Pirates of Somalia

Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal reported the story of the seizure of the Saudi oil supertanker MV Sirius Star by Somali pirates. John wrote about it last night here. Mark Steyn comments here. Reader Charles Barker is a former Coast Guard officer who writes:

A 25-member crew is very typical for a merchant tanker. Three teams, each working two four-hour watches per day, with three on the bridge and three in engineering. With cooks, the master, chief mate etc…that makes 25.

Regarding armed guards, firefights are usually discouraged when you are sitting on millions of gallons of flammable material, although with modern safety features they usually do not blow up.

One enterprising crew I know of let guard dogs roam the decks which seemed effective. Usually the fact that you cannot sell the product easily is incentive enough.

Finally, the law of the sea really gets interesting with piracy. The pirates entered Saudi Arabia when they boarded that vessel on the high seas, so Saudi law applies. If the U.S. happens to intervene it would be on Saudi “soil,” so to speak, although there are conventions. If the vessel is stateless, anything goes.

The AP summarizes the spate of hijackigs committed by Somali pirates over the past year and updates the story of the Sirius Star:

The Sirius Star was anchored Tuesday close Harardhere, the main pirates’ den on the Somali coast, with a full load of 2 million barrels of oil and 25 crew members.

“As usual, I woke up at 3 a.m. and headed for the sea to fish, but I saw a very, very large ship anchored less than three miles off the shore,” said Abdinur Haji, a fisherman in Harardhere.

“I have been fishing here for three decades, but I have never seen a ship as big as this one,” he told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. “There are dozens of spectators on shore trying to catch a glimpse of the large ship.”

He said two small boats floated out to the ship and 18 men — presumably other pirates — climbed aboard with a rope ladder. Spectators watched as a small boat carried food and qat, a narcotic leaf popular in Somalia, to the supertanker.

Somewhere inside this outrage is a comedy struggling to get out.

UPDATE: The Times (London) reports that the Indian navy is on the case.

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