WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS VIOLENT AND GRAPHIC MATERIAL - AS WELL AS SOME VERY OPINIONATED POLITICALLY INCORRECT VIEWS!!! Alright guys - many of you know that nothing will fire me up quite as quickly as a discussion about piracy. I have wanted to write about pirates for quite some time now. I had intended the post to be an educational rather than opinion piece however, the recent increase in piracy activities has my blood boiling.
Here is what I'd like everyone to understand: Pirates are scary and they always have been!
There is a very important distinction to be made between a sea gypsy and a pirate. I know people who have chosen a nomadic lifestyle - who truly enjoy the wonder to be found on the ocean - they lead a simple but rich life and with time become salty old sea dogs. Please do not confuse the romance of the ocean, the discovery of hidden treasures, and the promise of adventure with piracy.
Pirates are maritime terrorists - and they always have been. Pirates profit from the fear that their very presence induces. Whether sailing a tall ship or motoring a white skiff the effect is the same - on sight sailors realize that their cargoes and truly their very lives are at stake. Piracy was never romantic.
I fear that movies like Pirates of the Caribbean which feature a swaggering and endearing character like Jack Sparrow have confused the general populace. The commercialism associated with pirate memorabilia makes me sick. If you go to a shop like Hot Topic you can buy: hot pink skull and cross-bone post it notes; jolly roger t-shirts; pirate flag shoe laces - you name it. On Facebook you can set your language to 'pirate' - show me a pirate who actually says 'argh' or 'aye matey'. I made a personal vow that I would never buy anything that I consider 'pirate paraphernalia'. You would never see a murderer or rapist's signature mass marketed and I don't considered piracy trademarks to be any different.
Recently four Americans were kidnapped and executed by pirates. These friends were casually sailing through the Seychelles - and I have to wonder, what their personal risk assessment was prior to their tragic encounter? Did they not understand that the waters of the Indian Ocean were teeming with pirates? Were they unaware that pirate boats now carry RPGs and not canon's? Anyway I look at it I come to the conclusion that no one told them exactly how scary pirates really are.
The reality is that piracy is now a shore based problem with a shore based solution. We are looking at extremely impoverished war torn nations who have suddenly discovered that there is BIG money to be made. I recently read an article that implied that there are now commercial entities 'backing' Somali pirate rings - they are providing them with weaponry, ammunition, better and faster boats, etc. We are no longer looking at an organized and low key operation that may consider stealing the money from the Captains safe and leaving. We are looking at an organization who have pre selected their targets and may have need for their cargoes. Please also consider the money involved in ransoming crew members - on the flip side of that...there are hundreds of Filipino sailors currently being held hostage! You don't hear too much about how many sailors are still being held because their governments and companies aren't advocating their return.
My ship is currently on a Persian Gulf and Horn of Africa run. I have seen pirates. I'm on a heavily armed vessel - this is not the norm - and it is still scary! I can only imagine how terrified the four crew members were who recently lost their lives to pirates. When warning shots are fired you have to take into consideration that you may in fact see someone be killed. However, let me be very clear about something - I'm okay with shooting pirates. If you attempt to board a vessel there can only be one conclusion drawn: you mean to do me or my shipmates harm.
I've spliced together two video clips - in the first clip warning shots were fired and in the second flares were fired. I'm only showing a few seconds of each incident. During the second incident we were literally 'swarmed' with small boats - I could count 15 small white skiffs. The incident lasted almost two hours before the skiffs made their approach. In the second clip you can hear me saying that a boat is coming up on the port quarter very quickly - it came within 150 ft of our stern! When you think that it takes miles to stop a tanker and that we could easily have a 1 nautical mile turning radius 150 ft is way too close.
How can you dispute that these skiffs were up to no good?
I think that the British had it right. String them up. Make an example out of pirates who were caught. The Somali pirate that was captured following the Maersk Alabama hijacking just received life in prison - totally unacceptable. These days the people who have it right are the Russians. This YouTube video is graphic - however, I think it is important to see the type of weapons pirates have aboard their vessels as well as how easily they really could be fisherman! Again, the following clip contains blood, swearing and violence - but at the end they blow the pirate boat up...sweet.