Pirates taking ships for ransom Q

These pirates come up to huge ships in small boats, get aboard with rope ladders and hold it for ransom. The stupid ship owners pay millions in ransom.

All around the world the military, corporations, government buildings, etc hire security companies to assure their safety. Wealthy people get security to protect them from kidnapping and so forth.

Are these ship owners completely stupid? For a tiny fraction of what they pay out in ransom, they could hire a small contingent of highly armed security people and arm the ship with a few small canons. With this, they could easily blow to hell the pirate boats as they approach.

Am I missing something here, or are the ship owners idiots?

How much does a cannon cost? How much does it cost to hire an armed security detail? How many ships must you equip this way? How many ships each year are attacked by pirates? If a ship is attacked by pirates, how often would the cannon and security guards be able to fight off the pirates? What would you have to pay in increased liability and insurace? How much do you have to pay when your security guards accidentally blow up a fishing boat?

It seems we’re having a resurgence of pirate attacks, so maybe the cost-benefit analysis has changed. But shipping is a low-margin highly competitive business. Anything that raises the cost doing business is not going to be done.

Recent GQ threads on pirates:

Couple of pirate questions

How do modern pirates take a large ship?

How do modern pirates get on board?

Cargo ships are often very large, how can Somali pirates stop them, and board them?

Somali pirates: What became of that Ukranian ship with the tanks?

Let’s say I wanted to fight pirates, the Somali kind.

That last one was still going as of yesterday and it addresses your question.

Part of the problem is escalating the whole thing.

Say you have an oil tanker. One small boat stays some distance off and point an RPG at you then tells you to allow the other boat to board and surrender all the crew.

You are the ship captain…what do you do? What are your security guards going to do? One RPG into an oil tanker I imagine could cause quite a mess.

Interesting. It makes it pretty clear that there lots of viable ways to combat the problem, especially as it is pretty much concentrated in and around Somalia.

Despite what Maritime Law may or may not mandate, who would do anything about it if a mess of pirates were exterminated? Soon the message would get out that it was not worth the danger trying. All it takes is common sense and some guts. Therein lies the problem. We need another Teddy Roosevelt. :smiley:

People with absolutely nothing will risk everything to make a small fortune (in their eyes) working as hired guns for a warlord. The only way to put a stop the piracy is to sort out the trouble in Somalia, but in the meantime the international community providing some protection to merchant vessels isn’t such a bad idea.

What some of the shipping companies are actually doing is rerouting. Frontline (NYSE:FRO), a tanker company, has said it may avoid going through the Gulf of Aden / Suez Canal by rerouting around the Cape of Good Hope, and renogotiating its charters. Until this gets resolved, we’re back to the route of Vasco Da Gama.

Intertanko, the group of companies that own something like 75% of the world’s tankers, says that its members are rerouting to avoid the Gulf of Aden/Suez Canal. But, that increases the cost of transporting cargo by upto 30%. It’s a reasonable stop-gap measure, and far more cost-effective than fannying about with mercenaries.

Of course, the real solution is to send naval units. This is win-win, because commercial shippers get the pirates taken out, and the naval units get real-life training exercises.

Several things can be done obviously, but the one option that I would think is a no brainer is tracking the ransom money once it’s paid. Normally you gain intell at the fence level, who is buying the stolen goods or moving them. But that’s not happening as these pirates are only holding the hulls an not the products. So the banking folks and the treasury folks need to step up to the plate.


I’m wondering why we aren’t seeing more Q-ships. Or as said earlier, put spec ops teams on random vessels and sink the pirates when they show up.

The number of ships moving through those waters would mean that the chance of one of those teams meeting up with pirates very unlikely. Not to mention that the owners of the ships used probably don’t want gunfights happening anywhere near their multi-million pound vessels.

Better off just providing as much coverage for shipping as possible and chasing down those “motherships” from the safety of a purpose-built warship.

I’ve just read on one of the news sites (sorry, no cite) that one “solution” currently under consideration is an enforced international naval embargo of the Somalia coast. That is, if you’re a ship/boat in a Somalian harbor you will not be allowed into the ocean proper (upon penalty of getting blown to smithereens).

All this is under the assumption that the Somalian government is powerless to stop the pirateering on their own and will continue to be so.

Note that under this scenario, Sompalian pirates would still be free to piratize local Somalian vessels - it’s just that the international community wouldn’t particularly care.

NATO has said that they wouldn’t do that without a directive from the UN Security Council and it’s not even on the cards.

Does the technology exist to make this feasible?

What **Lemur866 **said. You’re not doing a cost/benefit analysis across the whole of shipping moving through the area, taking into account the odds.

Declan, the problem is that these pirates (like all pirates) are operating in a lawless zone. They won’t let the ship go till they have the money, and it doesn’t matter if you know who they are because there are no laws where they are. Read around amongst recent news stories and there are descriptions of these guys living it up openly as successful pirates in Eyl and elsewhere. The problem isn’t identifying them.

Actually I was thinking of freezing the cash if they have it socked away in a bank , rather than going after the perps themselves. While its possible that they have it all in cash, it probably would not hurt to see if its gaining interest in a swiss bank account or t-bills.


It should be , a lot was said about tracking Al Q’s money after they flew the airliners into the towers. This is a different situation obviously ,but the concept of following the money is the same.


LOL , its kind of amusing , but the whole idea of Q ships is that you dont see them , till its too late obviously. If those are being operated in the area , they wont be broadcasting it.

A bunch of somolis will simply have been erased, victim of the seas sorta thing.


Wasn’t that mostly soft (i.e. electronic), though?