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At some point insurers and shipping companies evidently had enough. After years of brazen piracy on the high seas, ship owners have finally started to arm their crews. Most likely, the cost of having people and vessels held in Somali hell holes – and making ransom payments to spring them – became greater than any potential liability costs of putting rifles in the crews’ hands. The latest weekly report of pirate activity off the horn of Africa shows two ships successfully defending themselves against marauders. Some lessons seem to hold true no matter where they’re applied . . .

For the longest time, ships plying the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Aden were easy pickings. Why? Thanks to ship owners, their insurers and the laws of countries under whose flags they sailed, the high seas were one big wet gun-free zone. Only one problem with that: opportunistic Somali thugs knew it, too.

It’s hard to believe there was even much of a debate over giving crews the ability to fight off boatjackers, but there it is. When the number of hijackings approached an intolerable (read: too expensive) level, though, the no-guns policy was, well, re-examined. Hence, last week’s activity that will only give pause to future attackers.

Just like college campuses or big, machine-controlled cities, gun free zones don’t work. Somehow the bad guys never seem to comply with all the no-guns-allowed laws. And knowing that their potential victim pool is highly unlikely to be able to fight back only gives them the freedom to operate with impunity.

But give the chickens (or the ducks) the ability to bite back and the fox will start to think twice about jumping into the hen house. Of course, this lesson is consistently lost on those in power for whom the time honored calculus of more guns=less crime just doesn’t add up. The fact that blood never actually runs in the streets in other cities doesn’t seem to matter. But if things can change on the Sea of Arabia, we suppose there’s a chance they can change in Chicago and on college campuses, too.

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  1. For centuries it was considered perfectly acceptable to kill pirates on sight, I’ve never been sure why that’s changed. Once enough boats quit coming back the pirates will rethink their career choices.

  2. Sorry, there is too much logic in that argument. Go back to liberal college and repeat in four years and $100000 debt later.

  3. These guys even went after a US navy ship. That didn’t end well for them. Imagine having a .50 BMG out on the high seas and these little boats come riding up.
    I would offer to rescue them but I don’t understand their language so when they begged for help I’d not be able to do anything for them.

  4. Merchant Seamen, trained and armed, are the key asset needed to defeat the pirates. Simple. The global elites with their selfish need to keep sole control over guns and security tell us much about their arrogance, egos, and deep insecurities.

  5. My biggest concern would be making sure the security teams have adequate weaponry. Assuming that they are intended to repel boarders, they are likely to have small arms. The article referenced above notes that in at least one case, the pirates had an RPG. They did not use it to fire on the ship, but sooner or later one will. I wonder what the effect would be of an oil tanker catching an RPG round or two in the side? Sooner or later, we are going to have to start talking about mounting fore and aft .50 Deck guns on freighters

    • Eh, I don’t know how much escalation there would actually end up being. This seems like a situation where a zero tolerance policy would have pretty good effect. The pirates operate because, by and large, the ships they go after are big, dumb, fat, slow, defenseless juicy targets. Currently their top level defensive strategy is to shoot the pirates with a fire hose. When the pirates start getting obliterated, no questions asked, the allure of their line of work will decrease dramatically, I think. An RPG is a great weapon to threaten with, but if your goal is to capture the ship and/or crew for ransom, the utility of an RPG is somewhat questionable. It’s hard to ransom a sunken ship or dead crew.

    • Quad .50s. Nothing says “no” to piracy like 2500 rpm of 700 grain lead projectiles encased in copper jackets. Unless it’s 3000 rpm from a 20mm Gatling. Fire a 5 second warning burst into the approaching skiff. If it doesn’t turn around or sink, fire a 10 second burst.

      • Warning shots are a waste of good lead. Better to have a warning in multiple languages broadcasting over loud speakers. If they continue to press closer to the ship, deep-six ’em.

  6. If we just raise taxes high enough, we could place “No Guns Allowed”
    signs in every square miles of ocean in 150 different languages. We could even put peace symbols, acoustic guitars, and candles on the signs. That way, none of the pirates’ feelings will be hurt. If liberals say it, then it’s got to be true, right?

  7. The Somali pirates get a lot of press coverage, but they are not the only modern pirates folks have to fear. The southern Philippines has pirates, the south China Sea has several groups, and the Chinese Navy and North Korean Navy have been known to capture tourist and cargo vessels now and then in international waters and empty off the valuable stuff. Sail carefully out there because small arms are no match if you come up against a North Korean or Chinese warship.

  8. Agreed that a cost/benefit line has been crossed.

    One thing not discussed is that crew members always outnumber the captain so the possibility of mutiny increases dramatically with the presence of weapons and trained users on board.

    I suspect that has gone into the calculus of whether or not to arm merchant seamen.

    • Why would merchant seamen mutiny? It’s not like they have press gangs anymore and a captain is no longer a law unto himself . Their working conditions are light years better than they were and transit times are far shorter as well. They are far more likely to hang on for 10 more days until port and then file a grievance with the union.

  9. Where is Stephen Decatur and his attacks on pirate ports when you need him? I mean the US Navy used to go in and obliterate pirate hangouts and their ships and equipment. Hello?

  10. The solution to this was designed over 40 years ago. A .50 Cal Browning with a kick-arse infra-red searchlight. Good enough for any Pirate skiff or inflatable.


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