You probably heard Somali pirates attacked a luxury cruise ship over the weekend (you probably don’t recall that in October Somali pirates captured two UN food ships). As the Sunday Times reports:
“There is growing concern that neither governments nor the shipping industry are doing enough to protect crews and cargoes and that ships are vulnerable to terrorists as well as pirates.”
Unfortunately, as the above article notes, nothing much is being done to counter the pirates. Therefore I hereby urge Congress to exercise its power to "grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water" (United States Constitution (Act 1 sec. 8)), in order that interested private individuals may legally seek and destroy pirate vessels that threaten ships in the Indan Ocean. The shipping industry could offer rewards to sucessful privateers. Not only would this be an efficient solution to the piracy problem, it would also be all kinds of fun. Which is probably why it will never happen.


  1. I remember hearing about pirates in Panama and the Sunda Straits years ago.

    With the 200 mile rule for territorial waters, it might be difficult nowadays to find a country that would permit privateers to operate.

    What would not be that difficult would be to provide merchant ships more weapons, such as automatic weapons, some RPG's or even a wire-guided missile or two.

    As I understand US merchant vessels typically have a pistol and a shotgun, and that is for dealing with mutiny or crazy sailors.

    Alternatively, independent contractors working out of a coastal station could board a contracting merchant vessel in the zone, bringing their weapons with them.

    A lot of possibilities there.

  2. One guy on that cruise ship with a rifle and decent aim could have done the trick.

    You're probably right about the reaction of other countries, despite the fact that tolerating privateers would be in their own interest.

  3. Speaking of cruise ships, do you remember when the cruise ship was sinking off the coast of South Africa and the captain and officers jumped into the helicopter and flew to shore to, uh, "better direct the rescue of the passengers from land"? Fortunately, command was assumed by ship's magician and he got all the passengers into lifeboats and safely ashore. Wasn't that cool?

    Oh, wait, that doesn't have anything to do with privateering ... but it was still pretty cool.

  4. The magician? That's hilarious. "We're all going to die unless we calm down and follow the lead of the guy with the wand in the top hat and cape."

  5. The Somali piracy problem requires some back engineering. Read this form Wikipedia: The Phalanx CIWS (Close-in weapon system, pronounced see-whizz) is an anti-missile system designed and manufactured by Raytheon Company. It is used by the United States Navy on every class of surface combat ship in its fleet and is used by navies of over twenty allied nations.

    It was developed as the final line of defense (terminal defense) against anti-ship missiles (AShMs), including high-G, maneuvering sea-skimmers. The first system was offered to the US Navy for evaluation on the USS Bigelow in 1977. It was accepted and production started in 1978, the first ship fully fitted out was the Coral Sea in 1980.

    The basis of the system is a 20mm M61 Vulcan gatling gun linked to a radar system for acquiring and tracking targets. The gun fires at a variable 3,000/4,500 shots per minute (early models only fired 3,000 rounds per minute): it is mounted in a self-contained turret along with an automated fire control system. The system automatically searches, detects, tracks, engages and confirms kills using its computer-controlled radar system. The entire unit weighs 5625 kg or 6120 kg. Due to its shape, irreverent sailors have nicknamed it "R2D2 with an erection".

    Fitted, but hidden (shades of WW1 British Q Ships) on a cruise liner, the deadly embrace of Block 1B PSuM (Phalanx Surface Mode) depleted uranium rounds would ensure no survivors would get back to report to their fellow pirates about the welcome that awaits them.

    Update: Goalkeeper is a Dutch close-in weapon system, the purpose of which is to defend a ship against incoming missiles and ballistic shells. The system consists of a autocannon and an advanced radar which tracks incoming fire, determines its trajectory, then aims the gun and fires in a matter of seconds. The system is fully automatic, needing no human input once activated. The name comes from the Soccer position. The system is made by Thales Navy Netherlands, and over 50 have been produced. The system can also be deployed to protect airfields.

    * Goalkeepers projectiles are much larger (30 mm versus 20 mm) and have greater Kinetic energy.
    * Goalkeeper is twice as expensive as the Phalanx.
    * Phalanx can be welded to any section of deck and plugged in, while Goalkeeper requires significant 'deck penetration' and integration.
    * Phalanx can only track and engage one target at a time, while Goalkeeper can track 18 targets and switch to engage the greatest threat.
    * Both weapons have similar maximum ranges, however Goalkeepers kill distance is reportedly a slightly further (500 to 350 meters compared to 300 meters for the Phalanx).
    * Phalanx ammo drum is mounted directly on the gun, the Goalkeeper is reloaded from below deck.


  6. So, are we putting together a crew then? The time is right; there are lots of Russian surplus bargains. Also, I'd like to suggest privateering around Thailand or the Phillipines (I prefer asian girls to Somalis.)

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