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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Kill More Pirates, Please!

The killing of a pirate off the coast of Somalia by a team of private security contractors has given the U.N. something new to whine about. Check out the AP story below, posted 3 hours ago. It casts a sympathetic net over the entire affair. Oh, those poor, disenfranchised and underprivileged pirates. What a terrible thing that one of them got shot and killed while trying to hijack and ransom a ship of the seas. This story stinks of misplaced blame and victimization.

Private guards kill Somali pirate for first time

NAIROBI, Kenya — Private security guards shot and killed a Somali pirate during an attack on a merchant ship off the coast of East Africa in what is believed to be the first such killing by armed contractors, the EU Naval Force spokesman said Wednesday.

The death comes amid fears that increasingly aggressive pirates and the growing use of armed private security contractors onboard vessels could fuel increased violence on the high seas. The handling of the case may have legal implications beyond the individuals involved in Tuesday's shooting.

"This will be scrutinized very closely," said Arvinder Sambei, a legal consultant for the U.N.'s anti-piracy program. "There's always been concern about these (private security) companies. Who are they responsible to?"

The guards were onboard the MV Almezaan when a pirate group approached it twice, said EU Naval Force spokesman Cmdr. John Harbour. During the second approach on the Panamanian-flagged cargo ship, which is United Arab Emirates owned, there was an exchange of fire between the guards and the pirates.

An EU Naval Force frigate was dispatched to the scene and launched a helicopter that located the pirates. Seven pirates were found, including one who had died from small caliber gunshot wounds, indicating he had been shot by the contractors, said Harbour.

A statement by the Spanish Ministry of Defense said the warship Navarra had intercepted two skiffs and a larger vessel believed to be a pirate mothership. Spanish forces arrested the six remaining pirates, took custody of the pirate's body and sunk the larger boat, it said.

The two smaller skiffs had many bullet holes in them, the statement said. Spain was trying to reach the Somali government to hand over the body and get the cargo ship's crew to identify the detained suspects as their attackers. Spain was also trying to reach the ship's owner so formal charge of piracy could be laid and the detainees turned over to the Seychelles or Kenya under an agreement the two countries have with the EU.

Sambei said the case could become legally complicated. Investigators would have to establish who had jurisdiction — the flag the vessel was flying, its owners or the nationality of the contractors — and who was responsible for the security contractors in order to set up an independent inquiry, she said.

"The bottom line is somebody has been killed and someone has to give an accounting of that," she said.

Violent confrontations between ships and pirates are on the rise. Crews are becoming increasingly adept at repelling attacks by pirates in the dangerous waters of the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden and many ship owners are using private security. But pirates are becoming more aggressive in response, shooting bullets and rocket-propelled grenades at ships to try to intimidate captains into stopping.

Several organizations, including the International Maritime Bureau, have expressed fears that the use of armed security contractors could encourage pirates to be more violent when taking a ship. Sailors have been hurt or killed before but this generally happens by accident or through poor health. There has only been one known execution of a hostage despite dozens of pirate hijackings.

International navies have killed about a dozen pirates over the past year, said Harbour. Hundreds more are believed to have died at sea, either by drowning or through dehydration when their water and fuel runs out, said Alan Cole, who heads the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime's anti-piracy initiative.

Pirate attacks have not declined despite patrols by dozens of warships off the Somali coast. The amount of ocean to patrol is too vast to protect every ship and pirates have responded to the increased naval presence by moving attacks farther out to sea.

Experts say piracy is just one symptom of the general collapse of law and order in the failed state of Somalia, which has not had a functioning government in 19 years. They say attacks on shipping will continue as long as there is no central government capable of taking on the well-armed and well-paid pirate gangs.

Associated Press Writer Daniel Woolls in Madrid contributed to this report.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Does the Obama Administration Know What it's Doing with the Jones Act?

Solitaire, Largest Pipe Laying Ship in the World. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

While Obama was a Senator and later when he was running for the Presidency he said repeatedly that he was an advocate for a strong Jones Act. He pledged to further strengthen the Jones Act if elected.

Jones Act Preamble:

It is necessary for the national defense and for the proper growth of its foreign and domestic commerce that the United States shall have a merchant marine of the best equipped and most suitable types of vessels sufficient to carry the greater portion of its commerce and serve as a naval or military auxiliary in time of war or national emergency, ultimately to be owned and operated privately by citizens of the United States; and it is declared to be the policy of the United States to do whatever may be necessary to develop and encourage the maintenance of such a merchant marine, and, in so far as may not be inconsistent with the express provisions of this Act, the Secretary of Transportation shall, in the disposition of vessels and shipping property as hereinafter provided, in the making of rules and regulations, and in the administration of the shipping laws keep always in view this purpose and object as the primary end to be attained.

Sec. 1. Purpose and policy of United States (46 App. U.S.C. 861 (2002)), MARAD

You can find more on the Jones Act here.

Curiously, what has happened over the last few months suggests that on this issue at least the Obama Administration is more about platitudes than substance. In an effort to strengthen the Jones Act the Administration tried to institute sweeping changes to the rules that apply to vessels servicing the oil and gas industry on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). For thirty years these areas were regulated by the Bureau of Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) as if they were both inside and outside the purview of the Jones Act. Regulations and rulings were interpreted and addressed on a case by case basis.

But the Administration, through the CBP, proposed major changes that would have severely restricted foreign vessels and crews from working on the OCS. Sounds like a great development for U.S.-flagged vessels and crews and U.S. shipyards. The only problem is the oil and gas industry is highly specialized. For example, it may require the use of a vessel capable of burying pipe and a specific depth, a vessel like the Canyon, one of only two of its kind in the world.

The Administration had to back off on its proposed rulings as a result of feedback from the industry and the Department of Homeland Security. A restriction of the use of foreign vessels on the OCS at this time, without the availability of similarly equipped and crewed U.S. vessels, would hamper U.S. energy interests and potentially threaten U.S. security.


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Administration Wants to Take Away Your Rights to Recreational Fishing!

Just so you know. The Obama Administration is planning to federalize your right to sport fish in U.S. waters. ESPN Story here.

Why is this happening? Because NOAA/NMFS has done such a terrific job of managing our territorial seas and inland waterways? Yeah, right!

Just for a second, forget that our management of the commercial fisheries has been such an abject failure. Think about who these waters belong to. They belong to us. To all of us. Every man, woman and child on the planet. Denying access and/or regulating access to the point of making it inaccessible is a violation of our basic right to a resource that should not be apportioned or awarded selectively. It's ours.

Every day more and more of the freedoms we took for granted are being taken away. For example, you can't take winnings from the lottery and buy a boat to start commercial fishing. You could have done it in the 1800s and most of the 1900s. You can't do it now. The fisheries are essentially closed. Not enough fish. Used to be, you start with a row boat, catch and sell bait, buy a bigger boat, catch more fish, buy more boats, hire captains, sell more fish, become an industry tycoon. That was the American way. But screw the American way. It's ancient history. And maybe it should be. Maybe it's why we're in this mess. The American way led to too many adventurers and too many tycoons and as a result too many fish and fish habitats went by the wayside. I'm sure most socialistas and communistas would agree. (Hah! As if the socialists and communists aren't leading the way in resource exploitation.)

This knee jerk mentality of the Administration holds no logic. There is no holy world order that will fix the state of the oceans or keep foreign government from deforesting the planet. There is no upside to creating a giant government bureaucracy and no future in trying to police and manage something that can't be policed or managed.

I've said this before. Instead of restricting people, why not restrict areas? At least areas (and species) can be policed and managed. Protect habitat. Protect fish. Protect wildlife. Set aside no-fish zones that can be watched by air and by boat. Create management areas. Exclusion areas. Anything else is just the government creating more paper and more paper pushers. I guess that's what they want. It's what they're good at. Pushing paper. Creating paper. Make everyone pay for a license, a registration.

If John Q. Public knew what the average commercial fishermen had to go through every year in order to ply his (or her) trade he'd be stunned. The average commercial fisherman pushes more paper and complies with more regulation than a doctor or lawyer. Does that make any sense?