First Rule of Piracy

I actually have no idea if there are rules of piracy, but the first one should be “Don’t attack US-flagged ships.”
The second one should be “Don’t attack the same US-flagged ship that similar pirates did a few months ago, which resulted in said pirates getting their asses handed to them by US Navy SEALs.”
The third one should be “Don’t attack French-flagged ships.” The French don’t mess around with this kind of stuff.
At the risk of pissing off the AP, I’m going to quote some bits of the article:

Somali pirates attacked the Maersk Alabama on Wednesday for the second time in seven months and were thwarted by private guards on board the U.S.-flagged ship who fired off guns and a high-decibel noise device.
[…]
An on-board security team repelled the attack by using evasive maneuvers, small-arms fire and a Long Range Acoustic Device, which can beam earsplitting alarm tones, the fleet said.

By Jove! Using firearms to defend oneself against armed attackers actually works!
Indeed, I’d go so far as to suggest that having an armed crew/team on a ship is more effective at self-defense than being personally armed in public (i.e. CCW), because one has less “noise” to deal with (there’s a lot of people walking around in cities who aren’t criminals, there’s not many small boats with armed Somalis cruising around major shipping lanes that aren’t up to no good), there’s advanced notice (you can spot the boats from a good distance away), you can design the ship to make it difficult to board (particularly if it’s an enormous cargo vessel), and once the balloon goes up you have at least several minutes to prepare (as opposed to a few seconds in a personal self-defense scenario).

Vice Adm. Bill Gortney of the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, said the Maersk Alabama had followed the maritime industry’s “best practices” in having a security team on board.
“This is a great example of how merchant mariners can take proactive action to prevent being attacked and why we recommend that ships follow industry best practices if they’re in high-risk areas,” Gortney said in a statement.

Good.

However, Roger Middleton, a piracy expert at the London-based think tank Chatham House, said the international maritime community was still “solidly against” armed guards aboard vessels at sea, but that American ships have taken a different line than the rest of the international community.
Shipping companies are still pretty much overwhelmingly opposed to the idea of armed guards,” Middleton said. “Lots of private security companies employee people who don’t have maritime experience. Also, there’s the idea that it’s the responsibility of states and navies to provide security. I would think it’s a step backward if we start privatizing security of the shipping trade.”

It doesn’t surprise me that this gentleman is in London and feels this way.
I fail to see how it’d be anything but positive to have private security (be it an armed crew, or an armed security detail) on commercial shipping vessels. Even if there are navy vessels in the general area, they’re often a fair distance away and aren’t all that fast. Even aircraft cannot arrive instantly, and are likely to arrive after the incident is concluded, for better or for worse. The only two parties who are assured of being at the scene of the attempted hijacking are the pirates and the intended victim. The pirates are already armed. Why shouldn’t the would-be victims be permitted to have effective means of self-defense?
Mr. Middleton’s mindset makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

Somali pirates understand one thing and only one thing, and that’s force,” said Capt. Joseph Murphy, who teaches maritime security at the school. “They analyze risk very carefully, and when the risk is too high they are going to step back. They are not going to jeopardize themselves.”

I’m not sure about how much risk analysis the Somali pirates do, but I’ll leave that in Capt. Murphy’s hands as it’s clearly a subject he knows more about than I do. Nevertheless, I agree wholeheartedly with the first sentence.

The wife of the Maersk Alabama’s captain, Paul Rochford, told WBZ-AM radio in Boston that she was “really happy” there were weapons on board for this attack.
“It probably surprised the pirates. They were probably shocked,” Kimberly Rochford. “I’m really happy at least it didn’t turn out like the last time.”
A self-proclaimed pirate told The Associated Press from the Somali pirate town of Haradhere that colleagues out at sea had called around 9 a.m. ? 2 1/2 hours after the attack.
“They told us that they got in trouble with an American ship, then we lost them. We have been trying to locate them since,” said a self-described pirate who gave his name as Abdi Nor.

Awesome.

Underscoring the danger, a self-proclaimed pirate said Wednesday that the captain of a ship hijacked Monday had died of wounds suffered during the ship’s hijacking. The pirate, Sa’id, who gave only one name for fear of reprisals, said the captain died Tuesday night from internal bleeding.
The EU Naval Force has said the Virgin Islands-owned chemical tanker the Theresa was taken Monday with 28 North Korean crew.

I bet that ship followed Mr. Middleton’s advice and didn’t have any weapons on board, nor anyone trained in using them. Result: the ship was hijacked, the captain killed, and the ship and crew are likely to be held for ransom.
When will people learn that you cannot stop criminals from committing crimes by keeping the intended victims disarmed and helpless?

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