Thursday, November 20, 2008

It's hard to believe in this day and age...

...but the American economy could be seriously helped along on the way to its demise by...wait for it...pirates. Yes, pirates. Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum pirates, except these guys have uzis instead of swords. There are now, as of this moment, at least 1 supertanker of Saudi Oil and 3 super-Cargo ships that have been seized by pirates. Really. I'm not kidding. This isn't the National Enquirer - it's Bloomberg Financial News!

Bloomberg.com
Updated: New York, Nov 20 13:40
Pirates Demand Ransom for Tanker; Three Ships Seized (Update2)
By Caroline Alexander and Hamsa Omar

Nov. 19 (Bloomberg) -- Pirates demanded a ransom for an oil- laden Saudi supertanker amid reports three other merchant vessels have been hijacked in one of the worst spates of attacks in the Gulf of Aden and off the East African coast...

...Since January, at least 91 vessels have been attacked in the Gulf of Aden, an area of 1 million square miles (2.6 million square kilometers) flanked by Yemen and Somalia and leading to the Suez Canal. Since then, both Indian and British naval ships have engaged pirates in combat and French commandos freed two nationals held by hijackers.

Ransom payments have spurred raiders to step up their activities, the International Maritime Bureau says, even as NATO, European Union, Indian, Malaysian and Russian naval fleets patrol the waters in an anti-piracy mission. NATO said today it didn't plan to increase its mission in the region...

...In the past 48 hours, pirates in the region have taken control of ships from Hong Kong, Greece and Thailand, Andrew Mwangura, head of the East African Seafarers Association, said in a phone interview from Kenya. Pirates generally use speed boats for raids near the coast and captured fishing trawlers for attacks further out to sea, according to Chatham House.

Today, pirates freed a Hong Kong-flagged ship and 25 crew members captured two months ago, Agence France-Presse said...

...More than 14 vessels and 250 crew members remain hostage, according to the IMB, including a Ukrainian-crewed vessel carrying at least 30 Soviet-designed T-72 tanks bound for Kenya. That ship is anchored near the Sirius Star in Harardhare, Colonel Abshir Abdi Jama, a national security official in Puntland said yesterday.

Pirates are honing their techniques and using Global Positioning System navigational aids and satellite phones to find potential targets, according to Chatham House...

...Hijackers may force shippers to divert vessels from the Gulf of Aden, to take the longer route to Europe and North America around South Africa's Cape of Good Hope, delaying deliveries to Europe and the U.S. and adding to costs...

...When asked why the Sirius Star wasn't being taken back by force, he said an armed response would require a great deal of international agreement and cooperation....


Not to mention the most obvious answer - if the pirates think they're not going to pull it off, they'll simply blow up the supertanker, leaving an oil spill that will make the Alaskan spill look mild by comparison and immediately sending the price of oil skyrocketing, since investors will know (already know, actually) that there's really nothing that can be done to stop the pirates from doing this again and again. As the article explains, nobody has jurisdiction. The ships are under a bewildering array of national and international water treaties, national ownership issues, different crew nationalities, ship registry and so on.

Both the costs of having to make every tanker a military operation and the costs of not doing so and having to cough up millions in ransom are one more nail in the coffin of America's economy, class. Pirates have been an issue for some time now, actually, usually stealing cargo from container transport ships. It has added a lot to the cost of our everyday household items. But this isn't widgets and what-nots, it's oil, unfortunately still the lifeblood of our failing system. And we are not willing to risk having supertankers full of oil blown up. We will pay whatever they ask, and they know it.

Terrorism, yes. Effective, yes. Can we afford to use the military to protect every oil tanker that sails the oceans? Nope. Not by a long shot. Not even close.

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