Mar 19, 2011
Kenneth J. Hidu
I received your solicitation of Piracy Solutions from a colleague on the ship. I hope your efforts contribute to some constructive discussions and solutions.
I would like to see a more offensive and active solution implemented, rather than a reactive and passive approach which allows pirates the advantage of seizing a vessel and crew and thus controlling the situation. Perhaps a series of random vessels (flag, type, size, etc) could be temporarily acquired (chartered, loaned, etc) and operated with the sole purpose of baiting pirate attacks. The idea here would be two-fold: 1) create a deterrent to attack by presenting an elevated risk to the pirate fleets; and 2) reduce pirate numbers through gradual attrition.
Charters would be of limited duration and ships would rotate out to increase the variety of targets; two-month charters could be a reasonable starting point. These bait ships would contain highly armed and outfitted security teams and brave operators and conduct a series of seemingly routine voyages in the high risk pirate zones. Multiple crews of ship operators and security details could be assembled, actual numbers TBD, but four crews could be a reasonable starting point, with three at sea at any given time. Rules of engagement for piracy boardings could authorize the liberal use of lethal force. Allied naval support could continue to augment the security details and provide other tasking.
The profile of this operation will need to be assessed with respect to the current hostage situation. If it is deemed that overt counter-piracy operations could lead to counter-attacks on existing hostages, then perhaps the operations may need to be more clandestine. The Admiralty Law experts would need to be involved to assess any high seas legal ramifications and any necessary treaties prepared among states. A dedicated piracy court may need to be established for prosecutions and incarceration logistics and costs allocated among states.
This will not be an overnight fix; this process could take months or years to remedy, with "remedy" being a relative term. Insurance company pools and/or other shipping "toll" charges, along with commitment of flag state funds, could be potential sources of funding. The economics of the costs to operate vice the savings in terms of reduced losses will be the likely motivation which defines the longevity of any such program, along with the political will of nations to continue to recognize and fund the solution. Progress versus cost would need to be assessed at periodic intervals.
I realize that this concept is presented general terms and an outline form, as it would be difficult to go into much detail from my current limited involvement with piracy in the region. Thanks again for the role you are playing in the overall debate, and good luck with your article. We, who work on the high seas and all of our loved ones ashore are all hoping for a good solution to this problem.
R/ Ken Hidu, PE
Chief Engineer USNS Rainier (T-AOE 7)
FPO AP 96677-4005