Battle Axe smokes a filthy pirate

INS Tabar (Sanskrit for “battle axe”) has been in the Gulf of Aden all of 17 days and has already racked up three successes; two saves and one kill.

“INS Tabar encountered a pirate vessel south west of Oman with two speedboats in tow. This vessel was similar in description to the ‘mother vessel’ mentioned in various piracy bulletins. INS Tabar closed in on the vessel and asked her to stop for investigation,” Indian Navy spokesperson Commander Nirad Sinha said.

Following repeated calls, the vessel threatened to blow up the INS Tabar if it closed in.

“Pirates were seen roaming on the upper deck of the vessel with guns and rocket propelled grenade launchers. The vessel continued threatening calls and subsequently fired upon INS Tabar,? Sinha said.

INS Tabar, which is also equipped with the Israeli Barak missiles, opened up with its medium machine gun, a closing-in weapon and capable of firing 4,500-5,000 rounds per minute. The episode, which began late Tuesday evening, continued for three-four hours.

“On being fired upon, INS Tabar retaliated in self defence and opened fire on the mother vessel. As a result, fire broke out on the pirate vessel and explosions were heard, possibly due to exploding ammunition that was stored on the vessel,” Sinha added.

— “Indian Navy frigate sinks Somali pirate ship“, Indo-Asian News Service (in Mangalorean.com), Novembe 19th, 2008.

I am rather nonplussed with the performance of NATO’s CTF-150; it’s been operating in those waters since 2002 with surface action groups numbering up to eight vessels, and nary a drop in pirate activity.  Escorting food aid shipments, while chivalrous, has no deterrent value and no punitive value, either.  Pirates are going to follow the path of least resistence and go after easier, more valuable pickings, and a half-dozen warships cannot hope to scour the entirety of the Somali coastline.

It is embarassing (to say the least) that NATO, including in its ranks the past titans of exploration, colonisation and naval dominance?namely Portugal, Spain, France, Britain and the Netherlands?cannot summon up enough collective willpower to put an end to East African piracy.  Take a hint from your past, NATO:

  • Start hanging.  Dead pirates rebalance the cost/reward equation.  If you’re a poor young guy from a Somali shantytown barely eking out a living, risking your life to take a fat bulk carrier for a $2 million ransom sounds like a pretty good deal.  Hell even landing in a western jail for a few years sounds better than scraping by on a survival existence back home.  There is no downside to piracy right now.  If a young Somali is going to risk his life just by living in a failed state, he may as well risk it on a big payoff.
  • Deny them sanctuary.  Pirates who have no port to call home have a hard time resting, refitting and recruiting.  The European powers started making the largest dents in Caribbean piracy when they started going after pirate havens like Tortuga, Port Royal and New Providence Island.  Right now the entire Somali coastline is open for pirate business.  No amount of escorts can possibly safeguard the thousands of vessels that transit those waters every year.  Hit the pirates where they live, or their ranks will continue to swell.
  • Commission dedicated pirate-hunting task forces.  Yes, it’s not as sexy as sailing with the carrier battle group, but you need dedicated ships and men to hunt down pirates and put them out of business.  Where is this generation’s Ellis Brand, Robert Maynard or Chaloner Ogle?  Keep putting pressure on the pirates, and make a concerted effort not just to ward them off, but to capture and punish them.

The simple fact is, some 23,000 vessels transit the Gulf of Aden every year, and the number of pirates is going to continue to grow until the calculus of piracy is no longer attractive.  Apparently we’ve paid out something like $30 million in ransoms already.

On Tuesday, a major Norwegian shipping group, Odfjell SE, ordered its more than 90 tankers to sail around Africa rather than use the Suez Canal after the seizure of the Saudi tanker Saturday.

”We will no longer expose our crew to the risk of being hijacked and held for ransom by pirates in the Gulf of Aden,” said Terje Storeng, Odfjell’s president and chief executive.

— Associated Press.  “Indian navy sinks suspected pirate ‘mother ship’“, Chicago Sun-Times, November 19th, 2008.

Look, this isn’t rocket science, fellas.  You’ve done it before.  Grow a pair like the Indians and start kicking pirate ass.

RELATED:  Deutsche Welle says EU, NATO are helpless against the pirates.  Not so.  Western navies have firepower and people well-trained to use it.  What they are missing is political masters (and, I’ll wager, top brass with scrambled eggs on their hats) with any semblance of courage.

A PIRATE’S LIFE FOR ME UPDATE:  BBC News points out that pirates live a life of relative luxury compared to their countrymen, and as a result piracy has become socially acceptable, even fashionable.

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5 Responses
  1. Guts and Glory

    Kudos to INS Tabar (”Battle axe” in Sanskrit) for warding off Somali pirates attempting to take two merchant vessels in the Gulf of Aden. Tabar is one of three Talwar-class frigates, based on the Russian Krivak III design. Her motto is, fittingly, “Guts and Glory”. The Indian frigate received distress calls from Saudi oil carrier NCC Tihama, and Indian bulk carrier Jag Arnav, and successfully defended them both with small arms fire from its Chetak ASW helicopter…

  2. Kateland says:

    I think you have hit the problem on the head. No political will for the messy job which has to be done to cure piracy from Somalian shores.
    I am getting rather annoyed with all the feel their angst pain being passed off as conventional talking points in the press. It never seems to occur to anyone in the press one does not employ the feeling the angst of a mafia don as justification for not fighting organized crime so why should Somalian pirates catch a break?
    Thank G-d for the Indian Navy for showing the way.

  3. Alan says:

    No political will? To heck with that. Send them all to Canada where there is still a life sentence for pirates wherever they may be.

  4. Chris Taylor says:

    Uhm… You realise that this is the country that also gives sex offenders fifth and sixth and seventh chances, no?
    I don’t have any faith in the justice system’s ability to punish the guilty. Excuse them, yes. Punish or rehabilitate? Heavens no.

  5. Harsha Nagaraju says:

    The lack of will on the part of NATO is mostly because of some inexplicable complacency and the western powers’ new found political correctness. The more they sweep things under the carpet, heavier will be the price to pay in the long run.