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The Galicia Spirit is a relatively new liquefied natural gas carrier, built in 2004. Super LNG tankers like the Galicia Spirit are big (it’s 280 meters long), fat, slow and minimally maneuverable targets. On Tuesday, armed men on a fast small craft attacked the ship as it passed through the choke point of the Bab el Mandeb.

According to

Shipping group Teekay said its LNG (liquefied natural gas) tanker Galicia Spirit “experienced a suspected piracy attack whilst off the coast of Yemen” on Oct. 25.

The British maritime security firm MAST wasn’t sure as to the motivation of the attack.

“MAST understands that the vessel had no armed security team on board, and that the vessel sustained small arms fire as well as the RPG,” it said. “It is unclear whether this is a terrorist attack or piracy.”

This is a heavily trafficked and increasingly dangerous sea lane.

The UK Maritime Component Command, responsible for Royal Navy activity in the Middle East, said in a statement on Wednesday “details are still emerging as to the exact nature of the incident event and investigations are still on-going”.

While shipping companies have yet to divert ships, the stakes are high given nearly four million barrels of oil are shipped daily to Europe, the United States and Asia via the Bab al-Mandab as well as other commercial goods.

Yemen’s civil war continues to escalate, pitting the Iran-aligned Houthi movement, backed by troops loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, against the internationally recognised government of Abd Rabbu Mansour al-Hadi, backed by Saudi Arabia.

Fortunately, the RPG hit the unarmed ship’s poop deck. It’s not clear if the RPG “missed” the hull or, if it had hit, whether it could have ignited the cargo. The gas is carried inside of pressurized containers that have some space separation from the hull.


A hundred years ago, the British would have been astonished if anyone suggested that weapons couldn’t or shouldn’t be carried on private ships. A few years earlier, an American had made the first solo circumnavigation of the globe. He carried a rifle with him to fend off pirates.

More recently, increased armed security at sea has all but put an end to problem of Somali pirates. The Galicia Spirit attack may signal a change in venue and tactics, as a UK security broker points out [via splash247]:

“The use of RPGs in an attack against a vessel in this shipping choke point is very worrying,” UK security broker ASKET said in a note today, adding: “Crews are advised to maintain a good lookout by radar and enhanced watchkeepers, crew should take cover in pre-designated areas away from the side of any threat if possible and be prepared to fight any fires caused by an exploding warhead.”

Or they could put to sea with armed security on-board. Better yet, the signatories to the Law of the Sea treaty should change the law to restore the right of ships’ officers to keep and bear defensive arms. Why not?

©2016 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.

Gun Watch

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  1. Guns should be the first thing you load up when sailing international waters. Any armament that you can afford should be available to you.

    • Note to self; stay away from the coast of Yemen, bad neighborhoods while wearing flashy jewelry or carrying large amounts of cash, etc.
      Is mutiny on commercial vessels really a worry? Every ship should carry some arms and personnel capable of operating them. If they are worried about misuse then keep them in a locker and give the captain the key.

  2. Captains and ship companies are fearful of mutinies, which is what I hear is the reason for the undefended ships. It seems to me the calculus of dangers has shifted. A .308 through the inflatable hull of one of those pirate boats would demotivate them quickly.

  3. Just EU-NWO BS…Where victims are victims..And stay victims…Weapons and self-defense are only for the government bureaucracy…and grant these “privileges” to agencies like the police….Special rights by job title….Same would go international as well…Since , One-World Global Governance eminates from overseas….

  4. Pirate attacks on vessels in this area are an everyday occurrence. It is possible to hire armed security when transiting the area but many shipping companies policies forbid it, so instead you’re forced to improvise barricades around the sides of the vessel (extra lighting, barbed wire etc) and to have people man the fire hoses.

    The pirates are well organised for example, apparently they have been known to hack into vessels cargo manifests so do they not only know which vessels are passing by, they know what cargo they’re carrying and even which exact container to target!

    I’m not sure that firing an RPG at an LNG ship is particularly wise, the tanks are pretty thick and well protected but if one exploded, it would be quite the bang!

  5. “The gas is carried inside of pressurized containers that have some space separation from the hull.”

    LNG is cryogenic for transport (about -250 F) so, yes, there is quite a bit of separation between the cargo and the ocean.

    The ships are essentially ocean-going vacuum insulated flasks. It likely has at least 3 barriers between it and the sea…

      • Thank you for the information. If I were to attack an LPG ship to destroy it, it appears something at least .50 cal API or above would be required. But I would not want to be close when it lit off!

        I expect they have some sort of flame dousing system, maybe Carbon Dioxide or Halon or some such? Do you happen to know? I wonder how big a leak it would take to overwhelm the defenses.

        • Well there ya’ go. Now we know some of the crippling vulnerabilities of the vessels, their strengths and weaknesses, etc. albeit limited. A great start for a wannabe terrorist I guess. But then again, this is nothing one couldn’t get from a good “google” or “yahell” or “alta-vista” search I guess.

    • If you penetrate only the outer layer of a vacuum insulated bottle, there would be rapid loss of vacuum and the cryogenic contents immediately begin to heat up and evaporate.

      That’s not a huge deal if it’s liquid nitrogen. However, rapidly escaping natural gas could be a bit of a fire hazard, especially if the RPG attack is ongoing.

      • LNG carriers are very well built, overbuilt in many ways to prevent explosive events in the case of collision, particularly in port environments. No one wants to see a Texas City type event again. Even if the RPG penetrated the pressure vessel, it’s unlikely there would be a catastrophic event. More likely it would vent to atmosphere. It would still be pretty hard to ignite if escaping under pressure.

        • If it was an RPG then I don’t see it doing much more than scorching the hull. They’re not exactly good anti-armor weapons, and a ship this big has a substantial hull.

        • While cryogenic, LNG is about 4 psi. Yeah, that low.

          When it warms and expands to its 600 to 1 ratio, different critter…

  6. I did two separate 2 year sailboat cruises
    Sailed fromCalifornia south through Mexico, Costa Rica, thru the Panama Canal and Columbia, Honduras, Belize, Cuba and Florida
    Second voyage was Florida through all Caribbean Islands and back to Florida
    I was armed with a folding stock semi auto AK 47 and a CZ 9 mm pistol
    I never used it except for target practice with some local kid who wanted to shoot a gun
    I almost shot some Honduran shrimpers bringing me a gift of shrimp and lobster when I misinterpreted their intentions
    It was a hassle in many ways in different countries declaring them.
    In the Dominican Republic they kept it in each little police station and I had to collect it when I wanted to continue on
    Interestingly, all the American sailboats we met were armed and none of the European sailors carried firearms.
    Duracoat kept that gun from rusting!

    • I’m very surprised they gave it back to you in some of those places. It would be very interesting to hear what you had to do in the different countries. Any chance you could have just stashed it somewhere in the ship and not told anyone or was the ship searched?

  7. The air/fuel mixture would be too rich to light off. There are security companies that have floating arsenals with rotating security teams for merchant shipping at that area. The weapon ship does not dock in unfriendly ports, has support ships bring everything to them.

    If one of the surface to surface missiles from the beach finds one of the LNG carriers now that could be a rather large fireball, look to what it did to the Swift.

  8. The U.S. Constitution provides, Article I, Sec. 8 cl. 11:
    “The Congress shall have Power … To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;”

    Letters of marque and reprisal are commissions or warrants issued to someone to commit what would otherwise be acts of piracy. They will normally contain the following first three elements, unless they imply or refer to a declaration of war to define the enemies, and may optionally contain the remainder:

    Names person, authorizes him to pass beyond borders with forces under his command.
    Specifies nationality of targets for action.
    Authorizes seizure or destruction of assets or personnel of target nationality.
    Describes offense for which commission is issued as reprisal.
    Restriction on time, manner, place, or amount of reprisal.

    So we have a free-market opportunity here – Congress issues a Letter of Marque and Reprisal .to be used in certain waters to eliminate piracy.

  9. Commissioned Q-ships to ply the choke points with hidden M134s and Mk-19s. That would solve the problem fairly quickly I would think.

  10. Remember kids, if you are sitting on a 280 meter long floating bomb full of highly flamable, pressurized, explosive chemicals and you are getting shot at with rockets, always go to a safe space. What you say? The explosion will kill everything within a mile? I don’t care, just go to the bottom of the ship and die there. We don’t care about your life and your cargo, we just have to make the point that shooting back is never, under no circumstances, the right answer. We are better than them. We have principles, mkay? We don’t shoot bad guys, we hug them amd give them a nice flat in London because they are just misunderstood poor people who face racism from the first world everyday!

  11. Article I, Section 8:

    To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offenses against the Law of Nations;

    To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;

    When was the last time Congress issued Letters of Marque and Reprisal? It’s about time.

  12. I have it on impeccable authority from a source I’ll call “Old Salty” that:

    The vessel should have had a private security guard on board. Pirates have used RPGs in the past. This could have been catastrophic if the RPG had penetrated the hull. LNG/PNG will expand to 600 times from a liquid state to a gaseous state. There would have been a huge explosion probably taking out the pirate vessel as well.
    I have always said that US Merchant vessels should be able to carry weapons as the officers these days are maritime grads with small arms training. However, the problem is twofold;
    First; US laws are conflicting. On one hand, you have an very old federal law allowing merchant vessels to arm and protect themselves. On the other hand, you have arms exportation laws forbidding the exportation of arms. The powers at be consider that a merchant vessel in foreign trade leaving the US with arms aboard is the same as the exportation of arms. This view is ridiculous, but that is how it stands.
    Second, the other problem is entering foreign ports with weapons on board. Many countries have strict prohibitions on this practice or the declaration protocol is very difficult. However, any public-owned vessel such as the Military Sealift Command does not have a problem and carries weapons on board. One piracy attempt off the coast of Somalia against an MSC ship resulted in the pirates running away after the MSC returned fire.
    I am not sure that some third world merchant officers are trained or competent in small arms training. That is why some countries have allowed private security companies that they have vetted be allowed to ride their vessels when they transit high risk areas. In this way they avoid conflicts with foreign countries that have strict weapon laws.
    The maritime world has become complacent about piracy, but the industry has a feeling it will rear its ugly head again. The stance on weapons on board is a weak one and the industry is afraid of the issues if someone shoots, kills or sinks a vessel mistakenly perceived to be a pirate vessel.

    • The qualifications of our US MSC crews is laughable at best. 25 yards with an M14 is not so much a qual as a waste of ammo and training dollars. Mossberg 500 point and pull the trigger, M9 qual, I’ll have to ask what distance that is done at. The failures of the equipment is always interesting, flash hiders on the M14, busted slides on the M9 and ejectors on the 500’s tend to be common. Then there are the induced failures while disassembling and reassembling them. Proof that given enough time and determination that active duty or GS sailors can break about anything.

      Also a MSC ship is considered sovereign US territory just like foreign military ships visiting US ports.

  13. Is it odd to anyone else that this sounds an awful lot like the beginning of Team Yankee (Harold Coyle), minus the Warsaw Pact?

  14. So, they are unarmed. I imagine ISIS would love to take one of those ships, sail it into a busy harbor somewhere, and then ignite a fireball and path of destruction of the likes we haven’t seen before. And the Western world keeps the crews of these ships unprotected. Precious.

    • Pirates generally have two goals. Straight robbery of crew & ship safe. Or… Kiddnap crew & cargo for ransom ala Capt. Phillips. The whole terrorists angle is more a cruise ship worry. A floating hotel of foreigners to kill…….

  15. All you stop with the microaggression of phony units of measurement.

    Law of the Sea treaty is UN BS. Firearms Har. Tis to laugh.

    Have read that the marine insurance bidness dislikes firearms (it’s all based in London so no surprise). The school solution being fir fighting water monitors (water cannon). A 1000gpm at 100psi in the chest WILL teach you respect./swamp your piddlyass toy boat. A Phalanx or 10 would be a much better choice/addition however.

    Scaling the side of a supertanker would be no minor feat.

    • Company policy is no different on land with reguard to weapons. Banks gave up armed guard decades ago. Delivery firms like Fed Ex or Dominos pizza have clear no weapons policies to robbery. Those who break it face dissmissal. The idea is the stuff is insured. Skip the bloodshed & move on. A large sausage pizza is not worth dying over.

  16. The globalists, libertarian, Republican, democrat, socialist, I don’t care what you call yourself, don’t want the people to have arms.
    But a capitalist like Trump does.

  17. If one of these goes up , think MANPADS. Some empty cases were found floating off SE Alaska a few months back.
    We or allies may have lost track of some in all the Mid-East ” Arab Springs “.


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