back to article Retro piracy - Should the Royal Navy kick arse?

As everyone knows, runaway piracy is a terrible threat. Unchecked, pirates might destroy the very business models which underpin much of our economy, bringing legitimate commerce to a halt - with devastating consequences both for those who make things and for those who use them. That may or may not be true on the internet: but …


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  1. Anton Ivanov
    Paris Hilton

    Good points all around, so just small nitpicking

    Quote: "Presumably someone else will provide the actual ships".

    I guess they did. The pirates were apprehended JOINTLY by HMS Cumberland and Neustrashimuy. As you correctly noted both were carrying tons of weaponry useless against anything short of an enemy battle group (or submarine fleet). However the Neustrashimuy was carrying aslo guess what? A KA-27 helicopter...

    You are quite correct however that one helicopter carrier along with a couple of troop transports for the marines with some support from a couple of spotter planes flying from Djibuty can deal with the piracy off the Horn of Africa once and for all. Sending frigates there is a waste of taxpayer money.

  2. lIsRT

    Can't they protect themselves?

    Is there any practical reason why merchant ships can't plonk a couple of heavy machine guns somewhere with a good field of fire? (plus someone keeping watch, obviously)

    For the bigger ones, it can't be more than a fraction of the cost of the ship - or even having it delayed a week while pirates are negotiated off.

    Problem is, I think I remember hearing that it's against the law (on the ocean...?) - maybe time for a change.

  3. jonathan keith


    Are pirates still liable to summary execution if captured during battle? That would resolve any sticky legal problems of bringing them before a court.

    Maybe the Americans could be involved?

  4. greg

    let me be the first to say...


  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "or even a member of the RAF"


  6. Stevie


    But 'tis the shortage o' men t' crew these stout ships that be the problem!

    'Tis the return o the Press I be predictin', wi' roamin' gangs o' jolly Jack Tars patrolling the waterfront o' Skegness, Blackpool and many another seaside haven, ready t' tap the noggin' o' any cove rum enough t' be splicin' the mainbrace wi'out bein' mob-handed.

    Ye'll all be learnin' t' run from the merry sound o' a hornpipe or shanty played on the concertina, I be thinkin'.


  7. lIsRT

    Actually, they do...

    I just remembered seeing a (spent?) nuclear fuel transport ship, pretty sure it wasn't Navy, with guns of some sort mounted on it, so this is already done. Somehow.

  8. Chief Engineer
    Thumb Up

    At Last

    Some one who understands what is going on down and around Gulf Of Aden. Although 1 in 1000 is low would you want to be the 1? I dont and I know plenty who dont, I transit the area regularly and have heard attacks carried out on the radio, it is eeirie and disturbing. The Navy have enough to do without watching us, but hey we'll take all the help we can get.

    The Americans want to arm Merchant Vessels, however that upsets thier plans for controlling Merchant Vessels visiting their ports.

    Follow the French example they dont care if it's one of thiers they will go and get it/ them back, in fact just let the French do it.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No ships at all.

    22,000 Ships, 365 days is 60 ships a day.

    A ten man armed squad from a nation with a vested interest (Egypt perhaps) on each ship would be about 600 men, more like a 1200 man commitment allowing for spares.

    I'm guessing that 1200 Egyptian soldiers and a largish boat, which doesn't even have to be a warship, for them to hang out on. Would cost an unimaginably small fraction of the cost of flying even one helicopter around for a year, and would stop the pirates completely.

    Ten is probably too many, and a squad on every other ship would probably be sufficient.

    Once the pirates give up the whole op could be scaled back to less than a quarter of the strength.

  10. Anon

    Be nice to pirates

    Couldn't they deliver extra munitions to the pirates? Even if a pirate was in a hurry to get away, I'm sure Bofors et al. produce suitable delivery systems. Just don't tell anyone we're being so generous...

    Ooh... an icon that refers to flank speed...

  11. Christoph

    12 mile limit

    "International warships generally have no rights to act against pirates inside someone else's 12-mile limit."

    Does 'hot pursuit' not apply?

    Oh, and the navy did have the right kit for hunting pirates but Pertwee flogged it all off.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    My word Lewis, you'd better have a lie down after that piece.

    Five pages to say that senior members of the military engage in personal empire-building and that military ops are often undertaken for purely political ends !

    I'm sure your commentary is accurate but still, wow !

  13. Andrew Moore

    The solution...

    Scupper every pirate vessel (there's a dhow (Davy) Jones sinking joke in there somewhere).

  14. michael W

    say what?

    "Presumably someone else will provide the actual ships. (Good luck with that - other European countries mostly make our navy look massive. The only exception is the French, and they have plenty of admirals of their own.)"

    What are you referring to specifically here? the UK has the third largest navy in both number of ships and overall tonnage, so we do have a massive navy, maybe not in the same league as Russia or the US but it's hardly an illusion :P

  15. Robert Ramsay

    They've obviously...

    ...never seen Under Siege...

    "A typical modern day sailor - say a radar operator or a cook - may be little handier in a face-to-face fight than a civilian"

  16. Paul

    Excellent article as always

    Is it me, or is the Navy all but redundant these days?

    Their only purpose seems to be to provide portable landing strips or missile launch platforms and to defend those assets.

    Everything else seems better suited to the Army or Airforce.

  17. Mark Dowling
    Thumb Down

    Where's the tech content here?

    Lewis Page on another rant - yawn.

  18. Admiral Grace Hopper

    @AC 14:28 - Harsh

    Not at all, just traditional crab-bashing.

  19. Dave


    Perhaps what's needed is a convoy system through the area - I guess it depends on how much it delays the merchant traffic. Just have a couple of warships waiting around, assemble a dozen merchant vessels (or more), then escort them through.

  20. Paul

    "with gunmen in speedboats seizing entire ships as often as once a week"

    How / how often do they seize 2/3 rds of a ship! :-)

  21. Parax

    Fight Global Warming...

    More Pirates Please!

    FSM etc etc...

  22. Efros


    Make the bastards walk the plank, response to seaborne piracy should be swift and lethal.


  23. Dave Harris
    Black Helicopters

    Excellent summary...

    ... as usual, Lewis. I do have to take issue with one point on the first page, though. I understood, from reading the local press, that the problem in this part of the world isn't so much the Singapore Strait, but the Malacca Straits, between Peninsula Malaysia and Sumatra. That would also better match your requirements for a nearby lawless or poor area sheltering them: Johor Baru and Singapore are reasonably provided for, or at least the part of JB that's at the very bottom of Malaysia. It's also an incredibly crowded shipping lane where people have to look out for each other, since the consequences of doing otherwise would be disastrous.

    The Malacca Straits, on the other hand, are much bigger, although also very busy. That said, Sumatra is a *very* large island, with lots of places for bad guys to slip away. Also, the Indonesian government seems to take the problem less seriously than the Malaysian government. They have far fewer resources in the area than Malaysia, despite Sumatra being larger than Peninsula Malaysia.

    As for a Naval solution, would it not be possible for someone at Thorneycroft or the like to design a new version of an MTB? They seemed to have some success against E-boats a number of years ago, I recall - fast, nippy and with some serious teeth. Perhaps acting as a minor battle group with a helicopter carrier?

    Finally, while piracy on the High Seas is still an offence liable to summary capital punishment on the statute books, I believe it ranks alongside arson in Her Majesty's dockyards as an anachronism. Furthermore, I think there just might be some pushback against from other nations, who might decide that RN ships were indulging in piracy every time they were enforcing arms embargoes or the like.

    Helicopters - would the need to be of the black kind? Not going for the obvious because, in this part of the world, it ain't no joke.

  24. David Simpson
    Thumb Up


    They should watch they don't raid shipments of CDs/DVDs then sell copies worldwide, The RIAA and the FBI would be invading Somalia by the end of the week.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    You're quite correct, the nuclear fuel transport ships are armed. They carry armed guards on board as well. However I believe they are a special case, for understandable reasons...

    I think some of our engineers have got better pictures as we've done some work on them.

  26. Michael

    Nuclear transport ships

    Those are probably PNTL, who I think carry CNC guys on board. They're the specialist "police who aren't police" who protect nuclear sites and materials that are being moved.

  27. Joel Stobart

    pirates vs...

    cant we just send in the ninjas?

  28. Anonymous Coward

    "or even a member of the RAF"

    I'll get you with my moustaches, you bounder!

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's obvious how to catch them.

    Step 1. They don't just steal this stuff and then stay at sea, they have to come to shore to sell it, so we put a tracker on something expensive, and demand a ship follow a gps course. If it deviates, we know it's been hijacked immediately.

    Step 2. After locating them, we sentence them to death by steam iron.

    Hey presto. Problem solved.

  30. radian


    Surely the best way to stop piracy is to introduce them to health and safety.

    I for one would be interested in reading their risk assessment and I'm pretty sure that the news footage showed no sign of high-visibility clothing.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    I'm pretty sure that

    the Somali leader gave permission for the Russians, GB and any other interested nation to enter Somali waters and use "whatever means deemed necessary, including military force"

    Seems the Somalis have realised that the pirates are a thorn they don't need in their side and the idea of someone else killing them off quite appeals.

    I do agree that sending frigates etc is a total waste of time and money, and that smaller helicopter carriers would be a better idea.

    But then when did the MOD / ever use commonsense in anything??

    Example being the Eurofighter, all the wars we are embroiled in currently and lately would have been better fought with a fleet of A-10 close support aircraft than high altitude Multi role fighters....allegedly army and marines find the american A-10 pilots more help the the RAF boys and that afghani militants tend to retreat rapidly when an A-10 shows up.....don't blame them....wouldn't want to be on the receiving end of the "avenger cannon"

    Helicopter as thats whats needed

  32. David Edwards


    Does anyone else see the connection between HMS Cumberland's involvement and the fact that its national sausage week?

  33. TeeCee Gold badge

    Helicopter problem.

    Choppers are notoriously vulnerable to ground fire (you touched on this). Now, while having a standoff FY2 system is all well and good, the situation here was the pirates were challenged, opened fire and got hosed by return for their trouble. Changing this to "That looks like a pirate ship", press button, BOOM, takes the process to a new level. Let's face it, going in for a closer look, to see if they've got shoulder launched rocketry or a nice 20mm cannon squirrelled away somewhere, before going for the "...and the horse you rode in on" option has the drawback of holding quite a high risk of finding out that they have the hard way. You're veering into the Pyrrhan book of tactics here if you're thinking that way

    Not that I'm objecting to the concept of subjecting pirates to serious fuckage from range, it makes all the problems go away including repatriation, but I'll bet that it wouldn't go down well with the Guardian readers. I think we're stuck with fast boats and marines to keep the hand-wringing types happy.

  34. Anonymous Coward

    Is it wrong?

    Is it wrong that I saw the news item's photo depicting the "pirates" in a boat with their hands behind their heads..... and I thought they were doing the french taunt at the cameraman?

  35. Stevie

    12 mile limit

    "What idiot let that torpedo stray into territorial waters and sink that -p-i-r-a-t-e- innocent vessel seeking sanctuary from unjust pursuit? Slapsies all round number one and reload the starboard tubes!"

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Anti-climax of sorts

    Was I alone in expecting the solution to be sharks with frikkin' lasers on their heads? Mechanical ones with cavitation drives. Plus satellite surveillance (mil resolutions natch). Oh right, the UK is not allowed to print dollars.

    My other problem is why there were never pirates in the straits of Dover, only in Penzance?

  37. This post has been deleted by its author

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Sea cruise for Marines

    Several other countries have very competent equivalents of the Royal Marines. I have always thought that half a squad per cargo ship from the China Sea area through the Suez Canal would be a very good deterrent. No fast pursuit required, the pirates would present themselves for deterring/killing.

    Put a warship or five in the relevant areas for helicopter and larger weapon support.

    In a year or two the problem would be much reduced.

    And the Marines would have had a nice sea cruise.

  39. Jax

    Who cares about the tech angle?

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading that. :)

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Unleash the RIAA on them!!

  41. Elmer Phud

    re: They've obviously...

    The mere mention of a fighting cook or other ordinary forces person will always end up with Mr Seagull making an appearance. Just one quick flurry of slaps accompanied by the stony face that is hard yet somehow caring will soon put a stop to any threat to the world.

    Though I'm not sure that this is big enough for Steve - it may be of the scale required for another Rambo outing, he usually does these small local bookings.

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I am in shock

    A report by Lewis where he doesn't say lets buy the American one.

    I am vastly suprised that he didn't suggest buying American ships as they are better and more cost effictive than the UK one we currently use.

    Other than that a good article.

  43. Shane Orahilly


    "So let's assume, worst case, that pirates captured on the high seas would need to be brought to the UK for trial. "

    Bollocks to that - Cap'n to pass sentence, then keelhaul/cat o' nine or give 'em the Plank. Don't even need to make port.

  44. Matt Bryant Silver badge

    More RN helicopter carriers?

    Unlikely as the Navy would see those as a threat to their new fast-jet carriers. Do we have any anti-tank Lynx choppers left? Surely we could operate a dozen or so off a converted merchantman, seeing as the Army seems keener on the Apache now. Or we could rent a USN Amphibious Assault Ship or whatever they're calling their landing support chopper carriers.

    On the note of frigates and destroyers being too big, they do have the loiter capability to hang around off the pirate areas for weeks at a time. A fleet of small attack craft such as Boghammers would need a floating base ship or secure harbour to operate from. There is also the fact that a large warship tends to scare pirates away, which is often the preferred result for the PC brigade, whereas smaller craft may induce sillier pirates to have a go, much as the rigid-raiders used by the RMCs from HMS Cumberland drew fire from the pirates on Tuesday. Such gunfights risk people getting killed - not popular with the PC brigade if they're "disadvantaged third-worlders, or with our voter-sensitive politicians if their our boys and girls.

    The only long-term solution would be a Somali Navy, equipped with Boghammer-like craft to allow coastal pursuits, probably co-ordinated by NATO destroyers/frigates and their choppers, but that is unlikely given that the Somali government seems to be concentrating on its own survival on land just now.

    Maybe we could just ask a passing USN carrier to make a srike on Ely and sink all the pirate boats, it would garner some relief whilst the pirates tried to buy new boats, and Prez-elect Obama cold dress it up as being tough on crime, the causes of crime, etc, etc. Of course, I'm sure a good community organiser like Obama could just go to Ely and sort out all their problems in no time, without having to resort to that nasty fighting stuff....

  45. Chief Engineer

    @ lIsRT

    The ships you mean are PNTL Vessels, and where built with gun mounts, they only carry guns and perosnnel to use them when carrying the re-processed fuel.

    We (the Merchant Navy) arent alowed to be armed, much apart from anything, it ups the ante with the pirates and on a British Flagged vessel (there are still some of us) the 'Elf and Safety / Risk Assesment would be a mare.

    Remeber some of those "big ships" you all see container and tanker can carry as few as 13 (average 20) people and are leagally usually limited to 30 or so souls depending in Life Saving Appliances carried.

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Now I know this is a crap source but.....

    These pirate vessels are apparently good for catching merchantmen going 20 knots, so must be good for 25+.

    Looking at the RN fleet on wikipedia, I see that only Frigates, Destroyers and Aircraft carriers actually have the pace to catch them.

    Can it really be true that the River class patrol boats (best suited to this kind of malarky) can only do 20 knots?

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    I see your answer

    "trying to find some way of putting them ashore locally after capture"

    Yes, that would do it. I'm sure they would wash ashore somewhere, someday. If you want to stop piracy on the high seas just tell the RIAA / IFPI it's their stuff getting ripped off.

  48. randomtask
    Dead Vulture

    I honestly hope...

    ... you've finished creaming yourselves over the Military.

  49. Anonymous Coward

    Re: Can't they protect themselves?

    It is not. If the ship is formally chartered by the Navy of the operating country. It can after that put a squad of marines onboard and have the pirates done and dusted. This of course does not work very well for all those penny-pinching scumbags operating under Liberian or North Korean flags.

    It will in fact be a very good money earning protection racket for any navy with personnel in Djibuti (hehe... let's see if someone French is reading it).

    However, you still need some fairly long range helicopters and a few supporting ships to pick up the marine crews once they are done with their jobs. So end of the day it may not be cheaper compared to rotating a helicopter carrier from a different navy every few week for "extended live target practice".

  50. Frank Bough
    Thumb Up

    For Once...

    ...that all sounds eminently sensible. So it DEFINITELY won't happen.

  51. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "International warships generally have no rights to act against pirates inside someone else's 12-mile limit."

    Well, seeing as the pirates apparently believe that "might makes right", surely they should have no problem being pursued back into their own waters; turnabout is fair play, after all.

    And being the bloodthirsty bugger that I am, I've have no problem sinking their vessel and letting the bastards drown.

  52. Dave

    Easy solution

    The easiest solution for the UK to protect UK registered ships (which really isnt so much of a problem) would be to put a small detachment of Royal Marines on each ship and charge the ship owner a small fee for such protection.

    That or just start arming the sailors on these vessels and training them in firearms use.

    Once the pirates start having heavy losses when boarding vessels then they will stop, till then they will continue to chance it.

  53. John Edwards
    Paris Hilton

    Pirate Deterrence. Cheap and Easy

    One four inch shell on the waterline somewhere near the middle of the mothership, will do the needful before the warship sails away. As a refinement the speedboats could also be sunk. Any further annoyance could be met by bombarding the port where the pirates live. The Royal Navy stopped the Bey of Algeirs from sending slave taking parties to Southern Europe by this uncomplicated method.

    As an ex. serviceman I object to Marines being sent into danger just to be nice to savages. It ain't necessary.

    Paris from sheer habit.

  54. Craig Roberts


    Just a thought, but couldn't the Navy just send the pirates a strongly worded letter? Pointing out the pirates that they know what they've been doing?

    "On Tuesday 11th November you boarded and captured a ship that you do not own. This is illegal. If you wanted a ship, you can buy one from services such as iBoats?"

    As stated in another article, a high percentage of modern pirates stop pirating when they're educated and informed via a letter? :)

  55. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Armed forces just don't move with the times

    They are always trying to fight the last war rather than the next one. Someone clever originally said that but I agree with the sentiment.

    Still after air superiority, ocean control, main battle tanks, strategic bombing.

    None of these reflect the current threats.

    Admittedly we need to be able to react if an agressor country does rise up (and be able to counter their technology) but realistically any country that is not China, Russia or the US will end up getting squished by one or more of the aforementioned three and any countries that are China, Russia or America won't be stopped by anyone else no matter how advanced their technology is. Can anyone say "Nuke"??

    I say we just invest the military budgets in feeding the world and buying everyone flowers and kittens. Fluffy kittens.

  56. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Wait till Obama gets in office

    Obama will set up a dialog with the pirates, and being the statesman that he is will get the pirates to observe a 6 mile out of range policy.

    Paris - cause she likes going commando

  57. Michael


    Never mind the cd's .... what if they start shooting holes in one of these baby's?????

  58. Chris

    Not a new problem

    The area around Dubai was once known as the Pirate Coast, because the residents engaged in pretty much the same activities against ships traversing the the Straits of Hormuz. Then, for the next 100 years or so, it became known as the Trucial Coast. Why? Because Queen Victoria et al got fed up with that behavior and sent the Royal Navy round to get them to sign a Truce (at gun point). Problem solved.

    Of course that was back in the days when Britannia Ruled the Waves. Nobody wants to have an Empire any more. :-(

  59. Anonymous Coward

    Easy solution - if you have the balls

    Like the idea "And being the bloodthirsty bugger that I am, I've have no problem sinking their vessel and letting the bastards drown."

    Would'nt work - you have to teach them a lesson. What you need to do is sink thier boats

    and nee-cap the bas*ards, and ideally surviving. This way the lesson gets passed on to

    thier mates. DO that to dozen or so pirate gangs and the rest of them get the message.

  60. Anonymous Coward

    @Matt Bryant Re: More RN helicopter carriers?

    Wow - from a pirate issue to a rant against the President-elect.

    AYB? YSB.

  61. Keith T

    Disgraceful wealthy tax-avoiding freeloaders

    Wealthy ship owners use flags of convenience to avoid paying taxes, taxes that would go to our navy and marines.

    Wealthy shippers let ship owners use flags of convenience because the tax money saved by ship owners means lower shipping fees and higher profits.

    Wealthy insurers let ships owners and shippers use flags of convenience because the tax money saved by ship owners allows insurance premiums to be higher and more profitable.

    These wealthy tax-avoiding groups avoid taxes and avoid supporting our armed forces.

    And then these wealthy tax-avoiding unpatriotic groups want regular UK (and other western) taxpayers to protect their non-taxpaying shipping operations using our tax dollars!

    And these wealthy tax-avoiding unpatriotic groups who avoid paying taxes to support our armed forces want members of our armed forces to risk their lives to protecting their assets and profits!

    It seems to me a better motto would be "Support the navy or live with pirates!"

    It seems some wealthy people are totally shameless.

  62. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The only good Pirate is a dead Pirate

    Take no prisoners. If you allow the Pirates to escape or get short prison sentences they will harm others. Kill them dead now and send a clear message to the other wannabe Pirates.

  63. Keith T

    How about a toll fee to pay for protection?

    Another really excellent article!

    Helicopters and helicopter carriers sound like a good way to go for a western navy to protect against pirates.

    How an international duty/tax/toll/levy on any ship with a flag of convenience transiting the area, to contribute towards the cost of the international forces protecting them.

    If shippers had to pay for their protection, I think they might find squads of 10 armed men with heavy machine guns covertly placed on perhaps one in five ships while in pirate waters might be the most economical solution.

    The armed men would debark after the ship left pirate waters. Meaning ships with heavily armed men would not be entering western ports.

  64. Dave Bell

    Letters of Marque

    It seems the last known letter of marque to be issued by a reputable government was in 1942.

    The vessel concerned was a blimp.

    I must admit to a somewhat atavistic urge to have a bunch of commando types descending on the pirates from a blimp.

    I mean, if the Admiralty want a supply of semi-useless vessels to provide a career path for officers desiring to maintain the supply of Admirals (when they're not selling insurance), airships would be just the thing.

  65. John Wills

    Re: "less use than a member of the RAF"

    I thought it was less crab bashing more the fact that the RAF tend to do things from high altitude, thus less opportunity for fisticuffs.

    Unless they have very, very long arms.

  66. Anonymous Coward


    The US navy used to use hydrofoils in the Bosphorous during the Cold war. With high speed and anti surface weaponery, these would be good for the job. Trouble with helicopters is they are vulnerable to surface fire when trying to send a boarding party. Not to mention, if the sea is choppy and your target boat is bouncing around, a boat is more effective than an aircraft.

    Remember, as ppor as ships may be, aircraft are worse at securing territory for any length of time as they lack endurance.

  67. Dave


    I bet that if someone ratted on them to Microsoft, BSA, etc. that they were pirating software, they'd have the place saturated with lawyers and we'd solve the problem that way.

    Or the pirates would take the lawyers hostage and threaten to let them go if we didn't pay them lots of money...

  68. Steve

    UAVs might help...

    Unmanned Air Vehicles might be useful in this application. You take a UAV that can stay in the air for hours and install surveillance cameras, weapons, or both. Then you can cover more ocean cheaply, and bring in the helicopters and surface vessels to finish the job.

  69. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    That depends on the material being escorted - spent fuel = CNC, weapons = MDP. (Keith Vaz's secret police force he's never heard of...)

    Though thinking about it, it'd probably be fuel in some form or other on the ships, even if it's been reprocessed for weapons, so I THINK that falls under CNC still, it's only weapons themselves (in various states of assembly) that fall under the MDP's remit.

  70. kain preacher

    @Can't they protect themselves

    Show me a country that would let an armed civilian vessel dock with machine guns aboard.

  71. Joe Zeff


    It may be true today that destroyers are used as anti-aircraft platforms, but their full name started out as "torpedo boat destroyers." As originally conceived, a century or so ago, they were intended to swat small, fast torpedo boats that were a major threat to warships. Yes, a dhow or launch can outrun a destroyer, but can it outrun that ship's main battery? I doubt it. And, considering that gun's range, a destroyer can easily keep pirates from closing. They don't even need direct hits to be a threat to such small boats if they set their shells for airbursts.

  72. Dom

    12 mile limit.

    So if the Navy - any Navy - pursues a pirate into Somalia's territorial waters, who is going to complain? There is no Somali government, as the Beeb reminds us every time it runs a Somali-related story. That is, of course, ignoring Somaliland and Puntland.

  73. Jon Tocker

    Has international law gone nutless?

    I though it used to be that any ship capable of operating in international waters could carry armed personnel - including private leisure boats - for the personal protection of the crew - and that said crew were also permitted to use weapons to defend themselves if their ship were attacked in international waters.

    It also used to be that pirates were fair game and if you killed the lot, who fucking cared?

    Quite seriously, the cargo ships should be allowed to carry ranged weapons capable of destroying/sinking the dhows and such that the pirates favour and the crew should have access to, and be trained in the use of, small arms - pistols and SMGs - should the pirates manage to board their ship.

    If the Yanks, Poms, or whomever don't like armed "civilian" ships entering their ports, tough luck. It worked quite well for centuries when most merchant ships carried cannon and armed crews.

    The small arms stay on board the ship - in a locked armoury - and the anti-ship weapons are stowed when in friendly waters. They come out when in international waters - especially in areas where pirates operate.

    As to the pirates, when they start bearing down on a cargo ship they get one warning shot across the bow followed by a "fuck-off-and-die" shot amidships if they have not diverted within 30 seconds - long before they get within RPG range.

    As to the Guardian readers: no one forces the pirates to attack ships, it is what they choose to do. Being shot at, and possibly killed, is a known hazard for anyone who chooses to take up arms. One can assume that the pirates are fully aware that they risk being fired upon in return and are willing to take that risk, so therefore...

    What am I doing? Logical arguments are incomprehensible to Guardian readers.

    To rephrase: Shut up and deal with it!

    Self defense is an inalienable human right. The pirates of yore might seem romantic with their cannons, cutlasses, single- or double-shot flintlock pistols and tricorned hats when viewed through the hazy lens of "bloody near three hundred years" but in reality they were a bloodthirsty force to be reckonned with even when merchant ships carried cannon, blades and flintlocks of their own.

    Back then, the solution was simple: "kill them before they kill you."

    Frankly I do not have a problem with that being the solution again - especially now that it's RPGs, 600-round-per-minute SMGs or "assault rifles" and 8- to 17-shot pistols against unarmed sailors.

    Not a particularly romantic creature, your modern pirate - and I suspect that was how they viewed our "romantic" 1700's pirates back in the 1700s... not "romantic" at all.

  74. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    @ Joel Stobart

    I see what you did there.

  75. Jim


    Just what is the connection between automated metalwork and the transportation of nuclear fuel/waste? Inquiring minds want to know...

  76. Rich

    Can't we outsource to India?

    They're the closest nation with a biggish navy, some of the ships crews are probably Indian, some of the ships are probably headed for India. Plus, if the Ghurkhas don't sort the pirates out, they could nuke their villages.

  77. Keith T

    Entering western ports no issue

    First, whether western countries want armed parties on merchant vessels coming into port is irrelevant.

    The proposals are for the armed parties protecting merchant vessels to be boarded and de-boarded at sea, before the start and after end of the pirate-infested area.

    No sense having the men make a 30 day voyage across the Atlantic or Pacific when they are only needed for 2 days of the trip.

    On top of that, western countries do allow merchant vessels with men and small arms to come into port regularly, and not just on vessels carrying nuclear fuel. Just we don't allow private armies in.

    Second, if the law of the sea needs changing, well that is what governments are for.

    Why would we mistakenly change the law to be friendly to pirates, and just leave it that way?

    If the law needs changing, that can surely be done for less cost than keeping several international flotillas of large warships permanently stationed at the 2 or more pirate hot-spots around the world.

    Third, destroyers did originally had the full name "torpedo boat destroyers" but in the destroyers of that era were smaller than today's frigates and had none of today's missiles or electronics.

    These torpedo boat destroyers were made obsolete: first by even smaller ships, and then by aircraft.

  78. Stewart Haywood

    Why not pretend to be French........

    and sell arms to the pirates? We must have lots of stuff that doesn't work and is more dangerous to the user than the person they are pointing it at.

  79. Chief Engineer

    @jon tocker


    Being shot at, and possibly killed, is a known hazard for anyone who chooses to take up arms.


    That is exactly why we (the Merchant Navy) dont want to be armed. Your argument was good up until you contadicted yourself.

    You write like an Australian, in which case check your own government rules about armed vessels, even Navy vessel have to jump through hoops, getting a merchant vessel in would be even worse.

    Add to this that international shipping is just that, how do you control who as the arms? Every vessel would be entitled to carry arms including those carrying people who at present most countries call terrorists, so lets make life easier for them give them the arms they require legally there isnt an administration on the planet that would alow that.

  80. Paul Murphy

    Harking back to the good old days ...

    Our answer would have been to send in the gun boat(s) - why not revive that tradition?

    Make, oh say 10, fast(ish) monitors, with one large 'bombardment' gun and a couple of bofors equivalent guns, and enough armour so that they will be fine with RPG fire.

    Have them patrol an area with support from a support (duh!) vessel for as long as they need, and with the remit of following any aggressor against any vessel they deem fit.

    I suspect that they would come in handy for all sorts of tasks.

    The major problem would be balancing ocean-going, low-freeboard, well armoured and reasonably fast.


  81. Ian

    Important points missed

    Lewis, you ignore some very important points.

    First up you suggest piracy aint worth fighting because it's only a small scale threat. The issue is that it's a threat that's growing, don't fight it and it'll become far far worse. It's already increasing due to the profitability of it up to now where there was no resistance. There's also the issue of Al Qaeda gaining strength in Somalia whilst it loses strength in Pakistan and the danger that ransom money or hijacked weapons end up in their hands. Saying piracy isn't worth dealing with because it's a lower risk than becoming shipwrecked is akin to saying murder isn't worth dealing with because it's a lower risk than traffic accident deaths.

    You suggest harriers are worthless but then later mention the usefulness of helicopters due to being airborne. Sorry but nothings going to be able to get to and take out or turn away a small pirate ship than a fast jet performing a strafing run. They'd also be much less vulnerable than choppers.

    But perhaps an even more important point is you miss the size of the Somali forces used in these assaults. The Ukrainian ship carrying the tanks was hit by 60 pirates, there's no reason the pirates wouldn't group together to dispose the annoys of much more lightly armed military vessels if the chance arose, that's simply not the case against massively armed and armoured warships. Putting out smaller lighter ships means we're putting our sailors at vastly more risk. These guys might not have warships of their own but if they can so easily overwhelm a vessel carrying 30 tanks then lightly armed and armoured military vessels aren't going to be much more of a push. There's only so much a helicopter carrier can do against 20+ boats all with people armed with AK47s and RPGs whilst a warship can much more easily shrug off such an assault.

    You suggest we wouldn't be able to follow into Somali waters or carry out land incursions, well why not? The French have been doing so quite okay and the Americans have certainly been happy to carry out air attacks. The country has no functioning government for 17 years to control the pirates but this has to work both ways, it also means it has no functioning government to govern it's territorial integrity. It shows no sign of being able to put together a functioning government any time soon so why worry about it's legal standing? The French realise this is pointless and that allowing lawless behaviour to go unchallenged only makes the problem worse.

  82. J Day

    Outsource to India

    Brilliant idea seeing as the Gov sold all our old warships to India anyway!

    Being ex-RN (Pinkie/Greenie) I was on standby to board some ships in the Gulf (Back in the good old days when we had ships), until some Yank decided they should go instead.

    Infact the sailors managed to do the boardings for years until the "Iran Incident" without any/much involment fromt those hairy arsed Booties (slang for Royal Marines), but then back in my day the sailors were "proper" sailors, and didn't have standard issue iPods, to give away.

  83. Peter Marshall

    Piracy Legal in the UK?

    According to a still-serving member of the RN, there's a certain amount of consternation that Piracy on the High Seas was included in a whole raft of legislation considered out of date and taken off the UK statute books recently. Thus if a pirate is captured, they couldn't be brought back to blighty for trial.

  84. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Can't we outsource to India?

    Since all the ships are going through Suez and Egypt is even closer, it's their problem.

    Not anyone else's.

  85. Dave
    IT Angle

    re-hash of the Lewis Page 'doctrine'

    If you have read Lewis's book you will find find a comprehensive survey of the structure and doctrine of the UK armed forces. LP analyses this & concludes that the composition and general operational plans of every branch of the UK armed forces is completely and utterly mis-matched to the current global situation and the types of conflicts where the UK needs to be involved for protection of its interests. The Army is composed of units that are too heavy and slow, or too light and under-protected. The RAF is only interested in permanently re-arranging the enemy's hard landscaping from very very high up in the air. living in hotels at least 500 km from the front and is unable to provide enduring strategic airlift to support the Army on the ground. The RN is only interested in gleamy, pointy, fast ships and the officer career progression in that service (LP's major, personal gripe) predicates against career progression without a stint of 'command' on a fast, pointy ship. The RN is unable to provide the intital or enduring sealift to support the Army on the ground. So we are f***ed.

    LP then proposes a composition of the UK armed forces that would deliver the types of effect that current conflicts demand (incorporating a comedy battalion of infantry manned exclusively by half-colonels!). The use of at least 6 HMS-Ocean-alikes is proposed.

    LP has not identified the development of semi-autonomous hunter-killer UAV droids, which I propose are the optimal solution to low density, high impact events such as piracy at sea. The UK ones would need to beam a telly picture back to a man in uniform with a 'yes' button to push to command the killer droid into the 'end game' (rules of engagement and generally gentlemanly conduct, dontcha know); the US ones (natch!) would not be so constrained. There's the IT angle!

  86. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's Al Keeda what dun it

    If we can pin it on Mr. Keeda the septics will storm in and do the job for us. Very plausible, loads of islamic types sound that area, some of the baksheesh must find its way up the chain.

  87. V.Srikrishnan


    Around 3-4 days back, the indian navy drove off some pirates. i think they used an helicopter in the operation. point is, they responded to a call from an indian ship and also a foreign one, i dont remember the nationality.

    However, coming to the point:

    1. Outsourcing? surely you understand that the indian armed forces are not mercenary, unlike the forces certain other nations which attack for greed of oil? or are you tired of carrying the white man's burden?

    the sun has set on the british empire, maybe you are watching the old tapes.

    2. Gorkhas are in the Army, not in the Navy.

    3. Nuke?? where did you get that idea from?

    all these inconsistencies makes one wonder if you have been a "victim" of outsourcing....

  88. Anonymous Coward

    Re: Can't we outsource to India?

    Jolly good idea.

    They also buy from the right supplier.

    Coming back and reading the article once again it is quite clear that the helicopter is probably the wrong vehicle for carrying out such operations. The right vehicle for this type of operations is something similar to A90 Orlyonok.

    It has the range and endurance to loiter in the area for as long as necessary (and can simply land on water and wait if need be), it has a 76mm cannon and a couple of machine guns to deal with minor annoyances, it is impractical to hit with small arms fire while moving and it can offload up to 40-50 marines with their gear and boats for close combat if need be.

    It is a pity russians stopped making them. This would have been the perfect application for such craft.

    However as the saying goes "What cannot be bought with money, can be bought with a lot of money".

  89. Bob Ginger

    Frigate suitabilty

    One poster commented that frigates bring along all sorts of weaponry that isn't of any use against small raiders.

    Largely true, at present.

    But, as another poster commented, they have speed, their size gives them an extended loiter capability, plus the ability to bring along some useful friends such as marines. And a nice handy helicopter - helicopters which *have* been used as a maritime sniping platform from outside miscreants' effective range.

    Although the ship used in the current incident was a type-22, the type-23 is being fitted with a naval variant (roll / pitch / swell compensation) of the Bushmaster 30/40mm cannon precisely to provide offensive capability against small, fast attck boats. A gun that can twat armour at 2000 yards should be pretty handy against soft targets using HE rounds.

  90. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

    Torpedo-boat destroyers and Q-ships (or Q-containers)

    The old torpedo-boat destroyers were actually designed to be faster than the torpedoboats they were meant to destroy. After all, you need to get in range first. Modern destroyers are much more like the light (anti-aircraft) cruisers of WW-II in size, speed and role. Fast patrol boats and helicopters are probably much better at stopping pirates.

    I have recently wondered whether the old concept of a Q-ship (as used in WW-I against U-boats) would not work. These were (to all appearances) merchant vessels with hidden guns. Whenever a U-boat surfaced to sink the ship with gunfire (to save the expensive torpedos) the Q-ship would uncover its guns and open fire. You could even imagine planting deck containers with guns/marines inside on cargo vessels, which can open up and open and open fire on unsuspecting pirates.

    Just a thought

  91. Peter Hood

    Littoral combat ships, more precise, less waste

    Littoral combat ships with at least dual heli decks might be a better idea. Ocean is the biggest ship in the fleet, cumbersome, ill suited and a massive resource, suited to significant invading forces not hoovering up the odd pirate. Like cracking a walnut with a nuclear warhead.

  92. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Can't we outsource to India

    "Yes we can"

  93. Dave


    And why would we have any need to worry about China or Russia?

    Of course, they have killed far fewer of our service-men than the Septics have, but the leadership of none of these is entirely on our side at the moment.

  94. Gianni Straniero
    Black Helicopters

    Re: More RN helicopter carriers?

    "A fleet of small attack craft such as Boghammers would need a floating base ship or secure harbour to operate from"

    They could use Albion or Bulwark. They're both Landing Platform Docks, with room for a couple of helicopters and stowage for a third. Fill each with 300 bloodthirsty marines and you can send a few LCUs up the beach at Eyl. You could even land a tank or two.

    Not sure whose permission you need to invade Somalia. I mean, who would you ask?

  95. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As long as the pirates...

    ...don't take their iPods and make them cry!

  96. Kanhef

    What's really needed

    is a mandate (preferably from the UN, though Somalia might do) for any country's navy to attack pirates, right up to the coast. Don't wait for them to hijack a merchant vessel, but actively hunt them down (no risky boardings to retake it). And fire to kill (no risky boardings to arrest them). Ignore that 12-mile line – even if a pirate ship makes it to shore, blast it while it's in dock.

    In short, don't police the Gulf of Aden. Declare war against the pirates. They won't last long after that.

  97. Bob Ginger


    "...And why would we have any need to worry about China or Russia?

    Of course, they have killed far fewer of our service-men than the Septics have, but the leadership of none of these is entirely on our side at the moment...."


    Sure about that? The number of Sino-Russian casualties, that is...

    Never heard of the Korean war (China) or British involvement in the Russian revolution? Or the Crimean war, for that matter (Russia again).

    Tut tut, the state of edukashun these days...

    Paris, for her skill and enthusiasm.

  98. Dave Harris
    IT Angle

    Some half-truths & other opinions

    I take it than when it's stated that a frigate can't keep up with a speedboat this is in line with the UK MoD's oft-stated lie that virtually all UK warships have a maximum speed of 28 knots, as stated in Jane's. Everyone knows what bollix this is. Although I never served with HM forces, I worked with them for many years and went to sea on warships. Let's just say that quite a few of them can display a rather surprising turn of speed. HMS Bristol (now sold off to the Indian navy I believe) wouldn't have needed weapons - she could have run down most speedboats, being a huge speedboat herself (0 - 30 knots in 14 seconds is serious stuff for a ship that size, and scary if you're standing at the stern rail when it does it!).

    I agree with whoever said that pirates can be summarily dealt with at sea and personally I would be happy to see that happening. Although a 4.5" naval gun is a bit over-the-top to sink a speedboat, it is thorough :) Vulcan Phalanxes are pretty nifty too.

    Small craft, especially wooden or inflatables, mostly don't show up on radar until you're virtually within visual range so a BVR weapon isn't much good, and the kind of choppers used on frigates etc are easily taken out by small arms fire. If you're going to start using small heli carriers for this job then the helis need to be (lightly) armoured, as do the carriers themselves. Don't think for one moment the pirates wouldn't try to attack them with shoulder launched missiles which the UK Marines have shown can be very effective in that role.

    And as for why we do it, how about because it offends the British sense of Fair Play. Or because it's just plain wrong. Not to mention that if left alone, it will grow until it becomes a real problem and then much more difficult to eradicate.

  99. Anders Halling
    Black Helicopters

    Patrol craft

    What about smaller ships with high speed and decent endurance?

    Something like the Swedish Visby-class Corvettes (~40 crew, 40+ knots) or Norwegian Skjold-class patrol boats (~20 crew, 60 knots (Surface Effect)).

    The Skjold has been described by a US Coast Guard Captain as "The best smuggler hunter I've ever seen". 60 knots and stealth will surprise the bad guys. (Yes, yes, the small speedboats of the pirates don't carry radar so it's irrelevant, but I assume some of the motherships carry commercial radar...)

    The Visby-class even has helicopter capabilties and must surely be one of the smallest warships to have this.

  100. Anonymous Coward

    @Peter Marshall

    "Thus if a pirate is captured, they couldn't be brought back to blighty for trial."

    I have no problem leaving them *exactly* where we captured them - 15 miles offshore. They can even keep the leg-irons we gave them.

  101. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    They're called speedboats for a reason

    'These pirate vessels are apparently good for catching merchantmen going 20 knots, so must be good for 25+.'

    They're good for a lot more than that and would easily outrun a Frigate. Although they couldn't outrun a 4.5" shell they would need to be within about 10 miles of the Frigate/Destroyer for them to be able to hit it which would rely on the Naval vessel being in the right place at the right time.

    Lots of helicopters is the best way to cover that sort of area cost effectively, jets not being overly suited to surface search, especially UK Harriers which don't have a radar. Google counter drugs operations in the Caribbean for an idea of the best way to take out a small fast boat.

  102. SysKoll
    Thumb Up

    Love your articles

    Once again, a thoughful article that a high level strategy magazine would be proud of. The El Reg team is decidedly a remarkable bunch. Thank you.

  103. The Other Steve


    "That depends on the material being escorted - spent fuel = CNC, weapons = MDP. (Keith Vaz's secret police force he's never heard of...)"

    The MoD Plod ? Erm, not really secret when you have a website, though. With photographs and that.

    Bless 'im.

  104. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    deck apes?!?!?

    I served as an officer in the royal navy from 2001-2006 and to see ratings, of any branch, described as "deck apes", is astoundingly insulting, inaccurate, unfair and grossly misleading. These "deck apes", as described in this ham fisted article, are young men and women who spend months at sea protecting the interests of a public who, for the large part, could not give a fig about them for a risible salary.

    I served in HMS St Albans in the Gulf of Aden and participated in several boardings. Any "deck ape" I ever worked with I'd proudly do so again. This is a testing environment that requires a very robust patrolling element at all times.

    The author should be ashamed.

  105. Joe Zeff


    Your post is titled "They're called speedboats for a reason." In that you say that a frigate would need to get within 10 miles to hit it with a 4.5" gun. I wouldn't know. I do know, however, that back in '72, my ship's 5"/54 naval rifle had a max range of roughly 12.5 nautical miles, and it was very accurate, as the NVA could well attest. Yes, the Knox class wasn't as fast as I would have liked, but it could make it's presence felt quite a way out, especially if it were a night action, because I doubt these pirates have radar worth mentioning. (I could be wrong on that, of course.) What we used, mostly, was AA common at about 70# each. Set as I suggested above for air burst, even near misses are effective. Set for impact, I doubt it would take more than one hit to disable a craft. And, considering that it can, for short periods, fire 40 rounds per minute, there's a good chance that there'd be several hits before the shells stopped landing. All it would take, as somebody else suggested, would be convoys with escorts using long-range weapons and the pirates would be neutralized. Alas, considering BO's obvious contempt for the military, the US isn't going to be doing anything remotely like that, and without US involvement, it's probably not going to happen.

  106. Peter Revell

    Patrol Craft

    You are damned right, Anders. Two Skjold-class patrol boats could sort out those pirates in no time at all. If they ever steal sophisticated weapons they could also be destroyed. I don't think the obvious solution will happen because the British government and the Royal Navy have 19th century brains and no balls.

    What is so sovereign about about a land populated by savages who gave us Black Hawk Down? Don't bother to capture them and give them a fair trial, sanctuary and benefits at the UK taxpayers' expense. Machine gun them and sink their vessels. If necessary pursue them to their home port and raze it to the ground.

    Would President Putin pussyfoot around if he faced a smilar problem. Recent history tells me emphatically that he would not. He has taken to heart Stalin's dictum that power comes out of the barrel of a gun. When the next Russian cargo vessel is abducted you watch the sparks fly.

  107. Chris G

    On board security

    Back in the nineties I and some others were offered seriously silly money to provide on board security against pirates off the African coast. It was enough plus a choice of weapons that I looked into it. After not that much research I returned to the recruiters and said my minimum choice of weapon would be a 20mm Oerlikon and preferably some shoulder mounted stuff as well. They said they could only offer small arms. Our reply was that they were probably better off in that case to offer the money for the small arms and our potential wages as a kind of `Dane Geld´ to the pirates to leave them alone.

    In the nineties these guys were using amongst other things, a lot of ex-Vietnam plastic patrol boats a la Apocalypse Now, two V8 engines, 50 knots, double 50 cals front and back. plus they had RPGs and 66s inn addition to various small arms. Presumably they are better equipped now as they have been doing it a long time with little real resistance, so let any navy that wants to, go after them, go, into shore and ashore if necessary and then take them out. Sometimes the only point someone will understand in a discussion,,,, is a smack in the mouth.

  108. kain preacher

    Coast Guard

    Why not use what the US coast guard uses .

    Light fast and armed

  109. Ken
    Black Helicopters

    How exactly would that work?

    It is considered a truism in ground combat that fighters and bombers are all well and good, but you need feet on the ground to actually capture something.

    How does a helicopter, however fast and well-armed, capture pirates in a boat? I can see flying over and annoying them, I can see blasting them to small pieces, but I can't see dropping people out of helicopters in order to board a ship.

    So, if all you want is to blast the pirates, there are certainly faster, cooler ways to do so. And a carrier with Harriers can cover quite an area.

    But, if you want to take a pirate in for a trial, I think that some sort of ship is in order.

  110. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Germany sends F123

    Germany will send one of its 15 frigates. I think it will be the F123 class frigate Mecklenburg.

    I also think this mission has more support among the poeple than any other so far.

  111. Zimon

    With the toy boats!

    The "global corvette" nonsense has been going on for a awhile. Anything smaller than the old Leanders will be good for nothing outside the North Sea. Yes people like the Israeli Navy did a 30 day deployment once to prove it could be done. Stayed in the Med. Send a proper warship or stay at home. Of course if you think Britain can ignore anything east of suez than that wont be a problem.

  112. Anonymous Coward

    pirates and Pirates in the Gate of Tears

    One critical issue that almost _no one_ comments about is that a major cause of Somali piracy is non-Somali piracy. Illegal fishing by fleets from Europe, Kenya, Korea, Russia have devastated the livelihoods of Somali fishermen. Not surprisingly, many have turned to piracy to survive. To add insult to injury, the Somali marine economic zone is also used to dump toxic waste. If you're going to use destroyers to stop piracy, methinks industrial factory boats and illegal dumpers would be a place to start, and would give Somalia's coastal residents at least an alternative to piracy.

    Moral: There's not a chance in hell London, Moscow, or Paris will do anything about drowning foreign sailors _or_ about solving the piracy problem.

  113. Davy
    Thumb Up


    are definitely the answer. Given the state of world commerce you could pick up a nice, rusty 10,000 ton freighter and nail some containerised rapid fire guns around the deck, direct your fire using below-deck geeks with suitable optics/radar, and shred anything recognisably piratical that gets close. Go through the records and trail your coat in the likely areas, which I believe are not so far from Diego Garcia as a base. I volunteer.

  114. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    @Joe Zeff

    Even if the guns have a 15nm range my point was unless the FF/DD is within that range of the pirate vessel when it kicks off it's not going to be able to get close enough to hit it, bear in mind these boats will look like fishermen until they start waving weapons around. A convoy would work but with the amount of shipping going through Suez I'm not sure anyone could spare enough ships to act as escorts.

    @Ken, if you google on counter drugs operations in the Caribbean you'll see helicopters being used to stop drugs runners in very similar boats to these pirates, there're even some USCG videos on you tube.

  115. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @UAVs might help...

    Just what I was thinking. Why risk the lives of expensive personnel when a teenager in the Nevada Desert can whack the pirates remotely.

    Of course, this does take us back to needing more platforms to launch such aircraft from.....

  116. Wesley Parish

    Mixed patrols?

    Reading the comments, I find it hard not to comment a la Bilbo to the Dwarves in the Unexpected Party, concerning funny faces bobbing up and down on the door-mat. Even worse, I have Elvis Costello singing "Oliver's Army" on my brain, and it seems to fit.

    Face it, what's a Navy for? Only two things - To patrol trade routes and to displeasure an enemy's navy and invasion force. There aren't any enemy navies in this scenario, so it's just the trade routes that need to be patrolled.

    How should these trade routes be patrolled?

    I suggest a group of multi-function, high-speed, long-endurance catamarans, with three or so helicopters, room for half a dozen armed speedboats, and room for a small contingent of Marines, and a few big RPGs and light cannons front and rear. Establish communcations with the ships going through - emergency warnings and they're on their way. No pre-emptive strikes - but once a ship has called for help, kid gloves off. Get the insurance guys onside - if a ship owner doesn't get in touch, his premiums skyrocket the instant a ship of his - any ship - gets captured by pirates.

    Would it work? I think it would, and it would be an ideal thing for the Egyptian, Kenyan, Indian, Malaysian and Indonesian Navies to invest in - because they're on the scene, after all ...

  117. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Swedish Navy response

    Swedish Navy is said to send two corvettes to Somalia. A type which might be better suited for the task. Se more of the type here:

    But I agree with the author, this is something that has been going on for a too long time. So I think it is good some efforts are made to do something about it.

  118. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Somalias secret weapon

    Somalian pirates have quickly learnt that to incapacitate a UK Semen, they just take their iPod away. If they still won't surrender, call them Mr Bean and they cry. Boo Hoo.

    Makes you swell with pride.

  119. Gianni Straniero

    Sirius Star

    This should bring things to a head:

    pirates capture the Sirius Star, a large Saudi oil tanker with two British nationals aboard.

  120. Hate2Register

    Doom & Gloom

    The article makes a lot of headway in discussing what ships we have, and why they're not suitable for pirate-hunting. But it forgets to mention what kind of ships ARE suitable for this kind of work. Also, you can't expect Navy bods not to bemoan the running down of our Navy. I can't remember (from Janes or Wikipaedia) any of our ships being capable of much in excess of 30 knots. So unless we fire a missile at them, perhaps merchent ships should be fitted with protection. Sound wave blasters and Goalkeeper gatling guns should do the trick. End of problem.

  121. Dave Harris

    Sirius Star

    Also here:

    There are unconfirmed reports that the crew have been released.

    (Btw, there are two Dave Harrises commenting on on this story: I posted the comment about piracy around Malaysia, Sumatra and Singapore. The other Dave posted the rest carrying our name.)

    Stop sign because pirates should be, using "robust" means (says this Guardian reader)

  122. Bob Ginger
    Thumb Up

    @AC -"Swedish Navy response"

    Yes, the Visby class corvette might well be a good match for this type of role.

    If you like war porn or are interested in the capabilities of its 57mm cannon against soft and armoured targets, mosey on over to...

    ...and have a look at a test-fire video.

  123. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pirates are Killers

    Yes, show no mercy. Sink them! They're ruthless killers.

  124. nav

    The pirate and Alexander the Great

    "St. Augustine describes a confrontation between King Alexander the Great and a pirate whom he caught. Alexander the Great asks the pirate, 'How dare you molest the sea?' The pirate turns to Alexander the Great and says, 'How dare you molest the whole world? I have a small boat, so I am called a thief and a pirate. You have a navy, so you're called an emperor.' St. Augustine concludes that the pirate's answer was elegant and excellent and that essentially tells the story. Retail terrorism directed against our interests is terrorism; wholesale terrorism carried out for our interests isn't terrorism."

    hat tip

  125. David Corkish

    Why the sudden interest?

    We seafarers have been subjugated to piracy since, well, forever. This year alone there have been over 263 attacks on merchant vessels, involving (amongst others), assault against crew, murder, hijackings, theft from ship and crew, kidnapping and mutilation. Of these attacks around 64 have been off the coast of Somalia, particularly in the Gulf of Aden, and 11 (1 of which has involved my ship as the target) have been in Tanzanian waters, particularly around Dar Es Salaam Roads. Why has it taken so long for the western public to get off it's obese behind and realise that actually, seafarers aren't the lazy, no-good evil people who single handedly cause world pollution (yes, I have actually been told to my face that maritime transport accounts for all the worlds transport pollution, therefore we must be shot. So it's not the lazy 4x4 urban drivers then?), and that actually we are employed in the 2nd most dangerous job in the world (1st position goes to deep sea fisherman incidently) who are major contributors to keeping the world economy from collapsing more than it is already? We go out into the seas risking life and limb to feed your insatiable appetites and to provide you with the latest luxuries, and all we get for it is comments like "But don't you think it's immoral that your ship is causing lots of pollution?". Has it never occured to you lot that its YOU that cause the pollution by your wrong headed attitudes in areas like what car you drive or how often you forget to switch the lights off? Why has it taken something like 33 stolen tanks to make you all WAKE UP!

    So, if the Royal Navy fancies going out there and pummelling some pirates into a pulp and making our lives that little bit safer and relaxed, then yes, I'm all for it, and I would like to thank all serviceman and women of HM Royal Navy for probably saving the lives of my crew and myself and of my sea-going brethren, not forgetting the lives of cruise ship passengers. I thank the Navy from the bottom of my heart, on behalf of any merchant seaman who's ever had to face a pirate attack. God bless you all!

    P.s. I apologise if I seem a bit rant-ish earlier in this document. Talk of piracy gets me a tad agitated. I don't really hate you land-dwelling types :-)

  126. Wesley Parish

    addtional to the above:

    Just to further my comment on the highly lethal catamarans I suggested above, I went to Incat:

    and renewed my fascination with HMS Jervis Bay (FWLIW, I'd previously been on the Lynx ferry cat crossing between New Zealand's North and South Islands. It is an awesome boat. I do know somewhat of which I speak. :).

    That's what I'm talking about, maybe not so big, but armoured somewhat, and carrying weaponry, choppers, speedboats and marines. At its forty-five knots, I expect any speedboat driver trying to board, would go seeking swimming lessons from the sharks.

  127. Jesse Dorland

    Queen Victoria is evil

    Someone's mention that Queen horrible Victoria solved "pirate" problem around near-east. Look at the problem she caused. She order killing, and murdering of million of people in India, China, and not to mention middle-east.

    It just a matter of time before English join dinosaurs

  128. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Jesse Dorland

    So by that criteria you also think Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Sulyman the Magnificent and a whole raft of other leaders are evil ?

    Thats not even mentioning your syntax which would warrant a flogging if we were feeling pedantic.

  129. Herby

    Bond, James Bond.

    Sounds like an obvious solution to me. Send in the good guys and make SMERSH or SPECTRE pay.

    Of course, it would be made to look like someone else did the job if it were done correctly!

    License to kill.......

  130. Frank Bough
    Thumb Up

    English Joining Dinosaurs?

    I can't wait for that, we'll be unstoppable if we can ride into battle on the back of an Allosaurus! Brittannia rules the terrible lizards!

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