s innocent, then, what it was all about, who blew away the taxpayers money, creating world-scale fraud – and why?
Money speaks for itself
Money speak for itself and works for itself, and often those who owned the money turned into money’s slaves, and do what the money dictates them to do. The insurers taxed shipping – but for what in fact? They have absolutely no reason to tax shipping.
What was behind the international maritime organizations’ betrayal of the shipping and seafarers? If only money or also pressure from the UN and interested nations, I don’t know and don’t want to know.
Of course the UN couldn’t resist the temptation, couldn’t miss a chance to grab extra money, and became one of the most ardent players in the business called “Fighting Somali Piracy”.
There are other sources of income, insurance premiums aren’t the only ones. There is the international fund to fight Piracy, sponsored by an increasing number of States, whose aim is to build up a system to prosecute pirates. There are sources, which are financing the ever-growing number of conferences, round tables, fora and symposia, bla-blaing the piracy theme. I dare to say: Some nations especially interested in the existence of piracy may also contribute to the process in some clandestine ways and covered means.
The whole process developed into a big money-making machine. What’s going on in the Indian Ocean has nothing to do with what is going on in London, New York and other cities, where the big bosses of shipping sit. If maritime organizations were truly supporters of shipping, shipping owners and seafarers, they would demand from the UN and interested states the only measure which for the time being, is capable of eliminating the piracy threat – armed guards on board of each vessel, either military or private. But the elimination of the piracy threat would eliminate the “Fighting piracy”-Corporation (The Mob), which holds hundreds of millions of annual income and many shareholders.
The list of The Mob:
- Insurers: P&I Clubs, Joint War Committee – Lloyds Market Association (LMA);
- IMO – Internationl Maritime Organizations, UN branch;
- BIMCO – international shipowners’ association;
- International Chamber of Shipping and International Shipping Federation;
- Intertanko and Intercargo;
- IMB Internationa Maritime Bureau;
- ITF International Transport Federation and affiliated trade unions;
- A number of individuals, mainly politicians;
- A number of national and regional shipowners Associations;
- Think-tanks of different origin and structure, ready to produce any study required, with any figures, for a reasonable fee.
The above members of the Corporation of the Mob, are the true supporters of the Somali piracy, because they have personal interests, because they lied so much that they simply can’t change their policy and stance. They can’t turn back and say they were wrong – it is too late for that. They can’t excuse themselves, in case the truth would be made public, because the story is too outrageous. Either to lie, falsify and actually, support piracy, or to find themselves in a role of despised scandalous outlaws – there is no other choice for them.
How to eliminate piracy threat and make shipping safe?
The Mob claims to be the leaders of the shipping, its elite, the god-fathers, the second to God captains. Now, if they were anything of this, how should they react to piracy and what should they do? That’s what they could and should have done since at least two years:
1. Leave piracy roots – i.e., situation in Somali, for politicians and respective organizations, and do what their duty and official status requires them to do, to eliminate piracy threat. The best and only way to guarantee safety of the vessels is armed guards on board. They had to require from navies of involved States to establish a shuttle system of boarding and disembarking navy personnel on each vessel (ship riders) passing the dangerous waters. They had to require from interested States and the UN the necessary change of laws and necessary assets, to carry out the plan.
2. All shipowners should be required to do everything possible to provide armed guards, either military or private. Irresponsible shipowners should be warned of possible consequences, such as for example, boycott and rally of their vessels in ports. [MY COMMENT: But what of the U.S. State Department’s demarché on all foreign port laws on armed merchant vessels? Can’t the collected data be used for a future maritime treaty for armed merchant vessels and their crew, even if it requires the U.S. Coast Guard to increase the Manning Level to accommond a union-crew security team, i.e., AB Security in addition to AB Unlimited, and AB Special? And not just rely on Contract security teams for hire (mercenaries)]
3. Navies had to build up monitoring systems and provide each vessel with information on the tactical situation in the region.
4. Insurers had to be checked on the legitimacy of raised premiums, maybe with a resulting agreement on banning extra premiums for vessels equipped with armed guards. If raised premiums were still a go, and that’s what we witness now, then, they must be used (at least in part) for a Fund with such aims as:;– partial cover of the cost of ransoms– cover the expenses for assistance to crews and vessels held by pirates (supplies and maybe medical assistance, subject to agreement with pirates);– financing medical treatment of the seafarers, who were in pirates capture.
5. Insist, in strongest possible ways, on immediate and absolute ban on all ideas and plans with regards to legitimacy of ransoms and talks with pirates. There is no way for “political correctness”, raised to status of “a must” by politicians and illiterate media. Shipping didn’t create havoc in Somalia, it’s a work of politicians and states. Shipping is a vital part of the world economy, shipping feeds politicians, navies and media, not vice a versa. What rights then do they have to teach shipping, what is wrong and what is right?
6. Establish strict public control over all navies in the region, in order to stop escalation of the violence.
7. Leave all the ideas and plans of pirates prosecution to organizations and institutions, who are supposed to enforce the law, like Interpol. Prosecution of the pirates is no business of maritime organizations, and if some of them find prosecution and law enforcement more exciting than shipping and their direct duties, then let them change the job and the office. [MY COMMENT: This reccommendation is BULLSHIT! Notwithstanding the Treaty of Paris 1856, which the U.S. did not sign, the Letters of Marque and Reprisal can be resurrected by Congress to sanction a privateer war on Somali pirates as a matter of a sovereign right to self-defense under the Law of Nations, even if it means breaking the Treaty of Paris 1856 by invoking any one or all of the following articles of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties 1969 and the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties between States and International Organizations or between International Organizations 1986:
Article 53 Treaties conflicting with a peremptory norm of general international law (“jus cogens”)
Article 61 Supervening impossibility of performance
Article 62 Fundamental change of circumstances
Article 64 Emergence of a new peremptory norm of general international law (“jus cogens”).]
That’s what, I think, maritime organizations should do, though it’s not too late yet, they may recall their duties in the right away, if they want to. If they don’t want, their chiefs have to be replaced with other people, more suitable for the job (it seems to be of no problem, any person will do, at least they won’t harm shipping as much as the present chiefs, it’s simply impossible). Frankly, I think, that the present chiefs of maritime organizations (not to mention the UN) must be subjected to investigations.
Corporation intentionally distorted and mislead the whole process of handling the Somali piracy problem. That’s what they did:
1. They foiled the only one effective method of securing safety
They substituted an “Eliminating the piracy threat for each vessel”-strategy with a “Fighting piracy”-strategy. “Eliminating the piracy threat for each vessel” is an achievable task, if with the help of all involved navies and nations each vessel transiting dangerous waters is provided with armed guards, and armed guards – at present – are the only one method of guaranteed safety. It’s incomparably cheaper than keeping so many navies in the region, not to mention other costs, like insurance. It may be achieved in a very short time, in weeks, actually.
2. They help piracy to develop into a stable, long-term process
The “Fighting the piracy”-strategy doesn’t have any defined achievable aim, and no aims were in fact declared, except platitudes like “Let’s end the piracy”. The only defined task of a “Fighting piracy”-strategy is the task of building up a system for the prosecution of pirates – basically wrong and utopian, as long as the Somali piracy involves not just some hard-core, numbered criminals, but the Somali population. Prosecution of the pirates requires millions and millions of dollars (tens of millions were already wasted), decades of time and many people to do it. No calculations and basics were given by maritime organizations and the UN, such as: how many pirates they think they need to prosecute to “end piracy”; how much time and money will it take; if prisons are to be built in Somalia (as it was already announced), who’s to guarantee the pirates won’t flee them; so on and so forth. Any businessman asking for a credit based on such a plan would be kicked out of any bank in no time. Maritime organizations and the UN demand money for the project, which from any point of view seems to be a bluff, and bluff it is.
3. They swindle the statistics
Maritime organizations and UN deliberately swindle piracy statistics, providing public with false figures. (See my “Somali piracy: multi-billion falsification”-Report) They need false statistics and figures to explain their “Fighting piracy”-strategy. True statistics and figures will raise too many questions, picturing the heads of industry as, at the very least, utterly incompetent individuals.
4. Their policy paved the way for bloodshed, for deaths and atrocities
Maritime organizations and IMO back the navies, navies in their turn, back these maritime organizations. When navies started to patrol dangerous waters, bloodshed became a question of not too much time. There was no blood before the navies arrived, and there would’t be bloodshed after they entered the game, providing their activities and behaviour would be tersely scrutinized. Navies must be checked and controlled, to avoid atrocities and unnecessary violence. Of course, maritime organizations didn’t do it. Instead, they praise navies and award them. Slowly but surely, the violence started to grow up. I don’t care if pirates are crucified or prosecuted or freed, all I care for are crews. Think safety of the crews first, and punishing pirates second, that’s all I’m writing about. By shooting around the navies turned pirates from more or less amiable criminals, avoiding unnecessary violence in their practice, into bloodthirsty murderers, into some kind of sea-desperadoes. [MY COMMENTARY: This blogger stands in factual error with his opinion. Contradicting this blogger’s opinion is The Washington Times | (Kampala, Uganda), Ruthless New Breed of Somali Pirates Craves Riches, Not Revenge, February 27, 2011] If the international community, interested States and the UN can’t sweep out the pirates by whatever means they find suitable, they have to care, first, about the safety of the crews. Second, about the safety of the crews. Third, about safety of the crews. I forgot to mention safety of the crews. Maritime organizations should demand, loud and clear, public control over the navies. Instead, they hailed the navies all along. They didn’t try to change the public’s mood, which was and is craving for pirates’ blood. They should explain, that the navies’ violence does cost seafarers dearly. Well, maritime organizations didn’t do anything of that kind, on the contrary, they appealed to the basic, bestial instincts of the public, saying that pirates turned into brutes out of nothing, just because they’re a bad bunch (What a depth of analysis!). Maritime organizations gave out a new slogan “No mercy to them!”. It means in fact, that there will be no mercy to civilian seafarers either. [MY COMMENT: This opinion has no logic to it. It’s simply emotional rhetoric.]
The maritime organizations were (and still are) strongly opposed to private armed guards, unless – of course – the guards aren’t provided by the insurers. How do they explain such antagonism? They say, that the practice of using armed guards will lead to an escalation in violence. In most cases when pirates attack vessels with armed guards, several warning shots are enough to scare pirates off. Unlike the navies, the armed guards don’t want unnecessary violence and movie-like gunfire. Who killed dozens, by now, fishermen and seamen? Pirates and navies altogether, but not armed guards. Latest examples – the deaths of several members of m/v Beluga Nomination and an unknown number of fishermen on board of Thai fishing vessels.
[MY COMMENT: If warning shots from a .50 calibre is all it takes to deter a pirates then all it takes for the Coast Guard is to increase the Manning Level of Coast Guard regulations to 3 AB-Security-Watchstander (AB-SW) positions. That’s one AB-SW crewmember to the 3 watch system commonly used aboard ship. The duties of the AB-SW would be an additional watchstand on the bridge or at the .50 cal gun mount at the ready as a lookout for pirates during transits in known pirate waters and during transits waters free of pirates the AB-SW will either resume lookout duties on the bridge or maintain work on deck with the Boatswain. This method would be more in keeping with maritime traditions of old when it is international customary law for a vessel to rely on their crew, NOT contract security teams for hire (mercenaries), for self-defense]
The main reason for the violence escalation is the navies’ irresponsible and uncontrolled action. Vessels falling prey to pirates don’t have armed guards on board. Maritime organizations back the navies and oppose armed guards. Not incidentally, but as a part of their “Fighting piracy”-strategy. Don’t they recognize their responsibility for the victims of their policy? Don’t they understand, that the guilt is partially theirs? They understand it too well, I’m sure. They understand, that what they are doing is either on the verge of legality, or already beyond it.
Nobody wants piracy to stop
There are also other parties interested in piracy – some States and all navies involved in the patrolling. Simple logic tells us, that the existence of piracy serves to the best of the navy interests. They are allotted extra budgets, they’ve got a unique chance to exercise all-year round in war-like conditions, competing with their potential or actual adversaries. The whole region turned into test-grounds of new arms, new tactics, new ships and so on. The navies test these weapons on living, moving targets, with zero risk of retaliation from the pirates, or investigations inspired by the public. The elimination of the piracy threat is so far from the navies’ genuine ambitions, that merchant shipping can’t count on the navies strategically, they’re no allies, and under present conditions it can’t be otherwise. [MY COMMENT: This blogger is absolutely correct on new weapons testing for anti-piracy applications. See BBC News | Technology, Laser Gun Fired from US Navy Ship, April 11, 2011; See also my blog article, BAE Systems: Adapting Aviation Laser Weapons System to Maritime Piracy, January 9, 2011.]
The role of interested States and their navies in supporting the Somali piracy is too complicated and too big a problem and requires special study. After all, their support is indirect, their interests are not as obvious and perceptible, as the interests of the insurers and the maritime organizations.
World and industry media (industry media deserve a special study) turned a blind eye on the realities concerning the Indian Ocean and the Somali piracy, choosing instead maritime organizations, navies and politicians, as the main and the only source of all information related to the problem. The result is evident – the world media mislead the public with lies and falsifications, to the best interests of the “Fighting piracy”-Corporation (The Mob).
Is there a chance, a hope for some kind of solution, of making shipping and seafarers safe?
Yes there is, though a very slim one. The only chance to revert the present stance of the public at large and the policy-makers is to show them the truth, to demonstrate to the public the true face of the “Fighting piracy” – Corporation and its true nature – the nature of the Mob. Only seafarers and shipowners (small and medium ones of course, not the big ones like Maersk or Sovcomflot – as those guys are part of the Mob) may do it, if they raise their voice.
Maybe by some wild chance journalist and writer Ross Kemp will read this article, but he won’t accept the truth. Because people yearn for secrets and scandals, not for the truth. Because real, big-time rogues, don’t sit in port taverns, drinking rum and planning horrendous crimes. Big-timers are as a rule, legal, well-dressed, well-fed and softly speaking individuals, clouding themselves in right words and just causes. Judge them not by their words, but by their deeds, search not secrets but the plain truth laying the open, that’s all I can advise Mr. Ross Kemp.