Uh, Really?

Wired’s Danger Room has an interview with a Somali shipping pirate.

Who sounds oddly like a Silicon Valley startup executive. These are all quotes from the pirate:

“Once you have a ship, it’s a win-win situation.”

“Hostages – especially Westerners – are our only assets, so we try our best to avoid killing them.”

“A single mission with 12 armed men and boats costs a little over $30,000. But a successful investor has to dispatch at least three or four missions to get lucky once.”

And my favorite:

“The financiers are the most important since they organize and plan the big shot operations and are able to pay running cost[s]. Financiers always need to forge deals with traders, land cruiser owners, translators, business people to keep the supplies flowing during operations and manage the logistics. There is a long supply chain involved in every hijacking.

…and as soon as we learn to automate and optimize it, we’ll attain unheard-of efficiencies in pirate management!!

I’m not saying that the interview is completely bogus – but this just sets off my BS detector. I’d love to actually hear the tape.

And as a blue-water sailor, there was one thing that rang kind of false as well:

“Beyond that, in my case deploy a boat with six men to get close to the ship and leave another in reserve near the coast just in case we need backup. We use sophisticated equipment that allows us to spot our targets from a distance. We always have to be close to the main sea lane and keep in touch with each other using talkie phones.”

So the sea lanes off Somalia are about 4 – 6 degrees latitude from the coast – so figure they are 240 – 360 miles from shore.

Unless he means the backup boats lurk like 200 miles off the coast – a broad definition of ‘near the coast’ – the time to get backup in place to catch a 15 – 20kt ship with a 25kt power launch from 100 miles away is on the order of 15 – 18 hours. Some backup…

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7 thoughts on “Uh, Really?”

  1. A single mission with 12 armed men and boats costs a little over $30,000.

    No matter what the price of marine diesel is in Somalia, the pirates seem to favor inflatable speedboats, so I can’t see them carrying $30,000 worth of fuel.

    Is pirate such a highly paid profession in Somalia? If they don’t work on commission, they’re not even real pirates.

  2. Been a while since I’ve been here. Hope I don’t mess up my tags.

    Check out NPR’s Planet Money Podcast. I believe they did a couple of “podcasts”:http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2009/04/pirates_have_timesheets.html which match up to what was said. At least for the supply chain, and payments – and timesheets. It’s very interesting. One of the pirate negotiators gave a Danish shipping CEO a “baby camel”:http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2009/05/hear_and_three_baby_camels.html.
    There may have been three which touched on pirates, I think one that interviewed their negotiator directly.

    This is a podcast to subscribe to.

    _the time to get backup in place to catch a 15 – 20kt ship_
    Think of multiple attack vectors, and it may cut it down. Northern tip of Somalia to the northeast, then to the direct east. 150 miles direct and you’ve got it covered in 5 hours.
    That’s not including using motherships, though I’m not sure how common that became.

  3. Dave – interesting podcast; but it was a Western academic analyst speaking – hence using western jargon. My issue is with the idea that a Somali fisherman would use the jargon of a Wharton student…still seems unlikely. I’m reaching out to the author of the piece…

    Yeah, I can imagine scenarios where the intercept is plausible – but few of them get the backups there in time to matter. Maybe there just isn’t such a hurry?

    Marc

  4. Not sure – I think the pirate negotiator in the Planet Money podcast spent 20+ years in the US as a lawyer, and the financiers are often London based and have made money out of the country. Either one of them could give it a run if they were interviewed, but as management know enough of the day to day operations to pass.

    It would not be surprised if Danger Room and Planet Money hit on the same people, or at least people who travel in similar channels. You could probably reach out to Dr. Pham as well to find out. Guest pirate post, yarrrr.

    _Maybe there just isn’t such a hurry?_
    I think that there are attempts to rush a helicopter to the ships in question – once the security gets on board, they usually stop.
    Take a look at the “previous Wired article”:http://www.wired.com/politics/security/magazine/17-07/ff_somali_pirates for a spiffy chart of attack areas.

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