March 17, 2011

High level conference finds solution to piracy!

(RAPE fund author seeks senior position in industry)

I recently invited myself to an anti-piracy conference (Just myself, because I don’t much care for dissent). The objective of this high powered (in my own mind) summit was to examine the problem of piracy, express suitably simulated outrage and, in line with the blistering ideals of the IMO (blistering, because those same ideals should be scalding the tongues of many by now), ‘orchestrate a response’ to the Somali menace.

I am thrilled to announce that, at the end of the two day affair, both the Convenor (me) and the Guest of Honour (me again) were equally excited because we have found a singular solution to piracy. I am afraid though, that you will have to labour through this piece to be brilliantly exposed to that thunderbolt. This is life. Nobody said it was going to be easy.

This is how we cracked it. I first made a presentation to myself for both of us to peruse. This consisted largely of two graphs, produced by Microsoft Excel after much struggle. These graphs, presented here, are self explanatory; the numbers used therein have been extracted from reputable sources in the public domain. As we know, there are enough international bodies keeping updated statistics on piracy instead of fighting it. Any errors that may have crept in are mine alone- I may have missed out a few hostage seafarers here and there, but what the hell. Who really cares? Let us, for the sake of convenience, assume those few have been bumped off.

The conference made some interesting observations after much cutting and pasting, strong black coffee (laced in the evenings) and an East African cultural show put up on Day 2 by some RPGs and automatic small arms specially flown in from Mogadishu. Some of these observations led to some equally interesting findings, as we can see below:

• Filipinos form almost a quarter of the 522 hostages held on IMO numbered ships at present, followed by Indians, at 12.5%. Syria is surprisingly third, and Tunisia and Algeria were other surprises (to us at least) in our ‘top ten’ list of hostage nationalities.

• There are hardly any European, North or South American hostages held at the moment. Greece does figure at number fifteen, though, with ten hostages and under two percent.

• It can be safely assumed that most of the non-IMO craft- dhows, fishing vessels and the like- will be manned mainly by Asian or African crews. Including these, therefore (even if statistics were easily available) would show an even higher percentage of Asians and Africans held hostage.

• Greek flagged ships made up a third of presently hijacked ships, followed by the UAE at about a fifth. Is this because many Greek shipowners have been penny pinching or resisting armed guards? Maybe they are happy to be Greeks bearing gifts for the pirates.

• Numbers of ships of other nationalities hijacked are miniscule, not exceeding one each.

• It seemed, to the slightly boozy delegates at the end of Day 1 of the conference, that the between 7 and 12 billion dollars being made annually were being extorted- sorry, generated, by anti-piracy businesses and markets in countries mainly in the West. However, these had almost no mariners or ships held in Somalia, and only one or two of their nationals were being presumably tortured or executed at the moment. The vast majority of seafarers taken were Asian, African and Middle Eastern. This, the delegates felt, was a little unfair. It was resolved that pirates should be encouraged to take more Westerners hostage at once.

• The high powered committee noted, with some dismay, that the recent (and as usual, intermittent) anti-piracy media flutter in India had reached the Parliament, with politicians taking crash lessons in how to show outrage. Why dismay? Because our news channels and leaders are displaying publicly to the world, once again, how ill informed and out-of-date they actually are. (Psst, this has been going on for awhile, folks)

Having spent the better part of a day and a half on these two graphs, the high powered committee finally reached the ‘’Orchestrating the Response” part, and, learning from the IMO, quickly made short work of it.

In this connection, the Guest of Honour (me again, sorry) observed that recent news reports have suggested that Somali pirates may have “reached their limit, at least for now. Security agencies have suggested that Somali pirates are willing to negotiate lower ransoms to release ships they have seized — because they are running out of room. They say that pirate groups are more willing to negotiate the release of captured vessels now because their ports at Haradheere, Eyl and Hobyo are choked up with ships. The pirates are reportedly looking for quicker deals, and seem willing to accept lower ransoms, if it means the ships can be moved on”.

This second hand observation initiated a severe brainstorming and out of the box thinking session amongst the conference delegates (both) and resulted, finally, in a breathtaking and simple strategy that will solve the problem of piracy once and for all. The strategy involves the setting up of a fund that we will tentatively call the Resources for Anti-Piracy Extortion (RAPE) fund. The fund will collect a billion dollars a year, with contributions made by every ship passing through piracy affected war zone (on an ‘x dollars per GRT’ basis). Every year, the billion dollars will be collected and distributed amongst all the pirates in Somalia through their leaders, on the express proviso that they stop putting out their skiffs to sea and use their ill gotten gains to instead remain on dry Somali land, living the life of Reilly- drinking, gambling, gambolling and chasing buxom Puntland wenches, etc. Both delegates felt that, with a maximum of 250 million dollars or so being made now from ransoms (on an accrual basis, not cash flow), this billion dollars represented a fourfold jump in pirate revenues- and minus any expenses, to boot- and would keep the Somali gangs in good cheer and Bacardi, not to speak of silk skirts, and away from the Indian Ocean. Voila! No more piracy and around eleven billion dollars a year saved that are being presently squandered on sterile anti-piracy effort.

Pure genius, I tell you. Guest of Honour (me), take a bow.

(Collateral advantage: The conference threw up another interesting fact. The main man (me) proved that I could waste time and resources on useless statistics; that I was computer literate and could make iffy presentations; that I could discuss, analyse and otherwise manage important issues and come up with crappy conclusions. Additionally, I seemed to display an absolute disregard for hostage seafarers with my juvenile attitude, infantile black humour and uncaring temperament.

In short, the conference noted- almost as an aside- that I was now the perfect candidate for a senior shipmanagement or IMO position.).



Paul, Dammit! said...

You bring up an interesting point- why don't Indian or Philippine security companies get into the vessel security biz? It looks like a license to print money: Step one, hire unemployed ex military men. Step 2, acquire contracts. Step 3, ?? Step 4, profit.

skinmame said...

The problem with security forces is that they can be unreliable and abandon ship when an attack occurs; it will take time for the establishment of reliable PSC's specializing in anti-piracy tactics. The main problem is that the shipping companies and those that insure them would rather pass the responsibility to tax payers who are being extorted to pay for non-solutions such as combined task force-151 off the4 Gulf of Aden. Why would a shipping company pay for security when the government is so eager to steam their navies into pirate infested waters?