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We're Only In It For the Money
November 21, 2008 12:25 PM   Subscribe

Somali pirates have captured a Saudi oil tanker, demanding a $25 million ransom. Somali pirates are well known and active - as of 30 September, 12 vessels remained captive and under negotiation with more than 250 crew being held hostage. But this time they may have gone too far: by capturing a ship of a Muslim nation, the pirates have drawn the ire of Somali Islamist fighters, who have vowed to combat the pirates. The pirates say they're just doing it for the cash, while some report they're living large. Who are Somalia's pirates anyway?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing (63 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
And what are they going to do with all that money?
posted by UrineSoakedRube at 12:29 PM on November 21, 2008 [3 favorites]


Paging Pompeius Magnus!
posted by resurrexit at 12:34 PM on November 21, 2008


Dangit, I wanna be a pirate :(
posted by eparchos at 12:37 PM on November 21, 2008


People only don't like them because of racism.
posted by Artw at 12:38 PM on November 21, 2008


Okay, some advice for a less than tech-savvy firefox user who is getting tired of talking ads? I really don't want to click on anyone's wee.
posted by elwoodwiles at 12:39 PM on November 21, 2008


Pirates
Deleted Pirates
posted by lee at 12:41 PM on November 21, 2008


The RIAA could not be reached for comment.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 12:42 PM on November 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


Okay, some advice for a less than tech-savvy firefox user who is getting tired of talking ads? I really don't want to click on anyone's wee.

AFLAC duck walks up to the podium, taps the mic twice, and clears his throat.
...
"ADBLOCK!"

Adblock Plus (Easylist subscription) + Adblock Element Hiding Helper + NoScript = you win at the internet. I also like using a HOSTS file, but I think that may be more trouble than it is worth.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 12:43 PM on November 21, 2008


Mom! Dad! Don't touch it -- it's evil!

Wait, no, those are Time Bandits.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:43 PM on November 21, 2008


You see, internet, you see what happens when your innocent little memes get out of control.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 12:45 PM on November 21, 2008 [2 favorites]


This is what happens when you nick a freighter full of gas?
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:51 PM on November 21, 2008 [9 favorites]


Send in the ninjas.
posted by Sailormom at 12:55 PM on November 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


India is sending another vessel to the region. A destroyer class bigger than the frigate they used earlier this week to sink a pirate mother ship.
I wonder if the pirates have anything they can field to counter an actual naval vessel. Perhaps an anti ship missile has been gather dust somewhere? Or maybe they will just buy a few. They seem to be garnering some serious cash with some of their ransoms.
posted by a3matrix at 12:56 PM on November 21, 2008


As someone noted in the other pirate thread, these guys can pick up some pretty heavy weaponry from their hauls. Fricking tanks from that Ukrainian vessel.

Saw note of the pirate-hunting Islamist fighters in the news earlier today, and that pretty much needs to become a graphic novel, movie, or video game, pronto.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 1:00 PM on November 21, 2008


I hope this puts the stupid pirates and ninjas memes to rest for good. There's nothing even remotely funny about this.
posted by proj at 1:13 PM on November 21, 2008


WHO DA REAL PIRATES?! And yeah this would be an awesome video game, as several have noted.
posted by jcruelty at 1:13 PM on November 21, 2008


And actually... there is something remotely funny about this.
posted by jcruelty at 1:14 PM on November 21, 2008


On the upside, no more worries about global warming!
posted by elfgirl at 1:18 PM on November 21, 2008


a3matrix: If losing to a a Navy means the Navy sends a bigger ship, I imagine the result of actually sinking a ship would be even worse for the long term pirate business plan.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:30 PM on November 21, 2008


I suspect all this recent attention, in general, is not going to be great for the long term pirate business plan. I also suspect that the days of paying the pirates being considered acceptable behaviour are limited – that little arrangement worked when people didn’t generally know or think about it, but once publiscised people are going to kick up a stink about it.
posted by Artw at 1:38 PM on November 21, 2008


CLASS WAR
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 1:45 PM on November 21, 2008


Considering how the world's economies are developing, pirate may be a viable career option to consider.
posted by pyrex at 1:50 PM on November 21, 2008


Heh, what are they goign to do... oh Glob of Mail, you're so funny:

*CITI IN TALKS WITH SOMALI PIRATES FOR POSSIBLE CAPITAL INFUSION

*WILL REQUIRE ALL CITI EMPLOYEES TO WEAR PATCH OVER ONE EYE

*SOMALIAN PIRATES APPLY TO BECOME BANK TO ACCESS TARP

*PAULSON: TARP PIRATE EQUITY IS AN `INVESTMENT,' WILL PAY OFF

*KASHKARI SAYS `SOMALI PIRATES ARE 'FUNDAMENTALLY SOUND' '

*Moody's upgrade Somali Pirates to AAA
posted by GuyZero at 1:52 PM on November 21, 2008 [11 favorites]


Back in late September some pirate skiffs tried to board the John Lenthall (civilians on board, but navy security teams protecting it) and they opened up on the prirates and drove them off.

This is kind of why the Millenium Falcon was so bad ass. Oh sure it looks like Han Solo is doing nothing but drifting to the left in the face of being fired on. But he had a lot of illegal hardware on what was ostensibly a civilian cargo ship.

Same deal. The shipping under U.S. protection is pretty well defended. For commercial carriers - you’ve got some legal issues sailing into port with .50’s mounted at a cws on your forward hull.
(Some halfwits argue they should be hidden - ‘what legal problems?’ - well, what’s the difference between a cargo ship with guns on it and a pirate cargo ship with guns on it? Yeah, I can’t tell either. Hell, some Admiral suggested they hire mercs. Yeah, if there’s one thing mercinaries are, they’re trustworthy when there’s huge sums of money to be made. This is dog mentality. (vs. wolf mentality) Like somehow everyone is really what they seem to be and no one’s going to play one off of the other or go to rip off the insurance companies - uh huh.)

So some have non-lethal weaponry, LRADs (big acoustic cannons) but those can be really pricey.

Oh, I might go with snipers myself (say a .50 Barrett - in part because it’s not so useful offensively by pirates - and snipers have been used since ships were wind powered - what do you think those tops - the platform at the masthead - were for?), there’s a variety of tactical solutions, some time tested, some technology driven, etc. but this isn’t a tactical Navy problem.

Somalia has mostly been forgotten by the international community . If it were my kids begging, starving or whoring in the street I’d take up piracy too.

I wouldn’t lay it all on Clinton. B.B. Gali and the UN sec. general went after Aideed like he was the only bad guy in the region. I won’t go into UNOSOM II, but long story short - very very poor allocation of specialized strategic assets and personnel. Not to mention undermanning and underfunding the operation (much of which can be laid at the feet of the congress at the time - still Clinton was the CiC). So we should have gone in with more beef.

On the other hand, I agree with Kim Abbott’s assessment that currently any UN military deployment could - as is so often the case in Somalia (e.g. the Council of Somali Islamic Courts which controlled a hunko the south central region saying a few years ago while they were fighting the Ethiopians they’d wage a jihad against any foreign troops on GP - along with the Ethiopians) military intervention could exacerbate the situation even if you’re just trying to deliver aid or create a cease fire - whatever.

The term ‘shit sandwich’ comes to mind.

At least in the golden age of sail, mostly all pirates did was rip off the insurance companies (who were ripping off the indigenous folks). This is anarchy. With tribal warfare, political chaos and, oh yeah, pirates sprinkled on top.

Dammit I wish I was smarter.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:08 PM on November 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


Pirates sound like a joke, but this has a huge economic impact on the region. If the freighters stop using this route it will change a lot of things.

It's a good sign the world should be paying some attention to north Africa.
posted by Belle O'Cosity at 2:17 PM on November 21, 2008


Only in Somalia!

(I promise I take this seriously, but nonetheless Weebl does not disappoint.)
posted by Countess Elena at 2:24 PM on November 21, 2008


Deleted Pirates

That never works. They just move to a new tracker.
posted by rokusan at 2:27 PM on November 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


Pirates are funny, really funny. When you discuss them with your libertarian friends or acquaintances.

On further thought, it is your libertarian friends or acquaintances who become funny, really funny, when you discuss pirates with them.
posted by dirty lies at 2:28 PM on November 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


What do pirates have to do with libertarianism? (This isn't a rhetorical question, I've seen this reference before and don't understand it.)
posted by proj at 2:30 PM on November 21, 2008


They don't pay taxes OR use roads, making them more libertarian than libertarians.
posted by Artw at 2:34 PM on November 21, 2008


They are never seen fighting because the promise of money keeps them together.

Wounded pirates are seldom seen and our reporter says he has never heard of residents along Puntland's coast finding a body washed ashore.


Huh, that's the opposite of what I would expect. I would think that piracy was dangerous enough (especially in small-scale attacks) to incur lots of injuries, and that if the injured pirates didn't recover quickly, they would be killed and dumped by their shipmates. I suppose that, since there is hardly any lawful pursuit in Somalia for law-abiding people to have, these pirates are rather a less sociopathic population than equivalent gangs of armed thieves would be elsewhere. Not that that helps a whole lot.
posted by Countess Elena at 2:34 PM on November 21, 2008


And regarding the question about the Somali pirates sinking a navy ship, look at what happened when they downed an helicopter during Operation Gothic Serpent1, using an old RPG fired straight up from the ground2.


1. Night of the Living Brownies, the movie, is based on Black Hawk Down, the book, which is based on Operation Gothic Serpent, the USA special forces operation.
2. Firing an RPG straight up from the ground rates just above Firing and RPG from inside an enclosed vehicle in cracked.com's list of The ten messiest ways to kill yourself list.

posted by dirty lies at 2:37 PM on November 21, 2008


Night of the Living Brownies, the movie, is based on Black Hawk Down, the book, which is based on Operation Gothic Serpent.

Wow. Kudos to Ridley Scott for getting the least-gay title option, anyway.
posted by rokusan at 2:42 PM on November 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


What do pirates have to do with libertarianism?

All for none and none for all.

Nice post title. The meek shall inherit nothing.
posted by ersatz at 2:44 PM on November 21, 2008


http://www.metafilter.com/65980/China-Mi%C3%A9ville-says-libertarianisms-all-at-sea
posted by dirty lies at 2:45 PM on November 21, 2008


Yo ho hoo-be Jawn Galt, aarr!?
posted by Smedleyman at 2:49 PM on November 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


You wouldn't steal an oil tanker, would you?
posted by Bokononist at 3:51 PM on November 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


Well, I think these pirate chaps have really done it now. When they were taking Liberian registered panamaxes carrying prunes or dates or whatever crewed by Philipinos, no-one cared all that much. But now, they've touched the oil (which must flow etc.) the Saudis will not like this. They'll negotiate to get their $100M asset back, and then, there will be blood.
Expect those islamists in Somalia to suddenly get themselves a whole bunch of new weapons and cash, it wouldn't surprise me to see some of these pirates in a Riyadh square a few months from now getting the old choppy choppy.

Incidentally, the reasons that no-one has armed mercs on board are:
a) What crew would operate under those conditions? Do you want to be captured after killing only a few of the pirates?
b) Insurance won't cover those ships
posted by atrazine at 3:58 PM on November 21, 2008


The reason this isn't (or hasn't been) dangerous for the pirates is that the ship crews generally don't fight back. There's no reason too, since it's no skin off their back and their employer will usually pay the ransom.
posted by delmoi at 4:11 PM on November 21, 2008


Something that's always seemed bizarre to me - really big crimes - meh. Not so big crimes, but flashy, OMG!
I mean, $25 million is chump change. We lost what, $9 billion in Iraq?

I know, not related- I'm just sayin' perspective/ media attention/ public outrage/ all that - and Ok, WorldCom honcho Bernard Ebbers got 25 years, but you've got guys (under the three strikes law) like Rene Landa serving 27 to life for stealing a spare tire, or forging a check or stealing pizza.
The articles here saying pirates live a life of luxury, all that, seem of a similar vein. (Not that I empathize with them.) I get why the attention is there. Just kinda weird.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:31 PM on November 21, 2008


ship crews generally don't fight back. There's no reason too, since it's no skin off their back and their employer will usually pay the ransom.

Added to which, they're usually not permitted to be armed, as this short but informative piece from the Globe explains.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 4:41 PM on November 21, 2008


P.S. eponysterical.
posted by GrammarMoses at 5:13 PM on November 21, 2008


I heard that on the DVD of the Watchmen movie they're going to do the pirate story with all Somali pirates.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 6:14 PM on November 21, 2008


The reason this isn't (or hasn't been) dangerous for the pirates is that the ship crews generally don't fight back.

The same was true for airplane hijackers before 9/11 CHANGED EVERYTHING.

I suppose the boat occupants will rise up against hijackers after they start ramming tall buildings.
posted by graventy at 8:23 PM on November 21, 2008


History Channel did a piece a while back on modern pirates, and laid the blame for the rise in piracy on the end of the Cold War. Said that without those massive navies circling around keeping an eye on each other, the seas were wide open again.

I don't know enough about piracy, or seafairing, to have an opinion on that, but that is how they saw it.
posted by paisley henosis at 8:46 PM on November 21, 2008


Also: piracy is no laughing matter. But I find it endlessly intriguing that a handful of poor, disenfranchised people, be they Somali, or Phillipino, or what-have-you, can have a very real, noticeable affect on the entire world.

A half-dozen guys, with guns and speed boats, and they can require much richer, and more powerful nations to mobilize flotillas, just to vanish back to their homes when The Western Navies show up. Hard to imagine, in this day and age, the gnat dictating the behavior of the elephant.
posted by paisley henosis at 8:51 PM on November 21, 2008


nothing funny about pirates. My sister in laws father was murdered @ high sea by pirates. Laughing about pirates is no better than cheering on an online suicide. Really, what has happened to us? Were we this cold hearted before, but anonymity exacerbates it? pardon in advance my curmudgeonliness.
posted by jcworth at 8:57 PM on November 21, 2008


The thing I don't understand about the pirates attacking the Indian warship story is what the pirates thought was going to happen. I understand them the pirates bluffing and hoping that warship does not engage them but why in the world would you fire at a frigate?

I did some googling and I found a story back in April announcing that seven Somali pirates might be subject to the death penalty for piracy in Puntland but I never found any news on what actually happened to them. I found other stories about pirates being put ashore after being detained for a few days. Are conditions in Somalia so bad that the loss of a mother ship is equivalent to a death sentence?
posted by rdr at 10:36 PM on November 21, 2008


Wait, the pirates had a Mother Ship???

A Mother Ship??

?
posted by dirigibleman at 11:00 PM on November 21, 2008


Nothing is less funny then people trying to dictate what is and isn't funny.
posted by delmoi at 11:12 PM on November 21, 2008


Wait, the pirates had a Mother Ship???

A Mother Ship??


Since the attacks usually occur far out (hundreds of kilometers) at sea, you need a bigger vessel that is more seaworthy and can carry supplies for a long period of time. However, you need smaller, agile ships to scout for, and then board cargo ships. Hence the larger vessel acts as a mother ship.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:22 PM on November 21, 2008


Why pay many million dollars ransome, with the near certainty of a repeat hijack when for a few million you can persuade your more militant followers to metaphorically chop off the pirate's heads in the name of Allah the most merciful for daring to fuck with the man.
posted by adamvasco at 12:41 AM on November 22, 2008


I don't really see this piracy thing lasting too much longer. It only survives because nobody is bothering to combat it. If the pirates managed to piss off a major power - I mean really piss them off, not just annoy them - they'll get eradicated. They could neither survive nor successfully flee a modern navy, not with radar, aircraft, and submarines. Also, a real criminal or terrorist organization would make mincemeat.

Eventually someone, somewhere will be fed up, and they'll be eradicated in the manner most befitting the power who does it (if it's the US, they'll end up in Guantanamo.) And that will mostly be that.
posted by Mitrovarr at 1:22 AM on November 22, 2008


One aspect of this which is being curiously ignored by the media is that of the intermediaries transmitting the money to the pirates. Turns out many payments are carried out through shipping firms in the City of London. In fact, at least one Spanish shipowner has already wondered aloud whether the real pirates are in Somalia or London (Of course, in all matters of piracy, we Spaniards tend to be rather suspicious of any involvement by perfidous Albion. Some deep historical memories there...)

Note that the same article also mentions that in other cases the payments are carried out directly by mercenary firms, mostly ex-SAS people. That raises even uglier questions about potential collusion...
posted by Skeptic at 8:00 AM on November 22, 2008 [2 favorites]


Expect those islamists in Somalia to suddenly get themselves a whole bunch of new weapons and cash, it wouldn't surprise me to see some of these pirates in a Riyadh square a few months from now getting the old choppy choppy.

Saw a History Channel show (or was it Discovery...not sure) on modern pirates in the shipping channels. They showed actual footage of a bunch of pirates captured by the Chinese. The Chinese don't fuck around as we know. These pirates didn't get the choppy choppy, they got the shooty shooty - right in the head, in the public square, filmed for posterity. History Channel showed the whole thing. Said that after this footage was distributed, piracy against Chinese ships plummetted to about zero.

Not sure when this was.
posted by spicynuts at 8:15 AM on November 22, 2008


I have to say this that I found the whole "Indian navy wades in to save the day" quite romantic ;p
posted by infini at 1:19 PM on November 22, 2008


Well, it seems that they keep their word, anyway.
posted by rokusan at 5:43 PM on November 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


The problem is that somalia is a double choke point, if you look at the map of pirated ships you'll see most of the taken vessels were going to the suez canal but, as this pirate FAQ from a ship's captain states, the tankers leaving the gulf and going south to round the horn of Africa also must pass by somalia.
posted by unofficialsquaw.com at 2:59 PM on November 23, 2008


An American businesswoman with connections to U.S. intelligence and the military has been talking with the Somali pirates.
posted by adamvasco at 3:02 AM on November 28, 2008


imho, the implications of these two snippets from the same article are extremely intriguing

Frustrated with the pirates, a senior government official told ABC News, "It's pretty sad when a horse country socialite has more sway in Somalia than the whole U.S. government."


According to Newland, the American businesswoman is greeted like royalty in Somalia, adding that the Somalis like her because she identifies their needs and comes up with solutions so they can support themselves. She is reportedly known in Somalia as Amira, or "Princess" in Arabic.
posted by infini at 3:47 AM on November 28, 2008


From the ABC article:
"Michele Ballarin has gone over there for five years on her own, built a network of clan and sub-clan leaders in every region of the country," Ross Newland, a business colleague of Ballarin's, told ABC News Wednesday.

Ballarin, who has traveled to Somalia many times, returned just last week from a two-week trip to the troubled country, Newland said. Her travels coincided with the recent spate of pirate attacks off the Somali coast.
Who is Michele Ballarin? The chief executive of Select Armor - a US military firm based in Virginia. This article from 2006 says:
Michele Ballarin, a listed contact at Select Armor also writes, “‘My contact whom we discussed from the agency side requested an in-person meeting with me. I arrived in New York at 2340 last night and was driven to Virginia – arriving at 0200 today.’” – which the Observer takes to refer to the CIA.
She also donated $2300 to Hilary Clinton's campaign last February. Is that relevant, you ask? Everything is relevant when you're talking pirates!
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:45 AM on November 28, 2008


Mummy, can I phone the pirates? Reporter calls the pirated tanker so many times that her 12 year old daughter asks if she can call. Includes audio of reporter and ship captain.
posted by lee at 10:16 AM on November 29, 2008


U.S. proposes going ashore to hunt pirates.
posted by adamvasco at 4:18 AM on December 11, 2008


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