EDITOR'S NOTE: Our boy Joe Buff went a little crazy on his latest post, forwarding me a 1700 word essay about the evolving piracy threat, the shipping industry's response and the geopolitics of marauding banditry.
So what I did is post it to a Military.com news page and break it into two digestable parts. I'll crop a little teaser here, but be sure to read the rest of part one after the excerpt...
Is King Neptune trying to mock the multinational counter-piracy mission of Combined Task Force 151 off the Horn of Africa? Just a couple of days before November 20's festivities in Norfolk, VA, where M/V Maersk Alabama's Captain Phillips thanked the skipper and crew of USS Bainbridge (DDG-98) for his life-and-death rescue from Somali pirates back in April, another band of Somali pirates attacked M/V Maersk Alabama again. Only this time, following the latest recommended shipping industry best practices, a private security detail was aboard. They drove the pirates off after a brief firefight and non-lethal noise projector barrage at 300 yards range; there were no reported injuries.-- Joe Buff
But behind these two different types of American operational successes lies a more troubling picture. In response to outside pressures, pirate mission planning and implementation have gotten more ambitious and sophisticated during 2009, especially since the summer monsoons died down. According to London's International Maritime Bureau, although a smaller percentage of hijacking raids have succeeded this year relative to 2008 - 11% compared to 17% - a larger number of attacks have occurred, 359 so far this year compared to 293 total last year. The types of ships attacked and sometimes hijacked run the gamut from oil tankers, coal carriers, container ships, and bulk cargo ships, to fishing boats and private yachts. While published estimates vary, right now Somali pirates hold captive about one dozen vessels, anchored in shallow water, and almost 300 crewmembers, most held aboard in horrendous living conditions.